The Surprisingly Healthy Chip You Can Buy From A Vending Machine

Vending machine food isn't typically what you'd call healthy. Behind the glass, you'll find an assortment of sweet treats, snack cakes, and chips. However, the National Automatic Merchandising Association is making a commitment to providing healthier food through the support of the Partnership for a Healthier America. This includes snacks like nuts and healthier chip choices like Baked Lays.

There are some real health benefits to potatoes when eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet. But they become unhealthy when you fry them and load them up with salt and artificial flavoring. Chips have historically been known to include empty calories. The frying process makes them high in saturated fat, and they lack fiber or protein, nutrients that are beneficial for gut health and sustained weight loss. Thus, in an effort to meet the demands of individuals seeking a healthier lifestyle, many chip makers have started to provide baked options.

You might want to curb your craving for something a little salty by grabbing a surprisingly healthier choice from the vending machine: Baked Lays. And if that's not up your alley, there are a few other guilt-free options you can grab on the go.

Baked Lays are a healthier vending machine option

It's hard to deny the urge to grab a bag of chips. Many times, your hunger, coupled with your decision fatigue, can have you punching the numbers for your favorite salty snack. Fortunately, you can satisfy your cravings and still choose a relatively healthier option by looking for a bag of baked chips.

With only 3.5 grams of total fat, Frito-Lay Baked Original Potato Crisps have 65% less fat than their fried cousins. Frito-Lay also notes that its Baked Lays have no saturated or trans fats. The American Heart Association states that overconsumption of saturated fats can lead to problems with cholesterol levels and an increased risk for heart disease. The total fat comes from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These two fats are among the healthier types, according to MedlinePlus. Polyunsaturated fats could help lower the "bad" LDL cholesterol in the blood.

Aside from having a greater fat content, classic potato chips are also packed with more calories than the baked variety. Frito-Lay lists traditional potato chips as having 160 calories for about 15 chips; an equivalent serving of Baked Lays has 40 fewer calories. The same serving size for Baked Lays clocks in at only 120 calories; they also have slightly less sodium per serving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lowering your sodium intake can reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. It can also be beneficial for controlling your blood pressure.

The hidden danger in Baked Lays to watch out for

Based on the calorie and fat content of Baked Lays, they certainly appear to be the healthier choice. However, even with healthy snacks, eating in moderation is essential. After all, chips are still considered a snack food. 

Moreover, the baking process can increase the acrylamide in the potato. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), acrylamide is a chemical commonly found in specific foods when they are cooked at a high temperature. The chemical is in plant foods like potatoes and grains, and has been shown to cause cancer in animals. However, the FDA stated that the concentration that causes cancer is typically higher than what you would find in commercial food. 

While acrylamide is in baked and fried potatoes, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Food Science showed that baking potatoes at 170 degrees Celsius doubled the amount of acrylamide compared to frying them at the same temperature. So, baking the potatoes can add more acrylamide if cooked at specific temperatures, which can be unhealthy if consumed in excess.

Other healthier vending machine snacks to try

Baked chips aren't the only snacks that serve as healthier vending machine options. For instance, Food Network notes that you might want to look for whole grains, healthy fats, and granola bars. 

You can enjoy whole grain snacking without the sugar-laden guilt by purchasing a whole grain pretzel. Whole grains are good because they bulk up your food and keep you full longer (via Mayo Clinic). You can also fill up on healthy fats like plain nuts. Research published in Nutrients showed that eating nuts can reduce the risk of chronic disease. It also found that eating more nuts wasn't linked with a higher chance of obesity.

Granola bars can also be a healthy alternative, and are available in many vending machines. Healthline noted that granola contains ingredients with high fiber content, like oats, which have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. However, when dried fruit and chocolate are added, particular bars have a higher sugar content. So, it's essential to read the labels before you decide which bars to buy.