Food and Beverage Policy: Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions about UW Health and American Family Children's Hospital Food and Beverage Policy.
What is UW Health's food and beverage policy?
We are committed to We Are Health, an effort to improve health and wellness. UW Health no longer sells or offers sugar-sweetened drinks.
Why was this policy put in place?
Some sweet drinks are full of empty calories; they give us energy with no vitamins or fiber. Sugar-sweetened drinks can lead to serious health issues. Examples include obesity1, type 2 diabetes, liver problems, heart disease, weak bones and poor dental health. We hope that our staff will lead by example and commit to health.
The not-so-sweet facts about sweet drinks:
- One 12 ounce can of regular soda contains 150 empty calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar.
- Drinking one can of regular soda each day for one year is like drinking 66.5 cups of sugar.
What drinks are available at UW Health and AFCH?
- Sparkling and still water
- Flavored or infused spa water
- Vitamin water
- Coconut water
- Fruit and vegetable smoothies
- Dairy and Non-dairy milks (soy, almond, rice milk)
- 100% fruit juice
- Unsweetened tea
- Low calorie sports drinks
- Some soda
What drinks are not available at UW Health and AFCH?
- Regular soft drinks
- Soft drinks with certain non-nutritive sweeteners
- Sweetened, fruit-flavored drinks
- Sports drinks
- Energy drinks
- Sweetened teas
- Sweetened bottled coffees
Where can I buy sugar-sweetened drinks?
You may find some of these drinks at UW School of Medicine and Public Health buildings.
Can I bring in sugar-sweetened drinks?
Yes. Anyone may bring in their own drink. We do hope you will commit to health and explore new drink options.
Where can I find healthy food and drink choices?
Everywhere food is sold at UW Health and AFCH and through room service.
We want the “healthy choice to be the easy choice.” Follow the My Smart Choice symbol to find good-for-you options. You will see this symbol everywhere food is sold and through room service. The We Are Health Committee hopes to expand this effort to UW School of Medicine and Public Health buildings.
Does the food and beverage policy apply to Inpatient Room Service ordering?
Yes. Since sugar-sweetened drinks have little to no nutritional value, they were removed from the inpatient menus.
We know that some patients may need food or drinks that do not meet the My Smart Choice guidelines. We are committed to meeting every patient's nutritional needs. We will continue to provide many options to meet their needs. Talk to your unit's registered dietitian if items are needed that are not on the menu.
What is a non-nutritive sweetener (NNS)?
Sometimes called artificial sweeteners, NNS offer little to no energy. This includes sugar alcohols,stevia, as well as aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium, and saccharin. All NNS are many times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose). They are used to replace sugar in both food and drinks, but do not act the same way in the body.
Why are certain diet sodas available? Aren't NNS just as bad?
The main goal is to reduce obesity and its related health problems. All non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS), like those found in diet sodas, are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the USDA. However, there is some evidence that certain sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin may have a negative impact on health.
What are natural sugar alternatives?
We offer many healthy choices (see the list above). If you need to add some sweetness, try adding 1 teaspoon of real sugar or honey. You may also bring your own drinks.
What is the difference between NNS and sugar alcohols? Is there evidence that these are harmful to health?
Sugar alcohols and NNS are not the same. NNS (e.g., aspartame, sucralose and saccharin) have zero calories. Sugar alcohols have 0 to 3 calories per gram. NNS can affect the blood sugar and increase body fat. Large amounts of sugar alcohols (more than 20 grams) can also affect the blood sugar. They can also act as a laxative.
What is stevia?
The stevia plant is an herb from South America. It can be found in many foods and drinks. Stevia sweeteners are made from the sweetest part of the plant. In 2008, the FDA recognized it as safe. Stevia sweeteners are natural, but many modern forms are processed and bleached.
Is there any evidence that stevia is harmful to health?
Stevia, as the green herb that one can grow or find as dried leaf or tincture form, is safe. It has health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and cancer tumor size. Powdered and bleached stevia, though deemed safe by the FDA, has not been studied in depth. Large amounts may be linked with impotence. Stevia appears to not affect blood sugar levels, but may trick the body due to its very sweet taste.
How do UW Health and AFCH decide which drinks they serve and sell?
The main goal is to reduce obesity and other health problems that occur from too much sugar and select NNS. Although all NNS are considered safe by the FDA, there is suggestive evidence that some of these, such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, may negatively impact health.
I have sweetened drinks often. What can I do to break this habit?
Tips to hydrate without extra sugar or calories:
- Replace one sweet drink with plain water each day.
- Buy a reusable water bottle and carry it with you.
- Use filtered water stations located in many places at UW Health and AFCH.
How can I share feedback about the food and beverage policy?
You are welcome to share feedback or voice concerns at WeAreHealth@uwhealth.org
How does Culinary and Clinical Nutrition Services help keep patients healthy?
Choosing nutrient-rich foods and drinks is important for overall health. Doing so may reduce the risk of cancer and many other chronic diseases. Our team promotes health for all employees, patients and visitors by offering many good for you menu choices. View the adult and pediatric menus
What other changes have been made to inpatient menus?
UW Health's Culinary and Clinical Nutrition Services is proud to partner with local farmers and businesses to bring you healthy and tasty options.
What is the We Are Health Committee?
A team that reviews the impact UW Health food and drink choices have on health. They develop plans to improve health throughout UW Health and AFCH.
What are the goals of We Are Health?
The food and beverage policy is just one way we show our pledge to being a health leader. Our goal is to have at least 60% of food in all venues be My Smart Choices.
Other goals are:
- Increase the number of healthy snacks in vending machines. We do this by using easy-to-follow color coding to help patients, families and staff make informed choices.
- MySmart Choice station at the Four Lakes Cafeteria combines foods that are full of flavor yet low in calories, saturated fat and sodium (salt).
- Expand fresh and locally grown menus to all venues.
Who is part of We Are Health?
UW Health and AFCH leaders, Culinary and Clinical Nutrition Services, Nursing and Patient Care Services, Family Centered Care and Wellness Options at Work.
What other projects is We Are Health working on?
- Sustainability. We look for ways to improve sustainability at UW Health. This is done through energy and design efficiency, reducing waste and support of "green" practices. (View infographic) We help the environment, create more local jobs and support our communities. Our team tracks the sustainable food dollars spent. The goal is to increase the sustainable food spend to 30% by 2018.
- Farm to Health Care. We offer locally grown food and model healthy food practices for patients, faculty, staff and visitors. Support for Local Farmers; Buy Fresh, Buy Local.
- Physical Activity. We support active lifestyles for our patients, visitors, and staff. We have walking routes at many locations, a Stairs for Wellness program, exercise and yoga classes, meditation rooms and outdoor gardens.
How is progress of We Are Health goals measured?
We use a dashboard to track progress.
How do our We Are Health goals compare to other medical centers?
UW Health strives to make sure all patrons have access to healthy food and drinks. Our menus show our commitment to serving delicious food, and model healthy lifestyle choices. We support local food practices.
We have built on the success of other medical centers that have removed deep fryers and sweet drinks. We have increased Farm to Healthcare partners and helped the environment.
We are joined with leaders across the country to fight obesity. Cleveland Clinic and Hospitals, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, Vanguard Health, Seattle Children's Hospital, ProMedica Health System, Indiana University Health System and University of Michigan Hospital and Health Centers all have policies in place to remove sweet drinks.