These Are The Healthiest Vending Machine Snacks

Most of us don't typically associate vending machines with healthy food. They're one-stop shops for the naughtiest (yet most delicious) of indulgences, from cookies and potato chips to chocolate bars and candy. Those, however, aren't the only foods you'll find in modern-day vending machines. Like so much else in life, these snack-packed devices have evolved dramatically over time.

In fact, those changes are significant. No longer do people simply stop by the nearest machine to grab a candy bar or a bag of cookies. While those options still exist in abundance, today there's a finer balance of healthy foods in the mix. These broaden the snack landscape considerably, giving those with a sudden craving something different to consider for their next bite to eat. That's due at least in part to a commitment made by the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) in 2019, when they announced their goal of increasing healthier vending machine options by at least 33% to "meet the growing consumer demand for healthier choices."

Here are some of the healthiest vending machine snacks you can find.


Nuts are widely considered some of the healthiest snacks out there. They're packed with fiber, unsaturated fats (the "good" fats), and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which have protective benefits for everything from your digestive system to your cardiovascular health. 

What's more, there are many different types of nuts. Luckily, that means you're more likely to find some type of nut in a vending machine than not. Single-serve peanuts, almonds, and cashews are among the most popular additions, but some specialty vending machines that contain strictly healthy snacks may include varieties like macadamia nuts, pistachios, or mixed nuts.

Of course, while nuts are very healthy, some of them are also high in calories. Macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts, and Brazil nuts are among the highest. Despite the calorie count, eating nuts of any kind in moderation is an easy way to consume the healthy fats your body needs while also enjoying a healthy snack that fills you up when you're on the go.


If you're looking for a light bite to enjoy between meals, popcorn may fill the gap nicely because it's fibrous. Deborah Cohen, D.C.N., R.D.N., and an associate professor at the department of clinical and preventive nutrition sciences at Rutgers School of Health Professions, tells Prevention, "It provides about 3 grams of fiber per cup. Considering we usually eat more than one cup per sitting, that's a good start toward the minimum of 25 grams most Americans need per day."

Fiber is vital to your daily intake, as it helps you stay fuller for longer periods. Additionally, it regulates blood sugar levels and could even reduce your levels of "bad" cholesterol, also referred to as LDL (low-density lipoprotein). It could even benefit your heart health in other ways, such as by helping maintain normal blood pressure levels and minimizing inflammation that could otherwise lead to serious issues like heart failure or coronary disease.

The pre-popped varieties you might spot in a vending machine can run the gamut from sweet and sugary to 100-calorie bags in flavors like sea salt and white cheddar. The latter types are healthier, offering more nutritional bang for your buck and satiating you well until your next meal.

Dried fruit

It's widely known that consuming more fruits and vegetables is an easy way to improve your diet. They're loaded with vital vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and fiber that support your health and wellbeing. The good news is that there are countless ways to integrate them into your diet — including eating dried fruits from a vending machine.

The downside is that not all dried fruits are created equal, with one very specific point that could negate the health benefits. "Because dried fruits are concentrated (the water has been removed), they come in small, dense packages that are very high in sugar and calories," Amy Shapiro, RD, tells Real Simple. At the same time, she explains, eating dried fruit is a healthy snacking option because "it provides about 3.5 times the fiber and nutrients as fresh fruit" due to the fact that it's condensed.

Common dried fruits found in vending machines include raisins, dates, and apricots. You'll also often find dried fruits in trail mixes, combined with other nutritious ingredients like nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate chips. If you're craving something sweet but want to skip the cookies, set your sights on the dried fruit instead.

Snack bars

Snack bars are popular largely because they're so convenient. They're easy to grab and eat on the go, whether you're walking or munching at red lights. They've also earned a distinct reputation as being "healthy" — and while that's true for some, it doesn't apply to all of them. Registered dietitian Ryanne Lachman, RDN, LD, explains to the Cleveland Clinic, "Pick up any bar today and it probably has a laundry list of ingredients, few of which sound like real food."

This is why it's so important to get smart about which brands offer the cleanest nutritional profiles. Many contain sugar alcohols like xylitol, mannitol, or sorbitol, all of which could be hard on the stomach. At a bare minimum, a bar with minimal ingredients that is high in protein and fiber is your best bet, especially if you're looking for something to replace a meal or fill you up when you can't have anything else.

