IU Health will remove sugary drinks from its chain of hospitals. | AP file photo
Updated: June 19, 2013 6:13AM
INDIANAPOLIS — A major Indiana hospital system has started removing all sugary drinks from its cafeterias, vending machines and gift shops.
Indiana University Health implemented the change this week at its hospitals in downtown Indianapolis and Fishers and plans to eventually also do so at about dozen other hospitals around the state, The Indianapolis Star reported Friday.
The only sodas now available in the cafeteria at Riley Hospital for Children are diet drinks such as Diet Coke, Coke Zero and light lemonade. The cafeterias also plan to start marking foods as green, yellow and red to signal which ones are better options.
“We’re trying to make healthier choices the easier choices to make,” said Kate Juergens, a dietitian with Indiana University Health.
IU Health also asked its outside restaurant vendors to stop selling all full-sugar beverages, although not all have agreed.
Employees and visitors to Riley Hospital had mixed reactions to the removal of sugary soda from the cafeteria. The McDonald’s next door to the main cafeteria continued offering regular soft drinks.
Some questioned IU Health’s decision, saying what a person drinks should be an individual choice.
“Everybody should have their own options, their own opinion as to what they put in their mouth,” Christina Schermerhorn said as she waited in the McDonald’s line with two children in a stroller.
Other Indianapolis-area hospitals have considered whether to take a step that has been promoted as a way to combat the national rise in obesity, but none have yet done so.
Franciscan St. Francis Health has started providing a nutritional breakdown of all food sold in the cafeteria, said Sean McKenzie, director of food and nutrition services for its central Indiana region.
The hospital has stopped selling soda bottles larger than 20 ounces and cut back on the variety of sugary drinks offered.
“We believe in educating the consumer, not mandating what they eat and drink,” McKenzie said.