Healthy vending machine options are possible

Vending machines remain popular because they provide quick, convenient and inexpensive food options for users—and possibly a revenue stream for the organization hosting the machines. But they don’t have to be chocked full of candy and chips to achieve all these things.

Man looking at vending machine options

Incorporate healthy items

Refrigerated machines can emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat or non-fat yogurt with less than 30 grams of sugar per serving, and reduced fat cheese. Non-refrigerated machines can emphasize whole grains, dried and dehydrated fruits without added sugar, and trail mixes that do not include yogurt or chocolate coatings.

Man putting money into vending machine

Start small

Don’t overhaul the vending machines overnight. Add a few options at a time. As employees and students start purchasing the new items, you can add more variety. 

Rearrange items

Ask your vending machine supplier to stock the healthiest items at eye level, and place the least healthy items on the bottom. This is an old—but still effective—strategy of retail marketing professionals. “Eye level is buy level,” the saying goes.

Price strategically

Consumers also like to save money, so make healthy vending machine items the least expensive. You will need to discuss pricing strategy with your vendor to determine how to do this.

Conduct taste tests

Get buy-in from users by soliciting their opinions. Depending on the size of your organization, you might create a committee that samples and selects vending machine options, or offer all users the chance to taste and vote for their favorites. Keep in mind that there may be a discrepancy between what people say they’ll buy and what they actually do. You may need to make adjustments over time based on actual purchasing behavior.  

Woman at vending machine

Examine nutrition labels

Ask your vendor for a list of nutrition facts for each item in your machine, then examine those facts and decide whether or not you wish to keep each item available. Best practice guidelines suggest adhering to the following criteria:

  • Calories: 200 or less
  • Total calories from fat: 35% or less
  • Total calories from saturated fat: 10% or less
  • Trans fat: 0 grams (0 g)
  • Sugar: 35% or less of total weight
  • Sodium: 480 milligrams (480 mg) or less

Break from guidelines wisely

Some popular pre-packaged foods may exceed one or more of the guidelines above but offer enough nutritious content to remain a “healthy option.” These may include nuts, seeds, nut butters, fruit packed in natural juices (no syrup), baked chips and pretzels.

Interested in more ideas for healthy vending machine options, including brand and product names with photos? Alliance for a Healthier Generation offers a “Smart Food Planner” to help you find more than 1,500 products that have been evaluated by nutrition experts and found to be “Smart Snack Compliant” for vending. VIEW HEALTHY VENDING MACHINE OPTIONS