Healthier Food And Drink Options

Armen Hareyan's picture
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All WA hospitals and health services are set to remove unhealthy food and drinks from their cafeterias and vending machines and replace them with healthier options.

The Healthy Options WA: Food and Nutrition Policy for WA Health Services and Facilities will apply to all food outlets and vending machines under WA Health management.

Health Minister Jim McGinty said that from January 1, 2008, health services would have a year to replace deep-fried foods, most soft drinks and large serves of confectionary and potato chips with healthier foods.

'Along with smoking, physical inactivity and harmful alcohol use, poor nutrition is a significant risk factor for a number of preventable chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers,' he said.

'Good nutrition is an essential component of complete and effective health care for these and many other medical conditions currently being treated in our hospitals and health services. '

Under the policy, foods and drinks available to visitors and staff will be classified into groups under a 'traffic light' system similar to that currently being used in WA public schools.

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Foods and drinks that are the healthiest choices are categorised as green. These products are important sources of essential nutrients and are low in saturated fat, added sugar and salt and can be eaten every day. Green foods and drinks should make up at least 60 per cent of all items offered and displayed in food outlets and vending machines. Examples include plain or whole grain breads and cereals, vegetables, fruit, lean meats and low fat dairy products and100 percent fruit juice with no added sugar (small serve up to 250ml).

Foods and drinks categorised as amber have some nutritional value but contain moderate levels of saturated fat, added sugar and/or salt. Amber products should be carefully selected and eaten in moderation. Examples include full fat milk and dairy products, low fat cakes and muffins and some processed meats like ham, 100 per cent fruit juice (no added sugar) in serve sizes larger than 250ml or other fruit juice drinks containing between 35 per cent and 96 per cent fruit juice with a maximum serve size of 250ml.

Foods and drinks classified as red are energy dense, nutrient poor and high in saturated fat, sugar and/or salt. They can contribute to excess energy intake if consumed in large amounts or on a frequent basis. Red products should be considered as 'extra' foods and only be eaten occasionally. For this reason, these items will be limited to no more than 10 per cent of all products offered or displayed. Examples include savoury commercial products such as pies and sausage rolls, snack bars, sweet biscuits, cakes and sweet pastries, small size confectionary and high fat processed meats such as salami.

Foods and drinks that are very energy dense and have little nutritional value will be classified as black and completely banned. These include all deep fried foods and all but small serves of confectionary products like crisps and sugar sweetened soft drinks.

Mr McGinty said the criteria were developed following a review of the scientific literature and food classifications systems, investigation of practical issues involved in implementing the changes in health services and consideration of similar policies in health services and schools in other states.

'The policy has been developed to improve the availability of affordable, attractive and nutritious food and drinks to health service employees and visitors,' he said.

'While many health services serve some healthy choices and have made significant improvements to the options available over the past two years, most still offer high fat and high sugar foods.

'The introduction of this policy is an important element of WA health reform and its greater focus on health promotion and the prevention of chronic illness.'

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