Healthy Beverage Program coming in November

Creating an environment for change

Drink to Your Health | Healthy Beverage ProgramIn mid-November, the University of Michigan Health System will begin offering healthier beverage choices in its Hospitals and Health Centers, administrative buildings and Medical School.

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.

Each day, women should drink 9 glasses of water, and men should drink 12. It's the sugar-free, all natural, ultimate hydrater compared to soda. One can of soda equates to 150 empty calories and 10 tsp of sugar. If consumed once a day for a year, soda can lead to 16 lbs of weight gain and 76 cups of sugar.

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:

    • Water
    • Flavored or infused waters
    • Milk
    • Tea
    • 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.

Drink to Your Health | 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.

22 thoughts on “Healthy Beverage Program coming in November

  1. avatar
    Carol Buis on said:

    I rarely drink soda, but if I do I would much rather have sugar than the chemical sweeteners that are in diet soda. Have you really taken a look at sugar replacement chemical sweeteners? They are not healthy either.

    • avatar
      Barb Tonk on said:

      I totally agree with Carol, and why isn’t honey considered another natural sugar that is not refined? I appreciate the concern by UM and gov’t, but this is not a dictatorship – yet!

    • avatar
      Carly Fifer on said:

      I agree completely that diet soft drinks are certainly not healthier than sugar containing soft drinks. In fact, there are studies linking excessive diet soda drinking with type 2 diabetes in adults. If the hospital really wants to promote health, please do the research and get rid of all soft drinks rather than leave the diet stuff that is just as unhealthy and perhaps worse than sugar-containing drinks in moderation.

  2. avatar
    Lisa M on said:

    If you are going to remove pop, just remove it ALL. Artificially sweetened beverages are probably worse for us than the occasional sugar-loaded pop, and are certainly just as full of “empty” calories. Either let us make the choice for ourselves or take it all.

  3. avatar
    Chrystal on said:

    I agree with both Lisa and Carol…diet pop is WORSE than regular! Way more chemicals and unhealthy sweetners. This is not a “healthy” alternative.

  4. Our thanks to all for your interest in this new initiative and for sharing your feedback. We will be listening to your comments and the leaders of this program will be taking them into consideration.

    We’re hoping that the change in what we offer makes it easier for people at UMHS to avoid drinking a lot of sugar and calories without nutritional benefits. The primary goal of this program is to reduce obesity and its related health conditions — such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke — that arise from over-consumption of sugar. The FDA considers non-nutritive sweeteners (or NNS), like those found in diet sodas, to be safe if consumed within moderation. Folks with certain medical conditions may not be able to have NNS, and we encourage everyone to drink within moderation and talk with their doctor about what diet is most appropriate for them.

    –Joyce Kerestes and Craig Luck

    • Does that mean that the cafeteria will stop selling other unhealthy products such as pizza and the multitude of fried foods that are offered?

    • avatar
      Dr. McWebMD on said:

      Joyce and Craig, I think most medical professionals agree that consumed in moderation sugar is no less detrimental than non-nutritive sweeteners. The key word here is moderation. This seems like an unreasoned approach to remove sodas and sugary coffees and not diet drinks with aspartame, or for that matter milkshakes like the other commenter mentioned.

      What is the real motivation behind this? If reducing the intake of high fructose corn syrups and sugar was the goal clearly you missed a few items on the menu. If reducing caloric intake was the goal, this is already a failed program. If getting some press about how healthy the UMHS is, well congratulations.

      How about a real health initiative like limiting all foods and beverages served to be sourced by organically grown farmers on premise or nearby instead of the over processed drool that Aramark slings. How about removing SSB’s from campus or the stadium? Do people who choose to go to a football game receive less of our concern than families who are here to support a loved one who has fallen ill and don’t have the time or energy to leave to get the comforting foods they choose to consume at home?

  5. avatar
    Martha D. on said:

    I have issues with my weight even though I never drink sugar sweetened beverages. This is not the answer, just a form of censorship.

  6. avatar
    Not Even on said:

    Are you kidding me? You will go out of your way to remove these beverages, yet you will condone the sale of Brownies, cookies, cake, etc., this is absurd! I have made a personal choice to lead a sedentary lifestyle, I choose to eat what I want, how much I choose and you have the audacity to think that you can force my choice. You can’t stop me from putting the fork to my mouth or drinking sugar sweetened beverages, yes you can remove them to prevent access; however, I still have access to the exorbitantly priced brownies and cookies, oh and let us not forget all those yummy treats in the vending machine. Now that makes a whole lot of sense doesn’t it?

    Just another example of the inept making decisions they have no business making, then trying to force people to conform to their beliefs. Get real, should I choose to drink regular soda, lead a sedentary lifestyle, be fat and lazy, who are you to tell me I can’t? I have the right to make decisions that affect my being. Should I live a shorter lifetime at least I am the one that chose that course. I am well aware of the risks and choose to do those things anyway and YOU have no right to tell me I can’t. Should I want a pop I certainly would choose one sweetened with sugar as opposed to one sweetened with Aspartame or Sucralose. My body deals with sugar far better than the diet sweeteners, not to mention I am not fond of the taste left behind when drinking DIET soda.

