Parenting Challenge: How Do You Get Through the Vending Machine Gauntlet?

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK

vending machine

Vending machines often tempt kids and adults with unhealthy snacks; but one new company with healthier alternatives may give them a run for their money.

Gymnastics sounded like a brilliant idea at the time. An hour of running around in a place where you actually have permission to jump all over the furniture? My three boys were in heaven, even if they were the only boys amongst a sea of sparkly unitards. The problems came after the classes finished. After all that intense activity, my kids would be famished. (Especially the 7-year-old who can out-eat my husband. He says he's going to die after two hours of no food and honestly I think he might.) But since gymnastics lessons were held at the local high school, before we could head home to a healthy dinner we had one last tumbling pass to finish: the vending machine gauntlet.

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Rows of brightly lit, chirping machines filled with every treat a kid (or, let's be honest, a mom) could possibly want beckoned to us. My kids would watch as older gymnasts with their own money would load up on neon-colored sugary candy and giant bags of chips and-wonder of wonders-bottles of soda. Then my little dears would press their faces mournfully against the glass, checking the chutes for any stray M&Ms. It's enough to break your heart-if it weren't so infuriating.

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I'm not opposed to my children having treats-we tried to go sugar-free in our house to help with behavioral issues and it lasted all of two weeks-but where were the healthier options? Save for a sad packet of beef jerky and some granola bars that were more sugar than granola, the vending machines are a nutritional wasteland. And also, it's not just little kids that are susceptible to their siren call; I remember high school when I thought a diet Coke and a package of jelly beans was lunch. As a mom, how do you hustle your kids past them all without getting hustled yourself?

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One company has a novel answer: make vending machines that only serve healthy foods. H.u.m.a.n Vending provides "eco-friendly, high-tech vending machines that vend only healthful foods while simultaneously educating the consumer on nutrition at the point of sale via 23" LCD screens attached to the machines that stream nutrition-related videos." And not only that, they provide the machines to schools for free and even provide nutrition and fitness education to the kids to help them make healthier choices. With everything from protein bars to coconut water, the new machines even have the ability to warm or cool food, and schools can pick from organic or non-allergenic fare customized to suit their students.

I wish our high school had one! In the meantime, anyone else have a hard time running the vending machine gauntlet? What are your tricks?

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