Australians might finally be ready for vending machines with healthy food

Image: University of Sydney.

The University of Sydney starts an experiment of a different kind this week — the campus vending machines will be stocked with healthier food.

There have been many attempts to rid vending machines of their salt and sugar-laden products over the years but none have lasted.

This time might be different. A study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, shows there’s an appetite for healthy food options such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and yoghurt.

Of the 240 people surveyed at university campus and public hospitals, 87% thought the current range of vending machine snacks are unhealthy, with 80% willing to pay the same or more for healthier alternatives.

Vending machines are part of an unhealthy environment contributing to a rise in diabetes and obesity through the availability of energy-dense snacks and sugary drinks, according to Professor Vicki Flood from the University of Sydney.

“We know that around one-third of our daily calorie intake comes from snacking and with the busy lifestyles that we all lead, healthy eating often falls victim to convenience,” says Flood.

A 2012 audit of vending machines at Sydney train stations found few healthy snacks are on offer. Only 3% of all vending machine slots were allocated to healthier choices, such as nuts, tuna or portion controlled chips, and these were generally more expensive.

At Sydney University earlier this year a survey of 650 students found 90% wanted more nutritious options in vending machines.

The healthier options to be available at Sydney University, costing from $2 to $4, include popcorn, pretzels, tuna and cracker snack packs, tuna and beans, mixed nuts, mixed fruit & nuts and high fibre muesli bars.

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