A healthy vending machine – Revisited

You may remember me writing about the so-called healthy vending machine. Well, here we go again…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently proposed new nutritional limits for school vending machines. An article on Bloomberg.com outlines the limits – emphasizing that candy bars will be replaced with granola bars (and other 200 calorie or fewer snacks) and the removal of sports and other sugary drinks. All efforts to improve health and reduce obesity?!?!!!!

What is healthy?

Excuse the redundancy from my previous most, but I must  re-present this information. By definition:

Healthy (adj):
1: enjoying health and vigor of body, mind, or spirit
2: envincing health
3: conducive to health

Health (n):
1: the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit;especially : freedom from physical disease or pain
2: the general condition of the body

…the definitions of healthy and health are ambiguous. As an educated and informed individual, I perceive a healthy food and one that will provide macro- and micro-nutrients that will benefit my health, either as improvement or maintenance. What do most low-calorie granola bars offer? A bunch of sugar or sugar substitutes and little to no fiber, protein, and fat. So – – –

Are granola bars healthy?

A goal of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is to instill healthy eating habits in children. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Good nutrition lays the groundwork for good health and academic success.” By filling vending machines with low-nutrient dense foods, are we truly laying a healthy foundation of behaviors? It seems to me like we are setting them up for failure.

Caloric needs – Children & adolescents

Is a 200-calorie snack with low nutrient density sufficient for an adolescent? Will it satiate? Or are we setting them up to eat MORE of these snacks to feel satisfied? Below is a table that outlines the caloric needs. Adolescence is a time of massive growth, demanding significant fuel from calories. NOTE: Keep in mind that these are guidelines and true needs are highly individual.


The bottomline

Better vending machine choices is not the answer and will never reduce the rates of childhood obesity. If anything, eating the number of granola bars required to satiate a teenage boy could encourage obesity – at least a candy bar has fat which aids with satiety and curbs appetite.

The answer? Remove vending machines from schools. Out of sight and out of mind. Parents need to be responsible for the health and well-being and send them to school with food and sustenance. The schools need the money? There are other ways to earn money – schools are filled with teachers and the teachers I know are some of the most creative people I know. Let’s use those creative juices!

There is no such thing as a healthy vending machine.