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NHS hospital bans sugar from its meals to tackle staff obesity

This article was taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/09/nhs-hospital-bans-sugar-from-its-meals-to-tackle-staff-obesity

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Tameside hospital has stopped selling sugary snacks and fizzy drinks in its restaurant, has removed added sugar from meals and provides low-carb options

A hospital in Manchester has become the first in Britain to ban sugar from its restaurant in an attempt to tackle growing concerns about obesity among NHSstaff.

Tameside hospital has removed all added sugar from the meals it prepares for visitors and health service workers, and taken sugary snacks and fizzy drinks off its menu. The only drinks visitors can buy are tea, coffee, milk and water.

The move has been welcomed by campaigners, who are urging other hospitals to follow suit.

“This is long overdue and I believe it just takes one hospital to make this move and all the others should follow, and I hope they will. The Department of Health … seems to be really slow on the uptake and are only just now thinking about banning sugary drinks from hospitals. But it’s sugar in food that is so important. I just think [Tameside’s plan] is excellent and I wish them well,” said Tam Fry, chair of the National Obesity Forum.

Steve Morton, from Public Health England North West, said: “It’s fantastic to see one of our local hospital trusts taking such encouraging steps to tackle the country’s obesity problem. Large employers can set a great example by encouraging their staff to think about their health by opting for healthier food and restricting less healthy options such as sugary snacks and fizzy drinks.”

The hospital restaurant’s chef, Simon Smith, is one of the few dietetically-trained chefs in the NHS. He also provides low-carbohydrate healthy main courses. “He is preparing a lot of stuff – and it’s a large hospital, not a small one,” said Fry.

Smith said: “I started here in May and the menu at that point was standard northern fare, so pie and chips, comfort food – what people are used to. We looked to introduce certain specialised dishes, such as wild and mixed mushroom stroganoff, served with light couscous. These dishes have proved very popular and they are low in carbohydrates and high in protein. What we are trying to promote is better, healthy eating.”

Tameside’s move comes after an NHS England consultation in November last year found widespread support for a ban on sugary drinks in hospitals and clinics. Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “It’s important the NHS practises what it preaches on healthy food and drink. We want 2018 to be the year when the tasty, affordable and easy option for patients, staff and visitors is the healthy option.”

Tameside hospital introduced its ban following the success of trial in which 100 staff members signed up for a weight loss scheme which changed their attitude towards food. The 12-week Slimpod programme was commissioned by the trust’s chief executive, Karen James, because of her concerns about the health of staff.

James said: “My staff work very hard. Long hours and shift patterns often make it very difficult for people to make healthy choices, so they opt for the instant sweet fixes, which until now have been readily available.

“These are dedicated healthcare professionals who believe they should be role models for their patients, but the food environment has been working against them.”

The project included a survey of staff and 90% said that the biggest problem at work was snacking. One employee lost 13kg (28lbs) during the 12-week programme.

Luan Walton, 38, an urgent care nurse, said: “So far I’ve lost 20lbs (9kg) in 12 weeks. I’ve already dropped a dress size and a half. I’m wearing a smaller uniform and soon will have to replace it with an even smaller one.”

Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert said: “Any plans to offer healthier food and confine less healthy options to outside of hospitals is a really positive move towards tackling the UK’s obesity problem. These measures may only show success in 10-20 years’ time, but decision makers should be investing more in preventive areas even if the benefits may not be seen for a decade or more. Ensuring that the current obesity epidemic does not affect children of future generations is a major challenge for the NHS.”

What’s in and what’s out

Out

High-sugar breakfast cereals
Cheese and onion pies
Apple crumble
Sugary drinks
High-carb foodstuffs

In

Porridge
Paella
Stroganoff
Fruit salad
Water
High protein foodstuffs

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