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Updated 10:00 AM March 5, 2007
 

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  Michigan Healthy Community
Vending, catering to offer healthier food choices

It's 3:15 p.m. and you are heading into a meeting with the boss in 15 minutes. The salad you ate at 11:30 is long-gone and your stomach is making noises that would put the king of the jungle to shame. The stash of rice cakes in your drawer was depleted two days ago, so off to the office vending machines you go for something sure to wreck your latest resolve to eat healthier. WELL, NOT ANY MORE.
(Image courtesy Michigan Healthy Community)

Beginning today (March 5) all cold food, snack and beverage vending machines on all three U-M campuses will include healthier MFit-approved items that will be labeled as such through a new Good Choice program, part of Michigan Healthy Community (MHC). The program also will include the University-Union Catering Services, which will add Good Choice options to its menus for units that serve food and beverages for events or meetings.

"Good Choice is another way the University can help us build healthier choices into our daily routines," says Dr. Robert Winfield, chief health officer. "Now that we've encouraged the campus to keep moving with Active U, it is logical that our next step in promoting better health addresses eating. Good Choice makes it easier for those who snack or who may be eating out of vending machines for meals-on-the-run to choose something healthier."

Although MHC programs to date have been targeted to faculty, staff and graduate students, Good Choice will be featured in residence hall vending machines as well, in partnership with University Housing, Winfield says.

Launched in the U-M Health System in the fall, Good Choice replaces half of the food and drink items in vending machines with beverage items like water, 100 percent fruit juice, nonfat and 1 percent milk, plant derived milks such as soy, and assorted artificially sweetened drinks. Refrigerated vending machines will stock such items as yogurt, grilled chicken sandwiches, and fruits and veggies, while those without a cooling system will add nuts, pretzels, baked chips, Kashi bars and other items that meet healthier nutrition guidelines for fat, sugar, sodium, cholesterol and fiber. Each Good Choice item will be labeled with the MFit logo.

"All of the items will meet MFit guidelines for healthier snacks, which are based on research by registered dietitians, cardiologists and nutrition researchers," says Holly Scherer, registered dietitian, MFit Nutrition and chairperson of the MHC Healthy Eating Team.

In addition to the vending machines, menus from University Catering, Michigan Union Catering and the Michigan League Catering will offer Good Choice options, says Keith Soster, director of Food Services for the Unions. Good Choice box lunches featuring healthier foods can be ordered for those who are serving a meal. Snacks for meetings could include whole fruit, Kashi bars or chips and salsa, Soster says.

"We have tried to offer items from each category that are healthier options with great taste," he says. "We also offer a tip sheet to help guide people as they make their choices."

Later in the year campus dining facilities also will feature Good Choice food items on their menus, Soster says.

Results from surveys conducted last year at UMHS revealed that employees were interested in healthier options in vending machines and in the various food services outlets that serve staff, patients and families. The vending machine pilot program was launched in November, and last month UMHS announced that the Wendy's adjacent to the hospital cafeteria will be replaced by Einstein Bros. Bagels and Fresh and Healthy Café (see www.umich.edu/~urecord/0607/Feb12_07/22.shtml).

Dr. Melissa Frederick, research fellow, electro-physiology cardiology, was pleased to see the change in the choices in UMHS vending machines.

"I've noticed a real difference in the choices, and I like what I'm finding," Frederick says. "I buy from the vending machines a few times a week, and I used to feel that I was settling on whatever looked best. Now, with fresh fruit and vegetables, yogurt and good-looking sandwiches, I think I'm getting a pretty good selection of healthy eating opportunities."

Free samples of the Good Choice snacks and beverages will be available at tasting events to be held at various locations on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses. A listing can be found on the Web at www.MHealthy.umich.edu.

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