Nuts are a whole-food snack full of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. People who eat them regularly are less likely to die of heart disease than those who rarely eat them, according to a number of studies. Moreover, people who regularly eat nuts may have a lower risk of overall mortality and a lower risk of developing chronic diseases. Craving something salty? Salt gets a bad rap, but it doesn't affect everyone the same way. It only raises blood pressure in about 25 percent of people. (If you know you're sensitive to sodium, it's better to opt for unsalted nuts.)
This medley of peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and raisins contains all the health benefits of the above snacks and more. Raisins are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and iron. Cranberries are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and manganese, a mineral that plays an essential role in bone health. And sunflower seeds contain significant amounts of vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium. Kar's Nut N' Berry Trail Mix contains no salt, so it's a good option for people who want to avoid sodium.
Popcorn is crunchy, tasty, and smells divine, and it actually boasts a few health benefits. It's the only completely unprocessed whole grain most people eat, and it contains more polyphenols per serving than most fruits and vegetables. (Polyphenols protect cells from oxidative damage.) While you shouldn't trade in your fruits and veggies, which contain many other important nutrients, if you're looking for something to snack on, popcorn is a good bet. Smartfood White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn is air popped and boasts real-food ingredients, including calcium-rich cheddar cheese and buttermilk.
If you want to satisfy your sweet tooth with something more nutritious than a candy bar, this widely available snack is a good bet. While it's high in added sugar, this bar includes whole-grain oats, which are rich in fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. The oats will also give you more staying power (i.e. you'll stay fuller, longer) than a candy bar.
Pretzels aren't exactly a health food. But if you're craving a salty snack, skip the potato chips and grab a bag of pretzels. Even baked potato chips are highly processed and full of artificial ingredients. Snyder's Mini Pretzels are made with enriched wheat flour, which means they have more vitamins than some other vending machine snacks. But they also contain a lot of sodium, so avoid them if you're salt sensitive.
Nine in 10 Americans snack every day, and that's not a bad thing. Research suggests people who eat an afternoon snack consume more fiber, fruits, and vegetables than those who don't snack. It's best to plan ahead and bring a healthy snack to work with you. But if you forget, don't panic. Just grab one of these six healthier vending machine snacks.
Abby Quillen is the author of the novel The Garden of Dead Dreams and the editor of two anthologies. Her articles and essays have appeared in YES! Magazine and The Christian Science Monitor and on Common Dreams, Nation of Change, Reader Supported News, The Daily Good, Truthout, and Shareable. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her family. When she's not writing, she grows vegetables and weeds, bikes and walks as much as she can, and jots down cute things her kids say. Visit her at abbyquillen.com.