GRABBING a quick snack or drink from a hospital vending machine is now about helping to prompt healthier choices.
Vending machines at Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital have undergone a healthy choices revamp in what BHS dietitian Kate Falconer said aimed to shift expectations on what was normal.
Machines will predominantly stock snacks deemed green (or best choice), according to Healthy Eating Advisory Service, with less than 20 per cent of products will be red foods like chocolates and lollies.
We're not limiting choice, but making it easier for people to make healthier snack decisions.- Kate Falconer, Ballarat Health Services dietitian
"This is about shifting the norm and changing the ratio for healthy choices so we're not limiting choice, but making it easier for people to make healthier snack decisions," Ms Falconer said. "Healthy options become more prominent and unhealthy choices are reduced."
This follows a BHS roll-out to promote water as drink of choice, improving access to drinking water and limiting sugary drinks.
Some machines will also stock healthy prepared meals. Ms Falconer said this innovation would particularly help night staff in seeking a meal once the cafeteria had closed.
"To push for these environmental changes is not only important for the health of our staff, but also for our communities that access the hospital," Ms Falconer said. "Unhealthy diets now rank with alcohol and tobacco smoking as a leading global cause or preventable disease."
Machine operator Vendy has worked alongside BHS healthy choice team, including dietitians, on product content to suit the hospital.
Vendy's Simon Collins said it was important to get the right balance between what consumers want as well as options.
"One of the biggest hurdles with healthy food is it can be expensive and junk food has good margins," Mr Collins said. "We try and level that out, to make the healthy food cheaper and junk food more expensive so we're removing one disincentive."
Vendy operates health-focused vending machines in Melbourne, Bendigo and Geelong where Mr Collins said the model was working.
The move to healthier vending machines fits under the Victorian government's healthy choices guidelines.
BHS has also joined forces with Healthy Futures Australia to help lead the next phase of the Central Highlands prevention lab in a community-led approach to reduce obesity.
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