Latrobe Leisure wanted to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. They realised, while they are in the business of health and fitness, the food and drinks offered in their cafés and kiosks told a completely different story. Like many other sports and leisure facilities it was choc-a-block full with sugary sports drinks, lollies and hot chips. Not exactly the stuff champions are made of!
Since 2015, Latrobe Leisure has been using the Victorian Government’s Healthy Choices guidelines to offer healthier foods and drinks to their members and the Latrobe community. The Healthy Choices guidelines classifies foods and drinks using the traffic light systems, according to their nutritional value; GREEN ‘best choice’, AMBER ‘choose carefully’, and RED ‘limit’.
“We are here to provide a service to the community. Helping people make healthier choices should be the most important goal” (Latrobe Leisure staff member).
In 2019, Latrobe Leisure reformed the Healthy Eating working group with a representative from each site, Centre Leader (management), Public Health Nutritionist from Latrobe Community Health Service (LCHS) and overarching support from the Healthy Eating Advisory Service (HEAS).
The working group super-charged change, bringing management, food service and customer support staff together with nutrition expertise. Together, the group decided on an approach of making changes through testing and trial periods, checking to see how overall sales were impacted before deciding whether to adopt, adapt or abandon a trial.
The first trial was to introduce healthier drinks fridges. This included ditching the sugary sports drinks, amongst other changes, including:
- Replacing sugary sports drinks with new no and low sugar alternatives varieties of sport drinks
- Increasing the range of GREEN drinks, including bottled plain and sparkling water and water with fruit essence
- Replacing some RED drinks with AMBER alternatives
“There is a huge misconception that sugary sports drinks help with our athletic performance, so they were an ideal target. Of course water is the best thing to hydrate us before, during and after sport, but ‘no sugar’ sports drinks are a great alternative to the usual sugar packed options.” (Laura Duff, Public Health Nutritionist, LCHS)
The healthy drinks trial proved successful. Latrobe Leisure is leading the pack by reducing sugary sports drinks and other less healthy food and drinks.
In 2019-20, menu re-assessments showed that on average across all Latrobe Leisure sites, there has been a massive improvement with 47% GREEN, 23% AMBER and only 30% RED food and drink items offered, almost meeting the Healthy Choices guidelines. Even more impressively, the drinks fridges have improved over a period of five years, increasing from 16% to 61% GREEN drinks and decreasing from 55% to 15 % RED drinks. And customers have also made the switch! Customers are either loving the new options or not noticing the difference. With over 600 members and customers coming the through doors each and every day, the healthy drinks changes are having a huge impact. Sugary sports drinks have reduced in sales, yet overall drinks sales have remained stable.
Latrobe Leisure’s commitment to working towards the Healthy Choices guidelines has shown that healthy eating (and drinking) and physical activity really do go hand in hand.
Latrobe Leisure encourages all organisations (particularly in the sports and recreation sector) to look at the food and drinks they offer. By working towards the Healthy Choices guidelines, we can make Latrobe (and Victoria) a healthier place to be.
For more information check out the case study available on the HEAS website here.