Local hospitals enact sugar-free beverage policy


It’s an effort to make the healthy choice the easy choice, Penn Medicine Lancaster General recently announced it will eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from all of its campuses.

“These food and beverage decisions honestly go way past conscious deliberation,” said Dr. Christopher Wenger, a preventative cardiologist at Lancaster General Health. “These drinks are ordained to be attractive, taste fantastic, and quite addictive, actually.”

The change affecting thousands of employees, patients and visitors will happen over the next month.

Even though you can still bring in the drinks yourself, they will be phased out of vending machines and cafeterias.

“Sweetened beverages that have calories to them, so that would include soda, sports drinks, fruit-flavored drinks and sweetened milk, teas and coffee,” said Wenger.

Coffee and sugar packets will still be available, but pre-made coffee with sugar or flavoring already in it won’t be for sale. 

“Seventy percent of Americans are either overweight or obese, and it turns out there’s a correlation between added sugar consumption, particularly in sugar-sweetened beverages, and the increasing rates of diabetes, obesity and cholesterol problems,” said Wenger.

You will see more sparkling and seltzer waters and fruit-infusion stations throughout the facilities.

“Diet sodas and 100% fruit juices will remain,” said Wenger. 

Wenger says going sugar-free is a trend among health networks.

“The first hospital in the country would have been Cleveland Clinic that went sugar-free with their beverages about eight years ago,” said Wenger.

Earlier this year, Geisinger enacted a similar policy.

“I think this is going to be the way of the future,” said Wenger.

Lancaster General says it may make changes to its food options soon. The hospital cafeteria has started to sell more plant-based choices. 

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