Healthier food is on the way

As we head toward the new year you may begin to notice a few changes across Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network as NSW Health’s Healthy Choices in Health Facilities framework is rolled out.

Last year the first phase of the framework was implemented and we saw sugar sweetened drinks replaced in all kiosks, vending machines and cafes.

We are now rolling out phase two of the framework which will focus on healthier food options in all food outlets throughout the network.

With one in five children and over half of all adults in NSW overweight or obese, there is strong link between fatty food consumption and excessive weight.

This can lead to a number of chronic health conditions including Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and some cancers.

We are now working with our retailers and food outlets to develop healthier menus.

By the end of the year all food items sold in our Hospitals will be categorised as either 'Everyday' or 'Occasional' items based on their nutritional value.

Some of your favourite meals and snacks may have changed, or been replaced with healthier options such as salads, sandwiches and wraps.

Some choices, particularly 'Occasional' foods, will have a smaller portion size.

Food services for patients will not be affected. Families, staff and visitors to SCHN will still be able to bring their own food items from home or from other outlets outside the Hospital.

For more information, take a look at our frequently asked questions.

What is Healthy Choices in Health Facilities?

It’s a framework to move NSW Health facilities towards providing healthier food and drink options for staff and visitors.

NSW Health facilities will initially remove all sugary drinks with no nutritional value such as soft drinks for sale by December 2017 and then work to meet the recommendations for a healthy food offering by December 2018.

The aim is to support our staff and visitors to make healthy food and drink choices by increasing healthy options and decreasing less healthy options for sale or provided at catered events.

Why do we need Healthy Choices?

One in two adults and more than one in five children in NSW are overweight or obese.

Excess weight is associated with a wide range of chronic health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and some cancers. As a health provider the wellbeing of our staff and visitors is a priority.

This includes creating a healthy food and drink environment that makes the healthy choice an easy choice for people to make.

Where does Healthy Choices in Health Facilities apply?

It applies to outlets where foods and drinks are available to staff and visitors in NSW Health facilities and any catering provided for meetings and special events. Outlets include: cafes and cafeterias, kiosks and coffee carts, vending machines, convenience stores, newsagents, and pharmacies.

It doesn’t apply to food provided to patients or foods and drinks brought in by staff and visitors from outside the hospital or home. It also does not apply to fundraising activities in NSW Health facilities.

What are the food and drink Healthy Choices recommendations?

The Food and Drink Benchmark underpins Healthy Choices in Health facilities. Consistent with the latest Australian Dietary Guidelines, foods and drinks are classified as either ‘Everyday’ (healthy) options, or ‘Occasional’ (less healthy) options which should only be eaten sometimes and in small amounts.

NSW Health facilities will work towards providing 75% healthy, ‘Everyday’ foods and drinks, and removing sugary drinks from sale. The Health Star Rating and portion limits will also be used to select the healthiest versions of the less healthy or ‘Occasional’ foods and drinks.

What are some examples of ‘Everyday’ and ‘Occasional’ foods and drinks?

‘Everyday’ foods are the healthiest choices and include sandwiches, salads, pasta, stir-fries and curries, wholegrain cereal, yoghurt and fruit. Water and milk are the best examples of everyday healthy drinks.

‘Occasional’ foods are the least healthy choices such as hot chips, cakes, meat pies, salty snacks and lollies. The framework aims to decrease the availability and portion size of these foods, without removing choice.

How are shift workers, especially night staff, going to maintain energy levels?

Shift work can be tiring and many staff get into the habit of using unhealthy foods and drinks for an energy boost. The negative impacts of shift work are well documented.

We have a responsibility to help our staff make healthier choices and recommend nutritious snacks such as fresh fruit, nuts, yoghurt, wholegrain crackers or bread, and reduced-fat cheese as well as drinking plenty of water to sustain energy levels.

It may take time to adjust to new healthy habits, but offering more healthy options at work will support these changes. It is important to note that staff will not be restricted in what foods and drinks they bring from home and they will still be able to purchase caffeinated drinks and smaller portions of ‘Occasional’ foods, such as confectionery, at work.

Will I still be able to buy a chocolate bar or meat pie?

Yes. Healthy Choices in Health Facilities is about increasing healthy food and drink options to 75% or more to make the healthy choice an easy choice.

Less healthy items such as chocolate bars and meat pies will continue to be available but they will comprise no more than 25% of the offering, portion limits and the Health Star Rating will be used to ensure that the healthier options of these foods are available.

Why remove sugary drinks?

The strongest evidence for a link between sugar intake and overweight and obesity is the consumption of sugary drinks.

By this we mean sugary drinks that contain empty calories or kilojoules and have no nutritional benefit e.g. soft drinks, some flavoured waters, fruit drinks, cordials, iced teas, energy drinks and sports drinks. People do not generally reduce how much they eat to allow for the extra kilojoules they consume in sugary drinks.

Is the removal of sugary drinks from sale a new initiative?

No. Sugary drinks have not been sold in NSW schools since 2007. Murrumbidgee Local Health District removed sugary drinks from sale in their Health facilities in December 2016.

Western Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health Districts are following their lead, and are currently removing sugary drinks from sale. In Victoria, a number of health services including the Alfred Hospital, and the YMCA and North Melbourne Recreation Centre have all removed sugary drinks from display. Further afield, sugary drinks have been removed from sale in public hospitals across New Zealand.

What drinks can be sold instead?

There are plenty of drink options that can be sold in NSW Health facilities. Water is always the healthiest drink and we encourage our staff and visitors to ‘make water your drink’, but there are other popular, healthier options that can sold.

These include juices with no added sugar, diet drinks, tea, coffee and milk drinks. We want to encourage healthy behaviour without completely removing choice.

Can I still get a sugary drink if I have diabetes and I am having a hypo (low blood sugar level)?

Diabetes Australia recommends other alternatives to sugar sweetened soft drinks in response to a symptomatic hypoglycaemic event, including 6 to 7 jelly beans, half a glass of orange juice, and 3 teaspoons of sugar or honey, or glucose lollies.

99% fruit juice will continue to able to be sold as will small portions of lollies. However, as a general rule, we would recommend that staff and visitors with diabetes be prepared at all times to treat their hypoglycaemia, and not rely on cafés, vending machines and other sale points, as these may be closed or out of stock.

What if my sick child who is a patient needs a sugary drink like lemonade?

Healthy Choices in Health Facilities doesn’t apply to food provided to patients in hospital. Nutrition is frequently a part of the clinical management of patients.

To meet their special needs, the nutritional quality of meals and snacks served to in-patients is guided by a separate policy that has been in place for some years patients will be able to receive a sugary drink under this policy where it is required.

Patients, visitors and staff will still be able to bring their preferred choice of foods and drinks from outside.

Where can I obtain further information?

More information can be found at Questions can be directed to and suppliers can call our helpline on 1800 980 966