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Smart, healthy choices in your vending machine

January 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
In a perfect world, when that afternoon slump hits, you could reach for a handy, healthy snack. But in the real world, a vending machine is often the answer.So if you have to eat from the vending machine, what's the smartest choice? Here's the skinny on the best picks from the vending machine.

We've all been there. Afternoon hunger hits, and you're standing in front of the nearest vending machine.

Selecting a smart option isn't always a slam dunk, so ShopSmart magazine worked with outside registered dieticians to pinpoint some better choices.

It's no mystery you should stay away from the Pop-Tarts. They can pack in 420 calories, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and a whopping 32 grams of sugar. That's around eight sugar cubes.

And steer clear, too, of the Hostess Powdered Donettes, which have almost twice the saturated fat.

More surprising advice? Skip the Austin Cheese Crackers with Cheddar Cheese. There's actually just 2 percent or less of cheddar cheese.

And if you've just got to have a chocolate fix?

"Peanut M&M's are a better choice than, say, a Milky Way or a Twix," said Jody Rohlena of Consumer Reports ShopSmart mag.

That's because the peanuts at least offer a bit more protein and fiber.

And here's another guideline: "Choose something that takes a while to eat so your brain has a chance to register that it's full," said Rohlena.

Some good choices: fat-free Snyder's Mini Pretzels; SunChips; or Planters Salted Peanuts, which also offer a good protein boost. But even better: Pack that apple.

One other thing to remember is that there may be more than one serving in the package. Many companies sell a 2-ounce package of chips, but a serving size is half that. A cookie serving is generally two, not four. Keep in mind the serving size is the manufacturer suggestion.