The YMCA recently made a small change to make a big impact and reinforce its message of healthy living.

The vending machines at the YMCA no longer will offer junk food and drinks and will hold healthier alternatives instead.

Erika Knott, health and wellness director, said the junk food simply didn’t align with the YMCA’s theme for eating right and keeping fit.

“I think it’s one of those things where you have something and you just get used to it and continues to stay. Then you start questioning it and ask, is this following along with the rest of what we are trying to do?” Knott said.

Thinks like soft drinks have been replaced with water and Gatorade, and fried potato chips have been replaced with baked versions.

Knott said the vending machines were popular with children who visited the YMCA in the afternoon and evenings. But the bad choices weren’t limited to children.

“It was definitely something that kiddos would use a lot and make some bad choices with, but, you know, you saw adults there too. They would be grabbing a soda as they got done exercising or being retroactive to the good things that they had just done while they were here,” Knott said.

The change also means that only healthier food options will be available at mini golf and teen nights. The childcare department recently became a USDA food program participant and already provides healthy meals and snacks.

The YMCA hopes that giving healthy food and drinks priority will show members what junk food alternatives are available and encourage healthier choices.

“We all know that when things are out of sight, they are out of mind and if it’s not available, we pick something else that is available. It’s just helping them pick something that’s a good choice, rather than giving them the option of the unhealthy choice,” Knott said.

Knott personally went through each vending machine option to check the nutrition labels on each drink and snack. She said she based her decision on what to keep and replace on the calories, sodium, fat content and protein content.

“We still have some beef jerky and nuts, which are higher in calories and fat but they provide some essential protein to kids who are growing,” Knott said.


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