If a vending machine is all that stands between your hunger and you, here are some quick tips to help you make the right choice.

Peanuts: Though high in fat (26 grams for 1.75 ounces), they are high in monounsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol levels, plus they offer some protein (12 grams). “They will make you feel full longer, too. So if you won’t be eating again for a while, they make a good choice,” says Cathy Feldmeier, a registered dietitian at St. Anthony’s Medical Center.

Pretzels: A good low-fat selection (1 1/2 grams for 1.58 ounces), but scrape off the salt if you are looking for a low-sodium option.

Beef jerky: This is a good high-protein choice (10 grams for 0.9 ounces). It’s low in fat and calories (1 gram of fat and 70 calories) but high in sodium (450 milligrams), so be careful, says Merrill Dove, the director of nutrition at Imagine Weight Loss center. But overall she calls it “a real good choice.”

Snackwell’s cookies: These are low in fat and not too high in calories (210 for four cookies). “The problem people get into with these is that they eat too many,” says Dove. “The good thing about the vending machine is that the portions are controlled. You are receiving the actual portion size.”

Crackers with peanut butter: Not the healthiest choice because of the fat content (10 grams for six crackers), but it’s better than a candy bar because of the protein (5 grams).

Twizzlers Nibs: Better than a chocolate bar because they are low-fat (1.5 grams), but they are still high in sugar (33 grams for 2.25 ounces) and calories (220).

Dark-chocolate Twix: Dark chocolate has antioxidants that have been shown to help fight some diseases. That said, “you’re better off getting them from fruits and vegetables,” says Feldmeier. This 2-ounce bar has 240 calories, much more than a serving of broccoli or blueberries.

King-size Snickers bar: This is a big no-no. The king-size Snickers has about twice as many calories (510 for a 3.7-ounce bar) as a regular Snickers bar and packs a whopping 24 grams of fat.

Peanut M&Ms vs. regular M&Ms: Choose peanut M&Ms over regular, because at least you get a little protein with the nuts (twice as much as in regular M&Ms). But don’t get the king-size, which packs 480 calories and 24 grams of fat into a 3.27-ounce bag.

Fruit Snacks: Don’t be fooled by the word “fruit.” These snacks are made with very little real fruit, and although they are fat-free, they are high in sugar (42 grams for 2.5 ounces) and calories (225). “They are pretty much just candy,” says Feldmeier.

Trail mix: A good choice that combines sweet and salty to fight most cravings. The seeds and nuts are high in protein (5 grams for the 1.1-ounce bag), and the raisins are good for you. Plus, this bag, at only 130 calories, has no cholesterol and is low in sodium.

Popcorn: A bag of light popcorn is a great option because it’s low-fat and low-calorie for the amount of food you are getting. In addition, you are getting fiber, which can help you feel full. Beware, however, the buttery popcorn, which can have 36 grams of fat per bag (3.5 ounces).

Chocolate mini-doughnuts: They often come in a package of six that contains a whopping 600 calories as well as 36 grams of fat. If you must have something chocolate, you are actually better off with a candy bar.


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