Lexington-Fayette Co. Health Department stocks healthy snacks in vending machines

ssloan@herald-leader.comJune 17, 2012 

  • Get your business healthier

    To learn about the health department's suggested guidelines for vending machines and how your business can improve its offerings, contact Melissa Smith at (859) 288-2473.

If you're looking for a sugary candy energy rush, look somewhere other than the vending machines at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

The organization has changed the dozen or so vending machines around its area campuses to sell only food and drink that meet strict nutritional guidelines. And it's encouraging and willing to assist area businesses in doing the same.

"We're just trying to help people," said Melissa Smith, a registered dietitian who has been working on the initiative. "If they want to bring the bad stuff, they're going to have to make that extra effort to bring them from home."

In establishing guidelines of what would be sold, the health department relied on a combination of federal suggestions and those considered by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national nutrition group. Among the stipulations are rules that say foods must have:

■ No trans fats.

■ Less than 230 milligrams of sodium.

■ Less than 200 calories per serving.

■ Less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat.

■ Less than 35 percent of calories from total fat.

■ Less than 35 percent sugar by weight.

Smith said a few exceptions exist, such as nuts and seeds "because we consider those healthy fats."

Among the foods that made the cut were some baked chips, Kashi snack bars, Nutri-Grain cereal bars, animal crackers and trail mix. Fresh fruits or vegetables couldn't work because of the type of vending machines used, she said.

The drinks for sale include 100 percent juice, diet soft drinks, water and Vitamin Water Zero.

"So far, we haven't heard any major complaints," she said.

One obstacle was making sure the items included were cheap enough for customers.

"We would like to be a little more unique in the products we offer, but our vendor said that would be a little too expensive," Smith said. "Hopefully, that will change."

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @heraldleaderbiz

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