New 'Smart' Vending Machines Goad You Into Eating Healthy

by Brandon Topp

Making an unhealthy eating choice only takes a brief moment of carelessness, a single instant where your nutritional standards become meaningless and you give into temptation. But if pointedly someone asks you, "are you sure you want to eat that?" you may think twice. Which is the whole idea behind a new vending machine system that, literally, makes you stop and think before ordering an unhealthy snack.

Substituting unhealthy ingredients and dishes with more nutritious options is at the core of our popular show Flip Your Food, where chef Jeff Henderson "flips" guests’ favorite dishes into a healthier version. But for those of us who don’t have a world-class chef with a TV show to inform our snack choices, this vending machine might do the trick. 

Also on Z Living: Here's The Latest Lowdown On Low-Carb Diets

This New Technology Makes You Check Yourself. 

Developed by preventive medicine professionals at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, this "smart" vending machine has a 25-second dispensing delay that's enacted when users queue up an unhealthy snack choice. The machines have a delivery countdown that show on an LED display, giving users time to change their choice to a more healthy snack. The healthy snacks, by contrast, have no time delay in place. 

Also on Z Living: 12 Fruits & Vegetables Absolutely Worth The Price Of Buying Organic

Guess What? It Works.

Time reports that the team has found that introducing a delay does influence some people to change their purchase to a healthier option. In the researchers’ studies, the delay created a two-to-five percent increase in the proportion of healthy snacks chosen by machine users, without hurting the machine’s overall score. 

Keeping these results in mind, the authors of the study have said that the United States’ 1.3 million vending machines are its most prevalent source of high-calorie snacks. So, implementing this new technology on a wider scale could definitely make a huge difference. 

Also on Z Living: Is The '5-Second Rule' Real—Or Just A Myth? 

Does This Mean We Need These Vending Machines? 

It’s tough to say. Should healthy eaters who go to a vending machine for an occasional, cheat-day Snickers bar now have to wait half a minute to eat something they completely understand? Also, shouldn’t it be up to individuals to choose their own diets without being goaded one way or the other?

People do have the right to make their own decisions, and while this doesn’t take that away, it's clearly assuming an influential position on a point all consumers may not want. Also though, a lot of us make unhealthy decisions, because we have a lack of understanding or support. The world has an unhealthy eating problem, and it could definitely use some help. If if your own conscious won't stop you, maybe a machine's "conscious" can.

Clearly, there would be pros and cons to a mass installation of these new smart-vending machines. But, if food distribution technology does have a bias, we’re definitely happy it leans towards the side of longer, healthier lives for its many consumers.

What do you think?

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