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Health / Nutrition

The Hidden Costs of Eating from Vending Machines

by Melody Bryn | December 10 2018

chocolate bar

You’d be hard up to find someone who hasn’t bought or eaten something from a vending machine. How could you not? They’re typically packed with sodas, water bottles, energy drinks, bags of chips, candy bars, cookies, granola bars, bags of pretzels… the list goes on. Sometimes you’ll even come across an ice cream vending machine, boasting items like Dippin Dots, or even better, you’ll find a “healthy” vending machine with items like hummus and pretzel crisps.

Drooling over the snack foods aside, what about the costs of eating this kind of food?

Of course, there are the monetary costs. When you’re looking at a vending machine, the items typically don’t cost more than two dollar. Perhaps you’re at an airport though, and they might be even more pricey — maybe up to four dollars. Even still, when you’re looking for a quick snack and you’re in a rush, it’s easy to slide in a dollar bill, click a few buttons, and get a snack (just don’t forgot your change).

These seemingly cheap prices are certainly not cheap though. Take a bag of standard potato chips, for instance. You’re likely to find them in the size 1 oz or 1.5 oz in a vending machine, and they’ll likely cost you around $1.25 each. Alright. That doesn’t seem too bad, right? Wrong. If you look at a standard bag you’d buy at a grocery store, it’d cost around $3 for an 8 oz bag. Now the difference becomes more clear — a dollar here, a dollar there might seem cheap, but these quick serve foods are priced much higher per ounce than what you’d find at the grocery store. The vending machine bag is around $0.83 per ounce, while the grocery store bag is around $0.38 per ounce. If you’re really looking to save up for something or save money in general, try to cut out these pre-package single serve food items.

Beyond the price, there’s also the health factor. According to a report on hospitals’ food options (yes, hospitals), most vending machine items have an exceptionally high amount of sugar in them. Then of course you have the high salt and empty calorie factors — it isn’t often that you’ll find a protein-packed item available in a vending machine. Even the “healthy” vending machines will have items like Smartfood Popcorn, which can have up to 18 grams of sugar in one 1.5 oz bag.

It’s incredible to think that something you find around so commonly — vending machines — can be packed with such expensive and unhealthy food. Next time you’re find yourself browsing one (hopefully not at a hospital), think twice about what you’re buying, and how your money could be better spent.


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