Promoting Healthy Eating

Evidence shows that there is a strong connection between the physical, mental, social and health benefits of participating in physical activity and leading a healthy lifestyle. The sport industry is the largest community sector in Victoria, providing sporting organisations with a wide reach to communicate and promote healthy eating throughout communities. Sport already promotes healthy lifestyles and by providing and promoting healthy food and drinks as part of the experience, positive changes to improve the health and wellbeing of their community can be achieved.

Promoting healthy eating in sport settings can be achieved using numerous strategies such as providing and promoting healthy food and drink choices to customers via fundraising, in canteens and vending machines, at staff meetings, functions, workshops, events your organisation runs, the and/or the food and drinks provided to players, volunteers and spectators during training and on game day.

A growth in initiatives and changes across metropolitan and regional public settings are enabling and encouraging Australians to make healthier food and drink choices for themselves and their families.The sport sector has made a significant contribution to this groundswell resulting from their participation in VicHealth’s State Sport, Regional Sport and Water Initiative Programs, among other locally-led initiatives.During the VicHealth programs, State Sporting Associations (SSAs), Regional Sport Assemblies (RSAs) and Local Governments undertook a range of initiatives to promote healthy food and drink choices across numerous sport settings, including clubs, sport & recreation centres and sport programs.

Key reasons why you should consider implementing a healthy eating strategy include:

  • Demonstrate leadership and advocacy toward healthy eating throughout your organisation and within the broader sporting community
  • Promote healthy food and drink choices, such as water and healthy snacks, instead of unhealthy sugar-sweetened beverages and junk food
  • Join others that have already made the change to provide and promote healthy food and drink choices
  • Listen to the needs of consumers who want healthy food and drink options in sport settings
  • Support change within your clubs to offer healthy choices through establishing a policy

Effective change can be more achievable and lasting if it’s backed up by a healthy eating policy. This is because having a policy can help you:

  • Communicate a consistent and clear message about healthy eating to all stakeholders including staff, volunteers, sports participants, coaches, officials, visitors and the wider community
  • Ensure the sustainability of existing strategies being used to promote healthy eating
  • Plan and agree on a strategy that aligns with organisational values and priorities.
  • Set specific goals and support canteen staff and others as they make the change
  • Help to manage stakeholder and community expectations
  • Show your commitment to promoting the health of your community by publicly endorsing the connection between healthy eating, physical activity and healthy lifestyles in your organisation
  • Attract more participants, spectators and customers by providing sport settings where healthy food and drink options are available

Key methods to support implementation of strategies and policy to promote healthy eating were identified in a recent review into Healthy Eating Policy in Sport (Vicsport, 2018). This review analysed the approaches of some Local Government Authorities (LGAs), State Sporting Associations (SSAs) and Regional Sport Assemblies (RSAs) who had conducted a range of initiatives, including implementing healthy eating strategies and policies to promote healthy food and drink choices in sport and recreation settings.

To enable the effective implementation of strategies and policies that promote healthy eating, the following approaches are recommended:

  • Demonstrate leadership and advocacy towards healthy eating.
  • Establish a top-down approach for support.
  • Develop partnerships between LGAs, SSAs and RSAs.
  • Appoint a healthy eating ambassador to encourage and motivate all stakeholders.
  • Provide solutions to potential barriers of healthy eating policy.
  • Provide resources that discusses the best practice for policy development and delivery.
  • Identify suitable suppliers that provide healthy food items to sell in canteens.
  • Ongoing evaluation and feedback.
  • Education for staff and other stakeholders around healthy eating strategies

After working with sport we’ve heard many common perceived barriers to implementing strategies and policies to promote healthy eating, but in fact we now know that many of these worries are easy to address and overcome:

Decrease in profits - there is now countless case studies showing us how changing out unhealthy food and drink options for healthier ones can be great for business. Generally, profits remain the same and in some instances sales revenue and profits increase. Click here to view HEAS Healthy Choices case studies and click here to view VicHealth Healthy Choices case studies.

Lack of healthy options - there are a growing number of healthy food and drink options with many suppliers now highlighting the healthy choices they offer online and in their catalogs. To assess the food and drinks you supply and determine healthier alternatives, you can use the Healthy choices: food and drink classification guide which classifies foods and drinks as GREEN (best choices), AMBER (choose carefully) or RED (limit). HEAS, the Healthy Eating Advisory Service, has some easily accessible resources to find healthier products for all situations, including catering, sport and recreation facilities, club canteens, fundraising and much more. Foodchecker is also an online tool that can provide you with an instant assessment of an existing food or drink product or display a list of healthy options that are available for a specific product category (HEAS, 2018).

Increased workload – simple changes such as removing sugary drinks from sight is considered an effective strategy in creating healthier food and drink options. Gradually making small changes is an accepted and achievable way to ensure the changes are easy and sustainable. Furthermore, you don’t have to be a nutrition expert as resources are available to guide you.

Fear of backlash - most organisations who have made these changes have been surprised how accepting their customers are with many welcoming and commending the changes.In fact, according to the 2016 Community Attitudes Survey undertaken by VicHealth, most consumers (75 per cent of respondents) want healthier food and drink options made available and promoted across sport settings rather than unhealthy options.

Difficulty in approaching clubs - there are clubs and venues that want to implement healthy changes but have expressed their need for some additional support from their Association, Regional Sport Assembly or State Sporting Association.Nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition- once clubs see others doing it and how easy it is, they’ll want to be part of the action too.

Not considered core business - sport has a duty of care to support the health and wellbeing of its members, participants, officials and spectators.Do unhealthy junk foods and sugary drinks really make sense as part of your brand?

Some sport organisations may find that the best place to start is by establishing support from management by developing a policy that works best for them.

For others, starting out small may be the best place to start as it may be important to demonstrate success before committing to a broader policy

Either approach can be used and it is encouraged that sport organisations should do what best fits their purposes.

The following resources are interchangeable and can be used as an educational tool by managers, sports leaders or those advocating towards healthy eating (champions of change) who wish to inform others within their organisation about why and how they can implement strategies to promote healthy eating and/or why and how they can begin embedding healthy eating policy.

The high-level PowerPoint resources below are designed to support you in engaging with a range of audiences, including Management/Boards and Associations/Clubs, and can be adjusted to suit your circumstances.

DOWNLOAD: Healthy Choices Management Strategies PowerPoint Template

DOWNLOAD: Healthy Eating Policy PowerPoint Template

DOWNLOAD: Healthy Choices PowerPoint Policy and Strategy For Clubs

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