Fruit Snack Reality Check

Children can be a bit picky when it comes to eating healthy. Parents almost have to be detectives and sly when incorporating healthy foods that their children enjoy. Parents may allow their children a treat or dessert, such as ice cream or candy once in a while and may gravitate toward the fruit snack because it sounds so healthy and it has fruit in its name. Not so fast, let’s understand the facts.


It is important to understand that  fruit snacks are not a fruit substitute and have been classified by nutritionists as being slightly better than gummies.  Many fruit snacks are artificially flavored and packed with added sugars and artificial colors and have little to no vitamin content. Many of these snacks have corn syrup and sugar as their first ingredients and a high sugar content per serving.


Over the past decade, parents and health groups have raised their concerns over the deceptive marketing of these snacks as fruit.  As a result, some companies have been improving their ingredients and new companies have been debuting their more nutritious versions.  Some brands are made with only dried fruit or fruit puree as their first ingredient.  Others have reduced the sugar content per serving and some only use natural and organic flavoring rather than food dyes. All fruit snacks are inherently lower in calories, low in sodium and free from fat or cholesterol, but so are chewy candies like gummy bears.  Some fruit snacks even make the School Nutrition Guidelines’ cut for vending machines based on real fruit being the first ingredient and sugar, calorie and sodium content being under a specified level.


Bottom line —  a fruit, such as an apple or pear, is a fruit and a fruit snack is a pre-packaged snack. If you opt to allow your child to have an occasional fruit snack please review the nutritional label and make an informed decision.

Sample of Fruit Snacks and Nutritional Information:

Brand Serving Size Calories Total Carbs Total Sugar First Ingredient Organic? Other?
Annie’s Homegrown Fruit Snacks 23g 70 18 10g (no added sugar) Organic Tapioca Syrup Yes No food dyes
Welch’s Fruit Snacks 25.5g 80 19 11g (includes 9g added sugar) Fruit Puree No Vitamins
Welch’s reduced sugar Fruit Snacks 22.7g 60 17 7g (includes 5g added sugar) Fruit Puree No Vitamins
That’s It Fruit Bar 35g 100 27 23g (no added sugar) Only Apples and Mangos   Vitamins, Fiber
Yum Earth Fruit Snacks 30g 100 24 19g (all added sugars) Organic Rice Syrup Yes No
Stretch Island Fruit leather 14g 50 12 10g (no added sugar) Fruit Puree No Fiber
Fruit Rolls Bear 20g 60 13 8g (no added sugars) Fruit No Iron and Fiber




Healthy food and drink options within Massachusetts schools are not only important, but have been the law since 2010 when the Commonwealth enacted the “Act Relative to School Nutrition” (the “Act”).  The Act requires nutrition standards to be set in Massachusetts public schools.   According to the Act, the goal is to ensure that public schools offer  food and beverage choices to students that will enhance learning, contribute to their healthy growth and development, and cultivate life-long healthy eating behaviors. Moreover, the Act seeks to help prevent childhood obesity and possible issues later into adulthood, which has been a huge issue for our nation.  The Act covers a la cart items, vending machines, school stores and snack bars.  The Act does not apply to food and beverages already covered under the federal nutrition program, such as school meal programs.

To assist vendors and school personnel in determining which snacks and drinks comply with the Act, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (the “DPH”) released revised guidance[1] that outlines standards, which include, among other things, portion size, fat, sugar, and salt content. The standards required by the Act are also set forth in the Massachusetts Competitive Foods and Beverages “At a Glance” Chart.[2]

In addition, the DPH enlisted the help of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the John C Stalker Institute for Food and Nutrition (“JSI”), among others to develop the nutrition standards required by the Act.  JSI published a list of acceptable foods, snacks and beverages (known as the A-List) and created a nutrition calculator to test whether products meet the nutrition criteria.  The A-List is an up-to-date and ever-expanding list of snack and beverage products that meet the standards required by the Act. Items not currently on the A-List may be submitted to JSI for consideration to be added depending on whether the item meets the nutritional requirements.

