For many students, “back to school” means back to a vending machine diet. As you might guess, this isn’t necessarily a good thing for student health.
Vending machines are found in 16% of U.S. elementary schools, 52% of middle schools and 88% of high schools. About 22% of students in grades 1 through 12 buy food in vending machines each day – and those purchases added an average of 253 calories to their diets, according to a new study in the September issue of the Journal of School Health.
Just to be clear, those were not 253 calories' worth of tofu, yogurt or carrot sticks. The most popular vending machine items included soft drinks, candy, chips, crackers, cookies, cakes and ice cream. On the plus side, kids also bought low-fat milk, fruit juice and even fruit, the study found.
But the net effect on kids’ diets was not good. Those who bought from vending machines ate an average of 156 grams of sugar per day, compared with 146 grams for those who abstained. They also consumed less dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate.