Students cope well with healthier snacks

August 4, 2014

Students do not mind buying healthier snacks from vending machines, according to research published in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health. The findings could have implications for campus health initiatives as well as vendor profits.

The common stereotype of the busy student is of someone who will grab a junk food snack between lectures and rarely chooses a decent, hot meal over a chance to share a beer or two with fellow students. If the stereotype is an obvious generalization, one point remains true, snacks from on campus are popular. Now, Julia Lapp, William Harris Ressler and Amy Frith of Ithaca College have carried out an experiment on two campus vending machines in which they swapped out "unhealthy", high sugar, salt and fat snacks for healthier options and then surveyed 200 students on their satisfaction and perceptions regarding the snacking options. No promotions or incentives were used to entice students to purchase the healthier options and the foods sold were not labeled as healthier.

The researchers point out that the environment and context in which consumers make dietary choices is important regarding perception of the foods being sold and the nutrition and related health risks. Moreover, vending machines snacks available on the premises of educational establishments and in the workplace have been the object of scrutiny and criticism by experts, with a particular concern regarding the high levels of sugar, salt, fat and overall calorie content of the foods.

The team's study compared ' perceptions and self-reported behavior regarding the food in vending machines before (pre-test) and after (post-test) replacing a portion of the conventional food items with , defined as having fewer calories (less than 400 kcal for snacks and cereals less than 150 kcal for candies), limited added sugar (less than 5 grams), lower fat (less than 3 g per serving), healthier fats, no trans fats, no artificial colors or flavors, and lower sodium (less than 140 milligrams per serving).

The key finding was that sales from the vending machines did not decline when healthier options were added. Moreover, students made aware of the healthier options were quite happy to have purchased those options and the more athletic among them felt it was a positive change. "Results offer insights for promoting and suggest that improving the healthiness of vending machine selections can serve all stakeholders: consumers, companies, and institutions," the team reports.

The team's findings suggest that there are significant benefits to students in offering healthier snack options without compromising convenience or taste. For the educational institution or workplace, a healthier food offering boosts their social responsibility and supports institutional image as well as improving student or staff wellbeing. And, for the vending machine companies, healthier and more options translates into increased sales. "Results of our study suggest that introducing healthier choices to vending machines can indeed be a win-win-win proposition," the team concludes.

Explore further: Mixed reviews for healthier school lunch fare

More information: Lapp, J.L., Ressler, W.H. and Frith, A.L. (2014) 'College students, vending machines, and improving nutritional choices: the effects of adding healthier foods on perceptions of vending machines', Int. J. Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp.16-33.

Related Stories

Mixed reviews for healthier school lunch fare

July 14, 2014
School cafeteria managers on the hunt for foods that are healthy and will also please finicky students are sampling bean burgers, peanut butter substitutes and other alternatives at a convention in Boston.

Health law to put calorie info on vending machines

December 28, 2013
Vending machines will display calorie counts for each item along with the cost under new labeling regulations required under the federal health care overhaul law.

Rules would make school snacks healthier

February 1, 2013
(AP)—The government for the first time is proposing broad new standards to make school snacks healthier, a move that would ban the sale of almost all candy, high-calorie sports drinks and greasy foods on campus.

New rules aim to rid US schools of junk foods

June 27, 2013
(AP)—High-calorie sports drinks and candy bars will be removed from vending machines and cafeteria lines at all U.S. schools as soon as next year, replaced with diet drinks, granola bars and other healthier items.

Chips, sodas out, healthier fare in with new school snack rules

February 4, 2013
(HealthDay)—The days when U.S. children can get themselves a sugary soda or a chocolate bar from a school vending machine may be numbered, if newly proposed government rules take effect.

Recommended for you

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.