Having healthy vending machines in schools will ensure that children will have healthy options that make the cut!!  So how do snacks “make the cut” for the Massachusetts public nutrition standards?

  1. The snack must not exceed 200 calories
  2. Total fat may not be greater than 35% of calories
  3. Saturated fat must be less than10% of calories
  4. Trans fat must have less than or equal to 0.5 grams of trans fat
  5. Sodium must not exceed 200 mg.
  6. Sugar must be no more than 35% by weight
  7. Artificial sweeteners are not allowed
  8. No more than a trace of caffeine
  9. Grain-based products must be whole grain[3]

[1]  (


[3] According to the guidance, whole grains are grains or the foods made from them that contain all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. If the grain has been processed, the food product should deliver approximately the same balance of nutrients found in the original grain seed. For purposes of these standards, whole grain should be the primary ingredient by weight (i.e., whole grain listed first in the ingredient statement).

Does your favorite snack make the cut?  To give you an idea, we provided this chart as an example of how similar snacks fared.


Make the Cut? Snack Size Calories Why
Lays Classic 1 oz 160 Fat>35% of total calories
Baked Lays .8z 100
Reduced Sugar Welch’s Fruit Snack 1.5 oz 70
Fruit Gushers .8 oz 100 Artificial Ingredients
Cheez-It original 1 oz 140 First ingredient is not a whole grain. Sodium over 200mg.
Whole grain Cheez-It 1 oz 100
Nature’s Valley Oats and Honey Bar .7 oz 100
Oreo Cookie 1 oz 140 Fat>35% of total calories; Saturated Fat is over 10% of calories

Wicked Healthy Vending ensures that the options in our machines are within the guidelines and readily available for the children while they are at school. We take great pride in keeping them fully stocked as well as offering options for you to customize what’s available.

If you are interested placing one of our machines in your school, contact us today at [email protected].



Why Hospitals need Healthy Vending

Over the past few years there has been a push by consumers and public health organizations to have healthier, less caloric, more nutrient dense food in vending machines.  Although some U.S. hospitals have moved in that direction, many are behind in that regard.  Residing in Massachusetts I have had the opportunity to visit many hospitals in the Boston and greater Boston area, either as a patient or a visitor. Vending machines are placed in various lobbies and hallways of these hospitals and as a vending machine service provider focusing on healthier options I can’t help but study the machines and their content.  The majority of product in these machines contain junk food and sugary sodas, with little or no choice for healthier options.

So why is healthy vending in hospitals important?

Let’s look at the mission of a hospital or medical facility – Hospitals are to help people get “healthy”.  Hospitals are for the sick or injured to nurture them back to health, so why wouldn’t hospitals want to offer food that has some nutritious value?  At a minimum a hospital should offer healthier options so its stakeholders have a choice.

Having healthy options for staff members, families and friends at hospitals should be a number one priority for many reasons.

1. Hospital staff and essential workers go non-stop, often not having the time to sit down and take a lunch.  Healthy options need to be readily available for the staff. They work long shifts and need to be nourished so that they can be of service to their patients.

2. Visitors often are visiting sick friends and family whether patients are there for a short stay or are terminal.  At some point the visitor realizes they are famished and needs to leave the room to grab something quickly from the vending machine, whether the cafeteria is closed or the visitor does not want to leave for a length of time. (Hospitals have cafeterias and some even have cafes and restaurants, but they aren’t a 24/7 service.) Visitors should be able to grab that nutrition dense meal replacement bar or a whole grain turkey sandwich from a vending machine rather than a candy bar.

Further, a visitor might be unable or unwilling to venture to the nearest eatery to get a meal. They may be unfamiliar to the area or scared to leave the hospital at night.