Good examples of healthy bars include RXBARS, which has an ingredient list clearly stated directly on the front of the package so you can read it through the vending machine glass; some varieties of KIND bars, some of which explicitly state on the front packaging that they're low in sugar and high in fiber; That's It bars made strictly with fruits; and gluten-free, non-GMO Perfect Bars made solely with organic superfoods.

Whole grain chips

Sometimes the chip craving hits at the worst time, such as when you're strolling past a vending machine. Though potato chips or corn chips might call your name, there may be a better alternative in whole grain chips in the machine. It's the grains that make them far more nutritionally dense and beneficial than conventional chips. 

Whole grains are both fibrous and rich in vital nutrients and vitamins. Consuming them regularly will not just fill you up but also potentially protect you from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and various types of cancer. They may even reduce the bad cholesterol and raise the good, further protecting your heart and your long-term health. While sources like oatmeal and grain breads are ideal, whole grain chips make a sufficient choice if that's what's available.

In fact, Walter Willet, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, tells the Washington Post, "...chips made of whole grains rather than potatoes, like Frito-Lay's SunChips, can legitimately be considered a health food." The trick, he explains, is to consume them in moderation. Because vending machine bags are typically no more than one-and-a-half to two ounces, it's usually fairly easy to accomplish this.


Oatmeal is an admittedly less common addition to vending machines. However, some do offer single-serve packages that you can pour into a bowl once you reach your desk or cup versions that you can fill with water and heat in the microwave. If you do happen upon oatmeal in a vending machine, consider yourself lucky — it's one of the healthiest food options out there, and it trumps other options if you're looking for a healthy breakfast, snack, or even lunch item.

Simply put, oatmeal is a nutritional powerhouse. It benefits your heart health significantly, largely because the oats contain a soluble and antioxidant-packed fiber called beta-glucan. It's the antioxidants that offer protection against heart disease, inflammation, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol. Plus, eating oatmeal may regulate your blood sugar levels and improve your digestive health. 

There are other variations of oatmeal that might appear in vending machines, too, like snack bars and breakfast squares. In a pinch, these work if you're hoping for something that's enriched with whole grains. Just make sure to choose varieties that tout their nutritional profiles. For example, KIND Oats and Honey bars contain just seven ingredients, while Nature Bakery oatmeal bars have 14 grams of whole grains. 

Chickpea snacks

Chickpeas have long been a staple in Mediterranean and Indian diets. Vegetarians also swear by them for adding protein to salads. It's only in recent years, however, that they've grown in popularity as a snack food. Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are highly nutritious: A cup contains 12.5 grams of fiber and is packed with zinc, iron, phosphorus, and folate, plus a wide array of other essential vitamins and minerals.

That elevated fiber content makes them digestive health superheroes. Because the fiber in chickpeas is primarily soluble, they're digested gently and slowly. This may support improved bowel habits, including easier and more frequent elimination.

Chickpea snacks offer a satisfying crunch and are typically available in a variety of flavors, like sea salt, cheddar, and barbecue. Some are actual baked chickpeas, while others are puffs or chips made purely from chickpeas. Since the legume is also high in protein, it makes a fantastic choice for a midday snack.


Until recently, jerky wasn't exactly considered the healthiest of vending machine snack choices. Today, though, consumers are spoiled for choice, as more and more companies have unveiled options that are far more nutritious than previous iterations. Plus, many are flavored, bringing an interesting twist to your day.

Eliza Savage, R.D., of Middleburg Nutrition, tells Women's Health, "...more brands are coming to the market with cleaner options that make a great portable, low-carb, and high-protein snack." As a general rule of thumb, beef jerky is a significant source of protein and iron. However, many varieties are also loaded with sodium, and some might contain nitrates used to preserve the meat.

You can feel safe choosing jerky from a vending machine if it's made with organic or grass-fed beef, both of which take some of the guesswork out of the type of meat that you're eating. Healthy varieties usually explicitly state that they're free of harmful additives, like nitrates and MSG. Any variety that's made with whole foods and low in sugar is a safe bet.


You may have heard that seeds are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. Incorporating them into your everyday diet, though, may seem tricky. It turns out that snack time is one of the best opportunities of all to make these nutritional superstars an integral part of your eating plan.

