Vending machines (VMs) provide quick access for snack foods and beverages for students during their study days. These vended foods have been reported to affect the student's nutritional status and contributing to obesity by increasing the caloric intake. This study aimed to evaluate the nutritional value of snacks and beverages provided by VM at the university campuses.
A cross-sectional observational study in one large urban university with four campuses was conducted. In total, 55 VMs were found distributed over 50 buildings of the four university campuses. Of the vending slots surveyed, only 57 snacks and beverage food items were found repeated. These items were vended and analyzed using nutrient databases, and their nutritional quality was assessed using nutrient adequacy ratio and nutritional quality score.
Most vended snacks were salty (77%) and sweet (23%). Neither snacks nor beverages were nutrient-dense, and the majority (65%) of snacks and beverages were calorie-dense, with high contents of sugar, sodium and saturated fat; while they were low in vitamins C and A, calcium, iron, sodium, protein and dietary fibers. None of the vended beverages met the low calorie, low sugars and high-fiber criteria.
One limitation of the current work is represented in the fact that VM snacks and beverages are not fixed throughout the year days, and exposed to continuous changes, depending on the customers' attitudes and economic and financial considerations related to the operating contractor company and the customer students. Thus, a continuous, long-term evaluation is suggested to be conducted for a more representative and reflective evaluation of the nutritional quality of vended snacks and beverages.
Poor nutritional quality has been found for vended foods. Healthier food options should be provided to improve students' dietary intake.
Attention has to be directed toward the nutritional quality of VM foods, and how to provide adolescents and young adults with healthy options.
This is the first study conducted in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) assessing the nutritional value of vending machine foods in university settings.
Nutrition and Food Research Group, Research Institute for Medical and Health Sciences, UOS supported this study. Thanks are extended to Dr. Amita Attlee and Dr. Maysm Mohamad for their revisions and constructive feedback on the manuscript.Funding source: Not applicable.Data repository link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/y69am3rb69elhi7/Nutrient%20Analysis%20final%20draft%204112018.xlsx?dl=0Conflict of interest: Nothing to declare.
Faris, M.E., Al-Bakheit, A., Hasan, H., Cheikh Ismail, L., Jahrami, H., Rajab, D., Afra Almashgouni, A., Alshehhi, A., Aljabry, A., Aljarwan, M., Alnaqbi, M. and Obaid, R.S. (2021), "Assessment of nutritional quality of snacks and beverages sold in university vending machines: a qualitative assessment", British Food Journal, Vol. 123 No. 7, pp. 2449-2460. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-07-2020-0601
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