CLEARER CHOICES: New signs at Tea Leaves and Coffee Beans
The simple colors of a traffic light now guide cafeteria-goers at every MGH eatery. The success of the Choose Well, Eat Well traffic light labeling program – launched in the MGH Eat Street Café in 2010 – recently earned the hospital a grant from the Donaghue Foundation to expand the program to reach all
patients and visitors.
“It has always been my wish to have it at all cafeterias,” says Anne Thorndike, MD, of the MGH Division of General Medicine. “We have done a lot of research to make the healthy things more prominent and available, and we have found over the years people were choosing more green items than red items.”
Developed and monitored by Thorndike, along with other MGH physicians, dietitians and health policy experts, Choose Well, Eat Well is based on a nutrition label color-coding system – green for healthy, yellow for less healthy and red for items with little or no nutritional value – and the careful positioning of food and beverages in display cases. Expansion to locations including Coffee Central and Coffee South has prompted the research team to focus on promoting healthy beverages including some targeted messaging for coffee drinks and healthy breakfast options.
“A lot of behind-the-scenes work has gone on to make this program possible,” says Thorndike. “We even had to reprogram the cash registers to keep track of what people are buying.”
The change has been a challenge for the Department of Nutrition and Food Services staff, but Latoya Brewster, retail operations manager, says it has been a welcome one. “We’ve enlisted the help of nutritionists to code menu items, technology systems managers to update our software allowing us to label menu items and products, and our production staff, who have been diligently testing new green recipes and training staff. The program has been a true team effort across the department to create a system that makes choosing healthy food options simple.”
Read more articles from the 02/27/15 Hotline issue.