New vending machines offer healthy options

LOS ANGELES

When it gets to be that time of day when your need to feed leans toward something salty or sweet, you can find yourself reaching for the vending machine.

Popping in those coins to get your snack fix may be getting healthier with a new kind of vending machine.

"They're 100 percent natural. A percentage of them are also organic and so there's no preservatives," described Amanda Alton with the Fresh Healthy Vending franchise.

Alton owns 15 Fresh Healthy Vending machines that stock a variety of drinks and snacks that nutritionally are considered a step up from standard vending products missing artificial ingredients and trans fat yet keeping taste.

Possible vending options include flavored waters, energy bars, soy milk, fruit snacks, yogurt, string cheese and even carrots and hummus.

"There is a lot more flexibility with these machines," said Alton.

The products are less processed, but many beverages and snacks contain ample sugar and the chips aren't necessarily high in fiber. A consumer favorite is Pirates Booty.

The Center for Health and Fitness in Redondo Beach installed a Fresh Healthy Vending machine, and so did Vistamar School in El Segundo.

Schools have specific government guidelines on nutrition parameters, so snacks are chosen carefully to make the grade. Head of school Karen Eshoo approves.

"It's one thing for us to say, 'Make good choices,' but if all we do is give them a range of really bad choices, that's not exactly good education," said Eshoo.

Fresh Healthy Vending out of San Diego has over 600 machines nationwide. Alton expects to have 25 machines operating in Southern California by the end of the year.

With some energy bars at $2 and chips around $1.60, Alton is banking on customers who care about what goes into their bodies.

Depending on the location, costs of items may vary. But health has a price, and some will pay more for the healthier option.

It's much like what you experience at a natural health food store.

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