    So I guess your moto of patients and family first has no application here? We know what is best for you and you will be happy with it. It’s the Michigan difference! Let’s say I am visiting a patient and have never consumed a diet beverage in my life, I want something to drink other than water, I am now FORCED to purchase a diet soda because you choose to supply only diet drinks , you are not putting me as a family member FIRST are you? No soda sale, but then I find out that I can only purchase diet drinks, or water should they choose not to want diet. Seems to me you could care nothing about me, because you know what is best for me and have made all my choices for me.

    Black market soda sales anyone? Now we can charge $5.00 per bottle and they will gladly pay it as opposed to leaving the institution during their visit to run down the street to buy soda.

    • avatar
      Barb Tonk on said:

      Great reply, wish I’d taken more time to word my reply when supporting Carol, but starting at the top I didn’t view or realize all the strong feelings about “forcing” that are being revealed – glad to see some backbone around here.

  7. avatar
    Chrystal on said:

    I also wanted to add one more thing: The cafe took away those delicious hash browns because they were “unhealthy” and yet the maple syrup for pancakes is fake and made up of high-fructose corn syrup. Talk about unhealthy!

  8. avatar
    mary okelley on said:

    I hope if they are going to begin telling us what we can and can not eat and drink they be fare about it and take all the syrups and icecream out of the coffee keosks and cafe. Also there should be no cake or pie or pudding in the cafe.

  9. I wonder if there were some types of funding or grants that came to fruition as a result of the this ban. It seems to be a gross overreach of the establishment to dictate what a person eats or drinks.

  10. I agree with a lot of the comments above. Where is the line drawn?? This is definitely not putting families first or staff for that matter! Families come to the hospital under extreme stress with a loved one in surgery or inpatient, and they want comfort foods. Many patients have commented ” thank goodness I can have a Pepsi” I need that to stay awake and focus. Personally, I have had a terrible allergic reaction to the fake sweetners in diet sodas, so that isn’t an option and if I need a caffeine pick me up, I should be able to have one. If you are taking Sugary pop away, why is sugar still available for the coffee drinkers? Many people substitute soda for coffee! We all make our choices each day on what to eat or drink, this should not be dictated by the University of Michigan.

  11. avatar
    harleygal726 on said:

    Dr. Jean Scholl, Ann Arbor, Michigan once told me back in the late 80’s if I wanted a pop to drink a real pop not diet pop! I have family members that have health problems from drinking diet pop. I cannot drink diet pop it makes me sick and if I want a regular pop I should be able to purchase one, who are you to dictate what we put in our bodies? Please see this article for facts on the dangers of artificial sweeteners: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/10/13/Artificial-Sweeteners-More-Dangerous-than-You-Ever-Imagined.aspx

  12. avatar
    Aramark Patron no longer on said:

    This program upsets me on a daily basis. Why is it I need only to walk to the building next to mine to get a real soda rather than the carcinogenic dreck served in UMHS building? Does our concern for health not cover campus students or is there some other ridiculous reason for this ban other than supposedly helping improve health? If it really was a sound idea Athletics should adopt the ban at the stadium.

    Also How much did this program cost to implement?

  13. avatar
    No name on said:

    This is a pointless idea and it’s not working. Employees carry in their own beverages and I have seen visitor/patients enraged; “what gives them the right to tell ME what I can and cannot drink”, then why are they selling triple cheese grilled sandwiches five feet away?” “cake?” “bagels?”, “are you kidding me?”

    Does anyone remember prohibition? Even though we are talking about soda, now, where does it end? What comes next?

    My dentist laughed when I walked into his office he had heard about the “ban” on the news.

    There is so much concern over “healthy foods” at UM, why have I seen ConAgra boxes in the kitchen of the cafeteria. GMO foods anyone?

  14. avatar
    A2foodie on said:

    This is so ridiculous. No flavored coffee (sugar free sweeteners are even less healthy) and no cream cheese. So you can buy and eat a calorie heavy bagel but some cream cheese now needs to be smuggled in with your morning mocha? And why is it ok to buy an oversized brownie or a block of rice crispy treat if sweetened coffee is so bad for you?

    How about instead of limiting beverages, limiting the sales of any over processed crap that is served in the cafeteria. How about growing more of the produce served like St. Joe’s Does? How about only allowing beverages sweetened by natural sugars rather than diet drinks or high fructose corn syrups? How about offering choices to get fresh made salads and healthy entrees instead of soggy wrap sandwiches made days ahead of time?

    Freeze our pay, cut our retirement benefits and then limit our choices of what we choose to eat. That’s the Michigan Difference!

    I wonder how much this “healthy beverage program” has cost UMHS?

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