Vending machine survival guide

Up to your eyeballs in work, you churned through the day hardly noticing the hours rush by and lunchtime come and go. Then, before you knew it, hunger hit.

And, now, here you are, scanning the packages in the vending machine desperately looking for the least nutritionally offensive of the group to get you through the next meeting, as well as help fuel you up for your late-day Spin class.

Granted, the best way to avoid this nutritional quagmire is to pack a healthy snack. But junk food happens. So here are our picks for making the most of a desperate situation.

Craving something salty? Choose:

Kar's Smoked Almonds - Providing 35 percent of your daily value of vitamin E, and 15 percent of magnesium and copper, 2 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein, this well-balanced snack is only 170 calories, with 1 gram of saturated fat. Coming in a close second are salted, roasted peanuts, also a healthy choice.

Rold Gold Honey Wheat Pretzels - With only 200 calories, 1.5 grams of total fat and virtually no saturated fat (0.2 grams), these pretzels are a great combination of sweet and salty. Most varieties of pretzels are relatively healthy vending machine options.

Avoid: Potato chips, corn chips, cheese-filled crackers and peanut butter crackers, all packed with saturated fats and calories. Also, pass on the microwave popcorn. Though popcorn may seem light and healthy, the high fat and calorie count of the vending machine varieties make them anything but.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, choose:

Fig Newtons - For 200 calories, only 4 grams of fat, and 0.5 grams of saturated fat, they provide 3 grams of fiber and 40 grams of carbohydrate to fuel your afternoon workout.

Sunkist Mixed Fruit Snacks - Made with real fruit juice, they give you 100 percent of your daily value for vitamin C. And at only 80 calories per pouch, you can have two and still not break your calorie budget.

Avoid: Candy-coated chocolates, caramel-filled candy, malt and nougat candy, and hard candy. They're nothing but refined sugar and empty calories.

Must have chocolate? Choose:

York Peppermint Patty - With only 160 calories, 3 grams of fat and 1.5 grams of saturated fat, it's one of the best vending machine choices you can make. The outer chocolate layer will satisfy your sweet tooth, and the cool mint filling will save you from about 150 calories, 13 grams of fat and 7.5 grams of saturated fat over other choices.

Hershey's Chocolate Bar with Almonds - For slightly more calories (230) and 14 grams of fat, you can justify it because of the calcium (8 percent of your Daily Value), 5 grams of protein and healthier fat profile than most other chocolate snacks in the machine.

Avoid: Most other vending machine chocolate bars and chocolate-covered peanut butter cups. There's nothing sweet about the calories and fat they offer.

Jonesin' for a cookie? Choose:

Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars - Eat both bars and your snack still comes in at just under 200 calories, and only 1 gram of saturated fat. Flavors include peanut butter, original and cinnamon. Same counts for all varieties.

Animal Crackers - This childhood favorite is still a great vending machine choice. For 240 calories and no saturated fat, these fun treats will fuel you up with carbohydrates.

Avoid: Two-to-a-package cookies, fruit pies and danish. Same story, beaucoup fat and calories.

New York-based nutritionist Lauren Wallack Antonucci, M.S., R.D., specializes in helping both competitive and recreational athletes reach their health, weight-loss and performance goals. She can be reached at

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