Healthy eating at the vending machine

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It’s 2:30 in the afternoon, and your stomach is gurgling. Before long, you’re in vending-machine land eyeballing the choices, which for decades have consisted mostly of pop, chips, chocolate and those fluorescent orange crackers. But increasingly, people are finding a new ally to help slay the afternoon munchies: the healthy vending machine.

Instead of the standard junk-food fortresses filled with the four food groups of the apocalypse — salt, sugar, carbs and fat — there are machines from companies such as Fresh Healthy Vending, h.u.m.a.n. Healthy Vending and Vend Natural, offering low-calorie and low-fat fare in schools, malls, office buildings and more.

This is 2:30 p.m. in a different universe. Suddenly, you’re peering through Plexiglas at carrot sticks, cheese, yogurt, fruit smoothies, veggie chips and Fuji apple crisps — even soy milk, organic lemonade and mango coconut water.

Healthy vending started several years ago with machines on both coasts and has moved to the Midwest — including Michigan — within the past two years. It makes sense given the increased emphasis on better diets, said Jolly Backer, CEO of Fresh Health Vending of San Diego.

“Have you been in a Whole Foods lately?” he asked. “You can’t move in there. They’re all buying the stuff (we’re selling). People are becoming more aware of choices that will make a difference in their family’s health.”

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