Allina to ditch sugary drinks and fried foods in its hospitals and clinics

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No more burgers and fries or large Cokes will be served at many hospitals and clinics in the Twin Cities metro area come the first of the year.

Allina Health will remove sugar-sweetened drinks and deep-fried foods from all its hospitals and clinics by Jan. 1, the Twin Cities-based health care provider announced in a news release Tuesday.

That includes getting rid of the McDonald's restaurant in Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, which has been serving customers there since 1988, according to MPR News.

The Star Tribune notes that Allina has endured criticism for years about having a fast-food restaurant inside a hospital.

Allina decided to buy out the 10 years left on the lease, and the McDonald's will close by May 31, 2016, according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Allina's making the move as part of its Choose Healthy campaign to encourage patients, staff and the larger community to adopt healthier eating habits.

Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, energy drinks and prepared coffee and tea drinks are popular, but they're the leading source of added sugar in many people's diets, according to Allina. And deep-fried foods have a lot of fat and little nutritional value.

Low-calorie beverages with artificial sweeteners will also be banned; Allina said research is starting to show they can also be bad for your health.

What will be available

After removing the unhealthy options, Allina says it will offer more healthy beverages such as water, fruit juice, milk, and unsweetened coffee and tea. It's also going to revamp the food served in its cafeterias, food services and vending machines to provide healthier options.

"As an organization focused on health, it is our responsibility to model and encourage healthy choices," said Allina President and CEO Penny Wheeler in the news release. "By removing sugar-sweetened beverages and deep-fried foods from our facilities, and providing more healthy options, we are helping to make the healthier choice the easier choice for our employees and the communities we serve."

Allina Health operates 13 hospitals and more than 90 clinics in Minnesota and western Wisconsin including Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, United and Unity hospitals in the Twin Cities metro area.

Allina's actions are just the latest in a trend of hospitals and health care providers getting rid of sugary drinks and fatty foods. It notes that at least seven hospitals in Minnesota have taken similar steps recently, including Health Partners, Park Nicollet, M Health (formerly Fairview Health System) and North Memorial.

On a national level, more than 700 hospitals and health care facilities have made similar changes, according to Allina.

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