Healthier Choices at River Park Leisure Centre

River Park Leisure Centre has introduced healthier food choices through their Healthier Café initiative.

Our leisure centre has introduced a healthier café initiative to make our cafe a place of healthier choices for customers. Social enterprise Places for People Leisure, who manage the facility on behalf of Winchester City Council, are working in partnership to encourage people to increase their activity levels but also make good choices when it comes to their food.
The Healthier Café initiative evolved as part of a collaboration between the leisure centre, Helen Fisher from Energise Me and Darren Carmichael from Hampshire Public Health. The initiative is based on the nudge theory, which aims to make the decision to have healthier food options easier for customers.

Dan Walker, our Café Manager commented, “Customers will still want a varied choice and we recognise that having the occasional treat is still acceptable for those who would like to adopt a healthier lifestyle. We therefore didn’t eleminate traditional customer favourites such as croissants and carrot cake, and instead we introduced the ‘nudge theory’ to gently steer people toward making healthier choices.

“The Healthier Café initiative came at the perfect time for me. As the new Café Manager, it provided a fantastic opportunity for me to establish myself by initiating changes that would have a lasting, positive impact. At River Park Leisure Centre, we have now trialled the nudge theory for 2 months and this has resulted in positive feedback from customers and staff using the facilities. All the adjustments that were made were simple and achievable changes. From the 1st April I’m also pleased to say that our centre’s vending machines will just offer lower sugar drinks to encourage people to choose less sugary options. As a social enterprise our mission is to create active places and healthy people and this new initiative will hopefully make it easier for people to choose healthier options.”

As part of the initiative healthier foods have been grouped together and positioned carefully for ‘grab and go’ customers, and a wider range of healthier food options have also been introduced with enhanced information on nutrition for customers. In addition, fresh fruits are always available and the our 100% natural fruit and vegetable smoothies can now be made with added apple juice or just water to make the customers healthy choice even better.

Victoria Jones, Active Lifestyle Officer, Sport and Physical Activity for Winchester City Council, said, “A balanced diet is very important to our health and it’s great to have a variety of options for customers using the leisure centre around their activities. The café is a social setting where people regularly meet so it’s great to be able to have healthier options available for people to enjoy in a warm and friendly environment.”