Though any patient, visitor, employee or student is welcome to bring their own sugar-sweetened beverage to our buildings, it’s our hope that not offering these drinks for sale is one step toward creating an environment that allows people to make changes. What we’ve learned in public health education is that the environment in which we make decisions has a much larger impact on our behaviors than education alone. With trends in health issues and our ever-growing knowledge about sugary drinks, we feel compelled to create an environment that supports our community in choosing healthier beverages.
In 2012, two-thirds of adults and one-quarter of adolescents in Michigan were either overweight or obese. As incidence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and poor bone and joint health continue to rise across our nation, so does knowledge about sugar-sweetened beverages and their effects.
Studies have shown that these beverages, empty in nutritional value, but full of calories, are a major contributor to these serious health issues. It’s become clear that sugary beverages are a trap for many of us. It’s very easy to consume an extraordinary amount of calories from these drinks without feeling full.
We aren’t the first hospital to make changes in the drinks we offer. Conversations with other hospitals that have already begun healthy beverage initiatives helped provide insight into how to best launch such an effort here at the U-M Health System. In November, the drink choices will change for all of our cafeterias, coffee kiosks, vending machines and inpatient dining options in all our Hospitals and Health Centers, administrative buildings and the U-M Medical School. On occasion, a patient staying in the hospital may receive approval from their doctor to have special exceptions ordered, and we will keep a small stock available for these cases.
To choose healthy beverage options, we look for drinks that offer a nutritional benefit or are unsweetened.
Beverages that are available include:
- Flavored or infused waters
- 100% fruit juice
- 100% fruit smoothies
- Diet soft drinks
- Coffee and sugar-free sweetened coffee drinks (sugar packets will be available)
Beverages we will no longer sell or distribute include:
- Non-diet soft drinks
- Sugar-sweetened fruit drinks
- Sports drinks
- Energy drinks
- Sweetened teas
- Sweetened coffees
The beverages we choose are only one part of our wellness efforts. There are many other ways to improve our environment to encourage healthy choices at the U-M Health System, and we’ve made some changes already—like providing “MHealthy” meal choices and greatly reducing fried foods and trans fats. We’re dedicated to the health of our community and will continue to explore the ways to improve it.
Joyce Kerestes is the Director of Patient Food and Nutrition Services and Director of the Dietetic Internship program, a registered dietitian and experienced health educator. Craig Luck is an administrator from Hospital Operations who manages the contracts the U-M Health System has with food and beverages suppliers. Kerestes and Luck partnered to design and implement the Healthy Beverage Program.
The Healthy Beverage Program is an initiative to offer better drink choices for the University of Michigan Health System community by removing sugar-sweetened beverages from the Hospitals and Health Centers, administrative buildings and the U-M Medical School. More information about the program can be found at www.UofMHealth.org/Drink.