Background: Hospitals offer snacks for sale to patients, staff and visitors. Aims: As food choice is heavily influenced by the options available, the present study: (1) audited snack availability and purchase in NHS hospital sites across a large UK city, and (2) tested the potential effects of changes to this availability in an online choice experiment. Methods: In Study 1 (audit), single-serve snacks (n=376) available in 76 hospital food retail units were audited. Purchasing data were obtained from 6 food retail units over 4 weeks (27,989 sales). in Study 2 (online experiment), participants (n=159) chose snacks from pictured ranges containing 25% (minority), 50% (equivalent) or 75% (majority) healthy options. Results: Available single-serve snacks varied markedly in calorie (18-641kcals), fat (0-39g), sugar (0.1g-76g) and salt (0g-2.9g). Only 30% of available snacks were healthy options and only 25% of the most commonly purchased snacks were healthy options. In Study 2, snack choice was significantly associated with the availability of healthy options in the choice array (X2 39 (2) 40 = 59.71, p<.01). More participants made healthy choices when product ranges contained 41 75% healthy options compared to 50% (p<.01) and 50% healthy options compared with 25% (p<.01). Conclusion: Healthy snacks are readily available in NHS sites but there is a greater relative variety of unhealthy snack products. Many consumers continue to purchase unhealthy items. Further increasing the availability and variety of healthy options may support consumers to make healthier choices.
- food choice
- healthy choice