First Anniversary of UW Health Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Policy Shows Positive Changes

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One year after removing sugar-sweetened beverages, sparkling waters and infused teas are nearly 50 percent of all beverage sales.Madison, Wisconsin - One year after removing sugar-sweetened beverages from all UW Health locations, healthier options such as sparkling waters and infused teas make up nearly 50 percent of beverage sales organization wide.


On October 30, 2014 UW Health announced that, to continue promoting a healthier food and beverage environment, it would replace nearly all sugar-sweetened beverages with healthier alternatives.


Previously, sugar-sweetened beverages and those with non-nutritive “artificial” sweeteners dominated the sales; nearly 80 percent of sales were attributed to these beverages. Healthful beverages made up 20 percent of sales before the change and now a year later, nearly 50 percent of all beverage purchases are the sugar-free beverages with no artificial ingredients.


The regular soda, sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened teas and sweetened coffees previously sold at UW Health, were replaced by healthier options including sparkling waters, flavor-infused spa waters and teas, coconut waters, fat-free and low-fat milks, and unsweetened teas. Diet soda is still sold and, along with a few other artificially sweetened drinks, makes up 40 percent of the product mix.


“It takes time to alter a culture, but the first year has gone very well and we are proud to be leaders in the health community,” said Megan Waltz, director of culinary and clinical nutrition services at UW Hospitals and Clinics. “We continue to work tirelessly to educate consumers that beverages that are sugar-free and do not contain artificial sweeteners are better for you. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.”


“The message is starting to get across and we are excited for the future. Change is hard but consumers are buying into the healthier choices. These numbers will only improve because we will continue to educate and promote health and wellness,” said Waltz. “I expect we will sell even more healthful beverages in the near future as we utilize new products, promotions and pricing strategies.”


In June, UW Health hosted a group of statewide organizations for the first-ever forum on “Healthier Food and Beverages in Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics.” More than 100 representatives from hospitals and health systems across the state were in Madison to discuss real-world examples of hospitals modeling healthy food and beverage choices.


UW Health is currently working with 11 hospitals across the state that came forward after the forum to learn more about the organizations beverage policy. UW Health is offering insight, tools and resource for other hospitals looking to take that next step in offering healthier choices.


In addition to the removal of sugar-sweetened beverages, the culinary staff is also making changes in the food services.

  • Established a fruit stand in the cafeteria. The re-located fruit stand went from selling roughly 50 pieces of fruit a day to approximately 550 pieces.
  • Hosted a Farmers Market at the UW Hospital with eight local food and beverage vendors.
  • Developed gluten-free and vegan stations in the main hospital cafeteria.
  • Working to establish a healthy “grab and go” option for staff working overnight.
  • Promoting healthier portion sizes for consumers of all ages.

Date Published: 10/26/2015

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