And you thought you could only get a bag of M&Ms or Cheetos from the vending machine. New food ATMs put the old guard to shame, doling out pizza slices, cupcakes and burritos with a press of a button and swipe of a credit card. So now that you can go on a junk food run at 3 a.m., the question becomes, should you?
Feeding the Machine
Sure, while the novelty factor may up the fun factor, it may decrease your enjoyment, too. “It’s important to remember that eating is about the experience as well as the food,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. “So I’d be concerned that when people are buying from these machines, they’re looking for a quick fix to eat on the go. And they’re also bypassing the experience of ordering a cupcake from a cupcake shop and taking 10 minutes to [sit down] and savor it,” she explains.
If your options are limited, going to a drugstore or even gas station might actually be a better choice, says Gorin. There, you’ll be able to find nutritionally balanced items (likely hidden just past the candy aisle), including 100-calorie packs of pistachios, fresh fruit and salads.
Ordering (healthy-ish) takeout can also be a smarter choice because at least you have to make the conscious decision to order it and wait for the food to arrive, says Gorin. That’s contrary to these machines, which can satisfy a spontaneous craving when you weren’t even hungry in the first place, she explains.
Here’s a look at seven junk food-wielding vending machines — plus three that are actually putting the healthy back in convenience.
7 Vending Machines Gone Wild
This queso-colored vending machine promises hot burritos for breakfast, lunch and dinner — and every hangry moment in between. (Never feasted your eyes on one? They’re coming to 19 more cities this spring, Anchorage, Alaska included!) The good news here is that you can opt for grilled steak or marinated chicken, but keep in mind the added rice and cheese all rolled into a big tortilla (and topped with optional sour cream) can really add up.
2. Xavier University’s Pizza ATM
Regular pizza delivery is so last year. “America’s first pizza vending machine,” according to NBC News, makes it possible to produce a 12-inch pie at all hours of the day (and night). All you need is $9-$10 and a couple minutes to shuffle your way down to the residence hall’s lobby. Hungry coeds: Proceed with caution.
3. 24/7 Pizza Box
Xavier isn’t the only hot spot for ‘za. This company pairs local pizzerias who stock the machine with up to 108 slices at a time. The pizzeria in a box then heats up and dispenses the slice within two minutes. The downside: This isn’t an “I’m desperate for any pizza” situation — your favorite pie place is open at any time.
RELATED: 7 Delicious Low-Carb Pizza Recipes
It’s your midnight cupcake fix — aka the most dangerous place on earth. This ATM dispenses the famous bakery’s cupcakes and cookies in a dozen locations around the U.S., and it’ll run you around 500 calories per treat. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with indulging, just make sure you’re not cashing out on those frosted bites every day of the week.
5. French Fry Dispenser at Wageningen University
OK, you don’t need to visit the Netherlands just to get fries out of a machine. But this one allows you to place an order for the deep-fried side, and opt for mayonnaise or ketchup, too. May we suggest spending your cals on an actual Dutch specialty, like one of these yummy Stroopwafels (the chewy waffle cookie with caramel spread inside). Um, way more of that, please.
6. Krispy Kreme
Because the only thing that could make Krispy Kreme better would be if it took a bath in a rich hazelnut spread. Indeed, the doughnut brand teamed up with Nutella to open a pop-up doughnut dispenser this past spring in London. (Apparently it makes people faint and have “uncontrollable outbursts of delight.” No, really.) There is some icing on the cake, though: The proceeds were donated to charity, reported the New York Daily News.
7. Dippin’ Dots
The “ice cream of the future” (which, come to think of it, actually reminds you of your youth), is sold in single-serve bags out of vending machines in nine flavors. Delicious? Yes. Dangerous? Absolutely. (Plus, artificial colors Blue #1, Red #40 and Yellow #6 — we’re looking at you.)
Healthy Vending Is Here
Not all hope is lost. Just when you thought you were stuck with pizza and cupcakes, these machines offer up some surprisingly good-for-you fare.
1. Farmer’s Fridge
Found throughout Chicago, these dispensaries feature salads-in-a-jar in Instagram-worthy combos, like melon and prosciutto and Thai with coconut chicken. And they’d also like you to forget they’re actually a vending machine (seriously, don’t call them a vending machine), stressing that yep, everything is fresh, made from scratch, and prepped by 5 a.m. that day for delivery.
2. Healthy YOU
Gorin likes this one because they stock “better snack choices like KIND fruit and nut bars,” she says. There’s even an option, she points out, to request one at your office. (Hint, hint.) Currently, you can find them at prime spots like Harvard University and in companies like Crayola, CBS and Westin.
Smarter temperature controls allow for yogurt, fresh fruit, sammies, smoothies and milk all to stay freshly stocked, so you’ve got more snack options than ever. You’ll find them at schools, hospitals and corporate locations.