Nutritionists select their picks from vending machines

What should you eat from the vending machine? Nutritionists reveal what THEY would pick – and what they would avoid

  • Five nutritionists have revealed snacks you should select at the vending machine
  • Popcorn, which is a whole grain, is rich in fiber and will keep you full
  • And nuts, high in healthy fats, have been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels 
  • But a candy bar will raise your blood sugar levels and will make you hungry again not long after you eat it

We’ve all been there.

It’s around 3pm, we’re in that afternoon slump and feeling peckish, so we decide to go grab something to eat from the vending machine. 

You see the chocolate candy bar with caramel, cheddar popcorn, chips, pretzels, spiced nuts, and granola bars.

What’s going to keep you full until dinnertime and what’s going to make you hungry 10 minutes after you eat it?

We asked five nutritionists what snacks they would pick to get them through the day and which ones they would avoid.

We asked nutritionists what snacks they would pick from a vending machine to get them through the day and which ones they would avoid



Our nutritionists agreed that nuts would be one of the best things to eat if you’re looking for a quick snack.

Trail mix nutrition facts

Serving size: about one ounce (1.5 handfuls)

Calories: 131 

  • Fat: 8g
  • Sodium: 65mg
  • Carbohydrates: 13g
  • Protein: 3.9g 

‘The first thing I would pick would be something with nuts like a trail mix or spiced nuts,’ Beth Warren, a registered dietitian and head of Beth Warren Nutrition in Brooklyn, New York, told Daily Mail Online.

‘It’s a combination of protein and fiber and you’re sure to be full and satisfied. It’s high in omega-3s, it’s a healthy fat and it could help lower cholesterol.’

Nuts, which are high in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, have been shown in several studies to lower bad cholesterol levels. 

Low in carbohydrates, nuts also do not raise blood sugar levels, making them an ideal snack for people with diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

‘Although the salt would probably be more than I would want and they might be roasted instead of raw, I’m mainly picking it for what’s not in there: sugar, fats, and other additives,’ Rochelle Sirota, a registered dietitian at Roc Nutrition in New York City, told Daily Mail Online.

Registered dietitian Beth Warren says nuts are a combination of protein and fiber, which keeps you full and satisfied until it’s time for dinner


If you’re trying to choose between a bag of chips and or a bag of popcorn, our nutritionists say there’s one clear winner.

Popcorn nutrition facts 

Serving size: about one ounce (three handfuls)

Calories: 106 

  • Fat: 1.2g
  • Sodium: 2mg
  • Carbohydrates: 21g
  • Protein: 3.1g 

‘For sure I would say popcorn versus potato chips and pretzels because popcorn is a corn and made from whole grains and therefore it’s fiber,’ said Warren.

‘You want your snack to be filled with fiber so you feel fuller. That way the sugar goes into the blood stream slower.’  

Whole grains contain a type of dietary fiber which can strip excess cholesterol from the walls of blood vessels and arteries and reduce overall cholesterol levels, as shown in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 

‘Even if it has carbs, it doesn’t have it as much in a concentrated form. It’s not super calorically-dense, which is good,’ said Sirota.

A cup of air-popped popcorn contains about 30 calories, which is about 4.5 times less than the same amount of regular potato chips.

Sirota adds that it’s important to choose the right type of popcorn as well.

‘I would want the plainest if possible. You could pick a cheesy popcorn for protein but often what they use is not cheese, just coloring and processed stuff.’

Popcorn is not a calorically-dense food, which is ideal for a snack, says registered dietitian Rochelle Sirota, but says to pick the plainest one available



While a chocolate bar can be an occasional part of an otherwise healthy diet, the nutritionists agree that it should not become your go-to snack.  

Candy bar nutrition facts 

Serving size: 1 bar (1.4oz)

Calories: 209 

  • Fat: 13g
  • Carbohydrates: 19g
  • Sugar: 17g
  • Protein: 6g 

‘If we’re looking at candies, it’s refined carbohydrates and additives in there,’ said Sirota. ‘You need a PhD in biochemistry to understand the ingredient list.’

The best chocolate bars, whether dark or milk, will only contain five or six ingredients plus any additions, such as nuts or toffee. 

However, chocolate bars found in corner stores and vending machines often contain chemical preservatives, fillers or emulsifiers to make the product last longer and taste better. 

Additionally, because candy bars contain added sugars (about 23g or 5.5 teaspoons), you are likely to feel hungry not long after eating it.

‘Candies escalate blood sugar really quickly and then you crash,’ said Sirota.

‘You’re quickly looking for something to boost your energy, but then you’re good for 10 minutes and worse an hour later.’ 

Chocolate bars often have chemical preservatives, fillers or emulsifiers, and will send you into a sugar crash not long after eating it, say the nutritionists


Most cookies come in packs of three or four, or even a bag full of several mini ones, and eating so many could do harm to the body, our nutritionists say.

Oreos nutrition facts 

Serving size: 3 cookies

Calories: 165 calories 

  • Fat: 7g
  • Carbohydrates: 23g 
  • Sugar: 14g
  • Protein: 2g 

Cookies are generally made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour and added fats. The body secretes a great deal of insulin to deal with the high amount of sugar and fat, which gets stored in your muscles, your stomach and your organs. 

That fat – known as visceral fat – increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.   

‘In that time, you don’t get any fiber and no protein so you’ll get the sugar crash. It won’t keep you from going back to the vending machine, said Lyssie Lakatos of the Nutrition Twins in New York City.

The nutritionists also say to definitely avoid staying away from cookies that are promoted as ‘reduced-fat’ or ‘reduced-sugar’.

‘When something is reduced or taken out of the product, something is added in to make it taste flavorful,’ said Warren.

‘They may have taken out some of the fat but they may have more sugar. Go based on what you know, not assumptions.’ 

Warren recommends seeing if your vending machine has something like a Fig bar or a Fiber One brownie which will keep you full until it’s time for dinner.

The nutritionists agree that cookies are generally made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour and added fats, which gets stored in your body as visceral fat and puts you at risk of heart disease and diabetes



Chips are of course known to not be good for you, The high sodium content can cause an increase in blood pressure and the fat can contribute to high cholesterol levels.

But if you’re feeling in the mood for chips, nutritionists say it’s better to go for a popped chip or a baked chip.

‘You’re getting less of the fat and it’s generally lower in calories,’ said Lara Metz of Lara Metz Nutrition in New York.

‘Other snacks should be your go-to but if it’s between a baked Lay’s chip and a regular Lay’s chip, go for the baked.’ 

Still it’s important to watch the sodium content. Nutritionists recommend staying below 200 milligrams of sodium for a snack.

The high sodium content in chips can cause an increase in blood pressure and the fat can contribute to high cholesterol levels so the nutritionists recommend a baked chip or a popped chip instead


Granola bars are often marketed as a healthy alternative but our nutritionists say to be careful when it comes to choosing one  

‘They’re often high in oils and they’re not going to give them any fiber or protein and then it’s like you’re eating a glorified candy bar,’ said Tammy Lakatos Shames of the Nutrition Twins.

If you do make the decision for a granola bar, The Nutrition Twins recommend choosing a KIND bar.

‘KIND bars are a really good choice, you can see all the almonds, you can see the nuts and fruit, chocolate, caramel and they have protein so they’re satisfying,’ said Lyssie Lakatos.

The Nutrition Twins generally recommend not going above eight grams of sugar when choosing a sugary snack. 

Granola bars are often marketed as a healthy alternative but our nutritionists say to be careful when it comes to choosing one not high in oil or sugar

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