Visitors with children are looking for food with less sugar. As children we all loved buying something from a vending machine, often begging our parents for the experience of watching that snack fall from the coil.  With healthy vending, parents no longer have to compromise nutrition when purchasing from a vending machine. Our vending machine services provide families with a variety of options for snacks and drinks with less sugar content.

3. Patients come to hospitals for tests, bloodwork or other outpatient services sometimes waiting for several hours.  These patients are in the hospital’s care and should receive the same commitment of health in their vending machines as they do with their medical services.

4. Making a difference. In a study performed by the County of Los Angeles covering the period November 2013 – September 2015 and published by the Public Healthy Post, they found that out of 170 beverage machines and 127 snack machines placed in public facilities, the average amount of sugar purchased per beverage between 2013 and 2015 decreased by 90 and there was a 30% decrease in the average amount of sodium purchased per snack. There was a small decrease in revenue for the vending service provider which could attribute to the evolution and exposure to healthy eating.

Vending machines are beneficial for all kinds of environments, but they can be very valuable to people within a hospital. From staff to visitors and even some patients, the availability of quick snacks and drinks are extremely helpful for important boosts of energy, nutrition or even just a brief source of comfort in trying times! 

A hospital’s mission of well-being and care should extend to its vending machines. For more information of Wicked Healthy Vending and its services, please contact [email protected]


7 Tips to Consider When Hiring a Vending Machine Company

Before hiring a vending machine company, Wicked Healthy Vending suggests that you consider what is important to your organization and what it wants to provide its customers.  These 7 tips may help you in this process.

  1. Vending Machine capabilities
  • Are you seeking a vending machine that is American Disability Act Compliant (“ADA”)?  This provides accessibility to those customers in a wheel chair so the retrieval door, dollar slots and credit card readers are all in their reach.
  • Does the vending machine have credit card capability and does it take Apple/Android and contactless pay?
  • Does the vending machine company have vending management software that will allow it to remotely check on the machine’s purchases to know when they need to fill the machine?
  • Are there other features in a vending machine that may interest you?
  1. Product Selection
  • Are you looking for traditional snacks and beverages? Think of your soda, potato chips and candy bars;
  • Do you want to provide your customers, employees, members, guests and students with healthier snack and drink options?; or
  • Would you like a combination of traditional items and healthy items in the vending machine?

Keep in mind that certain organizations require healthy vending, such as public schools and YMCAs, while others seek it out because of their mission to provide a healthier lifestyle to their stakeholders or simply because their customers are asking for more nutritious snack and drink options.

  1. Supplier Diversity Are you interested in partnering with a diversified business, such as a certified woman-owned, minority-owned or veteran- owned?
  2. Community Involvement Would you like to hire a vending machine company who is involved in the community and one who can partner with your organization on community initiatives?
  3. Conduct Due Diligence
  • Is the vending machine company a legitimate company with a website and business presence?
  • Are they insured or licensed by their state if required?
  • What is the vendor’s response time to issues under reasonable circumstances?
  1. Meet and Greet your Prospective Vendor    If possible, meet with your prospective vendor, either in person or virtually to determine that the vending company is a good fit.
  • Are they punctual and prepared to answer questions?
  • Are they listening to you?
  • Are they willing to provide samples?
  • Do they outline realistic expectations?  It is better to have a vendor that sets realistic expectations than one who wants to get in the door and then under-delivers.
  1. Provide Vendor Information about the Location   As it is important for a vending machine company to provide a realistic picture of its capabilities and services, it is just as important for the organization to be candid about the location.  Be ready to share with the prospective vendor:
  • The number of people on site that potentially can purchase from the machine.
  • Hours of operation and number of days a week the location is open to its customers
  • Number of shifts

Providing this information will help the vending machine company recommend,  based on experience, what type of machine would work best, such as a combination snack and drink machine, a machine that can accommodate refrigerated entrees, or a separate snack and beverage machine. It will also allow the vending machine company to assess whether the location will be busy enough to warrant servicing the location.

