Monthly Archives: May 2015

Vending Machines Offer Built-In Portion Control

It used to be that vending machines were the place where healthy diets went to die. They offered limited choices and almost no options for the health-conscious eater;  salt, fat, andvending machines can help with portion control sugar contents were off the charts. But in the past decade, a sea change has engulfed the vending industry. Most vending machines offer a wider        variety of choices, with many more healthy  options than were once available.

And there’s more good news; if you’re     going to buy junk food, buying it from a vending machine may actually be a healthier choice! That’s because vending           machine offerings have built-in portion control that you won’t find at a convenience store or supermarket.

Potato chips and other salty snacks, for instance, are some of the worst culprits for  provoking overeating. If you buy a bag of chips at a convenience store, it’s likely to be 10 to 13 ounces; that’s 10 to 13 servings!  And most people, despite their best intentions, have trouble limiting  themselves to only one serving when they have the whole bag     sitting in front of them.

Most vending machine bags of chips are only one ounce: the exact amount of a recommended serving! When you just must have that salty crunch of your favorite snack chip, isn’t it better to have your portion already measured out? The same principle works for other foods as well.  At many convenience and grocery stores now, it can be hard to find the “regular” sized candy bars in the midst of all the king-sized ones, but most vending machine candy bars are standard size.  And nuts, which are a very healthy snack in moderation (see Nuts to You!), can add up to extra fat quickly. But with a portion-controlled serving, it’s easier to eat the right amount of this heart-healthy snack.

Of course, US Connect’s Bistro To Go™ kiosks take healthy convenience to a whole new level. However, when you want to get a little junky at the vending machine, remember to use the built-in portion control. When in doubt, check out this handy wallet card from the National Institutes of Health; it will remind you of appropriate serving sizes.


What We Learned at NAMA…About Snacking

Last month, team members of USConnect went to the annual conference of the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) to learn about best practices and trends for 2015 and beyond. Here, we’ll share with you some of what we learned about snacking.

what are people snacking on in the office

To start, the term “snack” is very vague and getting vaguer. In previous decades, the word “snack” had a fairly concrete denotation; a snack food was potato chips, nuts, or maybe a candy bar. Today, however, a snack can be virtually any kind of food. One study found that while chips/pretzels/salty crackers were consumed 20 percent of the time, sweet baked goods (like doughnuts or Danish) were consumed 18 percent of the time, and burgers and frozen treats were each consumed 17 percent of the time.

Many foods have been “snackitized.” Appetizers, pizza, burgers, desserts, and sandwiches are just a few of the items that many people like to eat as snacks. Meanwhile, traditional snack foods like chips are now often seen as a side for a meal. Some more snack facts are as follows:

  • Fifty-nine percent of snacks eaten away from home are sweet, and 63 percent are salty.
  • Americans snack two to three times a day.
  • Women are starting to snack more than men.
  • People mainly consume snacks between lunch and dinner or after dinner.
  • Forty-five percent of people replace one or two meals with snacks.
  • The traditional meal structure (breakfast with a mid-morning snack, lunch with a mid-afternoon snack, and dinner)is increasingly uncommon. People are replacing it with a much more fluid, responsible schedule.
  • Attitudes toward snacking have changed considerably since the 1980s, when 70 percent of people avoided snacks entirely. Now 91 percent of adults snack at least once a day.
  • By 2015, nearly 30 percent of consumers will average three to four snacks per day.
  • People snack for a variety of reasons, including hunger, convenience, and managing diets to avoid overeating at mealtime.
  • Snackers today buy an average of nine snacks a week.
  • Twenty-six  percent of people are eating more snacks than a year ago, and 34 percent are spending more on snacks.
  • Seventy-one percent of people are trying new snacks.
  • Seventy-six  percent of people eat on-the-go meals.

Best Ingredients to Add to Your Salad Today

Salads have a reputation for being the healthiest—and most dietetic—meal. Many people feel virtuous for eating salads for lunch or dinner, but they fail to look closely at the ingredients and determine what they’re actually putting into their bodies. If you eat a salad what are the best toppings to add to that salad?with very few nutrients, you’re not doing yourself any favors, because you’re failing to give your body what it needs. If you have a salad without protein for a meal, then you’re almost guaranteeing that you’ll be hungry again soon. And if your salad is covered with fatty foods like cheese, bacon, fried chicken, and mayonnaise-based dressing, then you might as well skip the salad and go right for a cheeseburger for all the health benefits you’re getting.

If you make the right choices, however, a salad can be an excellent meal choice. Follow the tips below to build the perfect salad.

Veggies: Add extra nutrients, crunch, and taste to your salad with an array of vegetables: sugar snap or snow peas, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers can only make your salad healthier—adding little in the way of calories but much in the way of vitamins and nutrients like Vitamin C, Vitamin A, beta-carotene, and anti-oxidants. Vegetables like celery and cucumbers might not add much in the way of nutrition, but they can make a salad more appealing.

Protein: If you want a salad to satisfy you for more than an hour, you’ll need to add some protein. Healthy choices include eggs, beans or chickpeas, edamame, and grilled fish, chicken, or shrimp. The National Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get 46 to 56 grams of protein a day, so make sure your salad includes protein.

Healthy fats: Nuts and seeds can make a great addition to your salad, as long as you don’t overdo it; a serving size is one small handful. Rich, creamy avocado provides monounsaturated fats and a hint of decadence, but keep your serving to one ounce. If you want cheese on your salad, keep it to two tablespoons; try a cheese with strong flavor, like feta or gorgonzola, to make your cheese have a bigger impact.

Fruit: Dried or fresh fruit makes a delicious accent to your salad. Try slices of apple, pear, or mandarin oranges, or sprinkle your salad with strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries. When choosing dried fruit, look for low-sugar options.

Dressing: Don’t lose the health benefits of your salad by choosing an unhealthy dressing or drowning your salad! Use just enough to taste good; if you’re not sure how much you’ll need, start with just a little, and then add more as needed. Needless to say, creamy dressings like ranch or blue cheese are the worst culprits for calories and fat. Just make sure to read the dressing label, and keep your healthy salad healthy!