Kate Patton, RD, shares with the Cleveland Clinic, "Seeds are good sources of plant-based, healthy fats, fiber and minerals." They're enriched with everything that you need to live healthier, like iron to support hemoglobin production, calcium for stronger bones, and phosphorus to help your body use fats and carbohydrates properly. While there are many types of seeds, some are more likely to appear in vending machines than others. 

Among them are pepitas, or pumpkin seeds. They're flavorful, full of nutrients and antioxidants, and may support your heart health and blood sugar thanks to their elevated fiber content. Sunflower seeds are another common vending machine find. Full of anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants, the vitamin E-rich seed is great for disease prevention. Explains Patton, "Antioxidants help reduce free radicals in your body. Free radicals are harmful chemicals that can increase our risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer."

Trail mix

Grocery store shelves are lined with trail mixes that often read more like gourmet desserts than healthy snacks. If you're tempted by a trail mix in a vending machine, it's best to assess the ingredients carefully before making your selection. That's because many varieties contain elevated sugar content and calories, negating any health benefits that they might otherwise offer.

According to Jerlyn Jones, R.D.N., paying careful attention is key. "People should look for nutrient-dense ingredients such as unsalted nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut flakes, and dark chocolate," she says to Prevention. Look for varieties that contain known healthy ingredients, like nuts and seeds, along with aforementioned ingredients like dried fruit or dark chocolate chips for a sweet contrast in flavor.

Just be sure that sugar doesn't play a starring role in your trail mix of choice, says Sarika Shah, R.D.N. "I try to look for packs where nuts or seeds are the primary ingredients, and sugar is not one of the first three ingredients listed." When you focus on nuts and seeds primarily, you can be certain you're getting a potent dose of fiber, plus healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fats.

Apple sauce

With the growing popularity of apple sauce pouches, there's a greater chance you'll spot them in a vending machine. What's great about this snack is that what you're getting is clear from the outset. In its most basic form, the average apple sauce consists of nothing more than apples and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). However, many also contain added flavors or sugar. 

While the vitamin C behaves primarily as a preservative, it's also highly beneficial to you because it strengthens your body's immunity. It also supports muscle health and promotes collagen production, which gradually slows with age. Plus, if you're craving something fruity and as healthy as possible, apple sauce may be your safest choice in the vending machine. 

Look for varieties that are labeled "unsweetened" if you want to be sure you're not consuming any added sugar. Keep in mind that brands like Mott's and Musselman's products are available in standard cups, but you might also see pouches geared towards kids. Adults can enjoy these, too, especially as a convenient on-the-go snack!


Whether you didn't get a chance to have breakfast at home or you simply have a craving, you might want to grab a package of cereal from the vending machine. Some are in cups, while others are in miniature boxes. Both are ideal for a snack because they're properly portioned, so you don't risk having more if you want to watch your calorie consumption.

If you're looking for a smart cereal choice, make sure it's low in sugar, high in fiber, and fortified with nutritious ingredients like nuts, seeds, or dried fruit. All of these add a healthy punch to your meal. While it may not be possible to determine all of the ingredients through the vending machine glass, you can usually make a smart choice by avoiding cereals geared toward kids, as these are typically filled with sugar and fillers. Plus, the "fun" shapes are usually the result of added sodium, sweeteners, and other unwanted ingredients.

Options like no-sugar-added granola, flakes made with whole grains, and cereals that prominently display their high-protein, low-sugar content are worthwhile picks that will satisfy your craving while delivering some vital nutrients and vitamins at the same time.


Vending machines are jam-packed with crackers of all kinds. Some are cheesy, others are nutty, and many are seasoned to the brim. Sure, the flavors may be tempting, but not all of these choices are healthy. They may have too much sodium, too many preservatives, not enough fiber, and refined instead of whole grains. Because they're so heavily processed, any benefits of potentially healthy ingredients are outweighed by the negatives.

This is why it's important to seek out the right type of crackers. Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, of Smart Healthy Living, shares with Eat This, Not That!, "You want to make sure that they are 100% whole grain crackers. The first ingredient should be 100% whole grain flour." She adds that a high-fiber, low-sodium combination is healthiest.

Many crackers are clearly nutritious, such as those containing ingredients like wheat bran, oats, flax seeds, brown rice flour, millet, quinoa, and almond flour. Items like Mary's Gone Crackers Super Seed crackers, plain Triscuit crackers, and Wasa Crispbread are all suitable candidates that will satisfy your cracker craving and fill you up with nutritious grains.