Research & Practice

Reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in a hospital cafeteria

Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is a significant contributor to increased caloric intake and higher body weight. SSBs have been identified as the leading source of added sugar in the American diet, and estimates from the years 1988–1994 to 1999–2004 show average daily caloric intake of SSBs increased from 157 to 203 kcal, with 63% of adults consuming SSBs daily.

The University of Washington Medical Center’s (UWMC) Food & Nutrition Services (FNS) Wellness Program mission is to improve the health of the community by linking evidence-based nutrition to the healthy foods we serve and to the education we provide staff, patients, and the community. The FNS team took the Healthy Beverage Challenge to increase the percentage of healthy beverages served and sold throughout the hospital. This challenge invites institutions to increase the percentage of healthy beverage purchases by 20% of total beverage purchases annually over baseline year, or achieve healthy beverage purchases of 80% of total beverage purchases for use throughout the hospital within three years. In 2012, 30% of total beverages served via The Center Dining patient room service and in the Plaza Café were “healthy beverages,” defined by Healthcare Without Harm as:

  • Unsweetened water
  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice
  • Milk (organic or rBGH) and non-dairy alternatives
  • Coffee and tea

One issue is that SSBs are big money-makers, so when taking steps to increase healthy beverage consumption and decrease consumption of SSBs, the bottom line may be affected. The issue is how to balance what is best for the health of the community while ensuring that the facility remains profitable.

Materials Available

Project Type(s): MPH Practicum, PH Concentration Poster

Author(s): Krista Ulatowski

Program(s): Master of Public Health, RDN Training

Year: 2013