 Trust the best, when hiring a vending machine company to supply healthy snacks and drinks!

Free Snacks, Drinks and Dancing

One of the best parts of my job is participating in community events.  I was honored to be involved in the health expo sponsored by the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce and the Peabody Concert Series.  There I got to share my healthy vending booth with the folks at Hint Water and BudiBar, two products that are in the Wicked Healthy Vending machines.

Check out the photos!





Diversified Businesses Featured

Wicked Healthy Vending is pleased to be included in the first published North Shore Massachusetts Diversity Catalog with other Salem, Beverly, Peabody, Swampscott, Lynn and Marblehead Minority and/or Women Business Owners.

Schools, YMCAs, Universities, and municipalities, please join in and reach out to Wicked Healthy Vending for your vending needs.  By doing so you are supporting one of your local woman-owned businesses.  Thank you for your business and ongoing support.

Massachusetts and New Hampshire Among Top 10 Healthiest US States

Wicked Healthy Vending gives kudos to its home state of Massachusetts and neighboring New England states: New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut for being identified as the top healthiest states in the United States in 2021.

According to the World Health Organization’s World Population Review, Massachusetts ranked second as the healthiest State following its neighbor to the north, Vermont.  Connecticut and New Hampshire ranked 4th and 6th, respectively.

We are fortunate in Massachusetts to have great hospitals, educational institutions and school systems and organizations that strives for a healthier community.

Now let’s talk vending in Massachusetts.  Public schools requires vending that complies with the John Stalker A list.  What is this you ask?  It is a list of food items, such as snacks and beverages that meet nutritional guidelines for its children.   Additionally, many YMCAs require adherence to the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards (“HEPA”).    Wicked Healthy Vending provides services to meet these requirements.

We are also finding that organizations such as companies, dealerships, property management companies, and hotels are switching to vending machines that carry healthy options.   Many companies include incorporating healthy vending into their wellness program.  There is simply also demand from the community.  Massachusetts young adults are looking for food to fuel their body while on the run and GenX and Baby Boomers are becoming more aware of healthier choices as a result of aging, illness and following in their children’s and grandchildren’s footsteps.

Healthy snacks no longer mean tasteless.  Entrepreneurs, are producing superfood snacks that are delicious.   Keep it up Massachusetts!

2020 CWE Rising Star Award

As owner of Wicked Healthy Vending, let me say how appreciative and honored I am to have received the Center for Women and Enterprise’s (“CWE”) Rising Star Award Eastern MA, and how grateful I am for CWE’s support and guidance over the past 6 years.

The pandemic has put stressors on our lives and businesses and the healthy vending business has not escaped its wrath.   As a vending business, we rely on other businesses to thrive as they are our customers.  Servicing our locations brings me great pleasure and I am confident that we will all get through the other side of this, stronger.

In the mean time what has kept me going as a business owner has been the support received from others and the support I have been able to give to others.   I’m not just talking about financial support, such as the PPP monies or community grants, I am talking about service, guidance, and coming together to help each other.

CWE has been a constant source of support to Wicked Healthy Vending since 2014.  From the beginning CWE has provided support by way of educational seminars and panels, matchmaking to corporations, mentorships with corporations to recent reach outs and support from their Covid Business Recovery project manager.  Additionally, as a result of CWE’s introducing Wicked Healthy Vending to other woman business owners who have food products, Wicked Healthy Vending has been able to include these food products in their vending machines.

Wicked Healthy Vending’s mission is two-fold: healthy vending options and service to Massachusetts community.  As this year passes, I realize how important the community part is.  It has been our pleasure to donate our product to food pantries, pass out meals to our local community, gift snack packs to essential workers and to support women businesses.

Let’s continue to emotionally, financially and spiritually support one another where and when we can.

Thank you for your support and your business.

Tina Paine