Local leisure centres give a “nudge” increasing healthy options for our community

Nudging healthier alternatives

Photo: Nudging healthier options at Civic Recreation Reserve (Civic) and Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre (PARC), Crib Point, Somerville Recreation Centre and Pines Forest Aquatic Centre (PINES) . 

This blog is written by Andie Murphy and Evangelia Nikolitsis, Health Promotion Practitioners at Peninsula Health.

Over the past four years Peninsula Health in collaboration with Frankston City Council, Mornington Peninsula Shire and Frankston Mornington Peninsula Primary Care Partnership, have been working with local leisure and recreation centres, managed by Belgravia Leisure and Peninsula Leisure to increase healthy food and drink options and to display healthier marketing in and around their café/kiosks.

To help embed more healthy food and drink options within centres, Belgravia Leisure and Peninsula Leisure were supported to identify and run a number of ‘healthy eating nudge trials’ to determine the most effective ways to support their members, visitors and staff to purchase healthier food and drinks.

What did we do?
A total of 16 initiatives were trials across these five leisure and recreation centres: Civic Recreation Reserve (Civic), Crib Point Pool, Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre (PARC), Pines Forest Aquatic Centre (PINES) and Somerville Recreation Centre.

These trials were inclusive of:

·       Marketing Healthy Options

·       Healthy School Holiday Meal Deals

·       Healthy Drink Options

·       Ice-cream Fridge Marketing

·       Healthy Snack Options

·       Healthy Screen Promotions

·       Traffic Light Menu Board

·       Healthy Weekend Meal Deals

·       Healthy Food and Drink Displays

·       Healthy Meal Deals

·       Added Green and Amber Snacks

·       Increase Healthy Menu Items

·       Healthy Choice Samples

·       Daily Specials Board

Almost all of the above initiatives have now been adopted by the centres and remain in place today, and we continue to work together to increase the number of healthy food and drinks options available within centre canteen/kiosks.

What did we see?

A strong working relationship was formed with staff and management teams from the five leisure centres and their credit there have been some great results.

We can report a 9% increase in GREEN products (Best Choices), a 20% increase in AMBER products (Choose Carefully) and a 29% reduction in RED products (Limit).

We also took into consideration the sales of products, and overall sales from healthier products improved – with RED sales decreasing by 21% and GREEN and AMBER combined increasing by 30%.

Some centre staff and management comments are: 

“The thought pattern of ‘it’s not that I can’t have that, it’s just I’m making the healthier choice not to’ that we encourage hopefully can be transferred across into everyday life in the hope we are providing not just healthy snacks but a small education process – hopefully filtering down from parent, the purchaser to child.” Program Manager, Belgravia Leisure

“It has been great to work in partnership with Peninsula Health to further develop the nudge trials in offering healthier options to the Frankston community. The implementation of these initiatives continues to ensure the community have healthy options and Council really values the support from Peninsula Health in achieving this.” Team Leader Recreation, FCC

“It is great to see the more trials being conducted, the greater the confidence the leisure centres have in introducing healthier options.” Peninsula Health, Health Promotion Practitioner

 “The commitment and dedication from Belgravia Leisure has been integral…Their in-depth knowledge of and rapport with customers and suppliers was imperative in making appropriate and sustainable changes to the food and drink options” Senior Social Planner – Health & Wellbeing, Mornington Peninsula Shire

What did customers say?

In June 2021 a survey was sent out to members, staff, and casual visitors of these leisure centres to ask them their thoughts about the changes they may have noticed in the centres cafes/ kiosks.

  • 1 in every 5 people reported making healthier food and drink purchases based on what they noticed in terms of product availability, advertising and promotions.
  • Almost 1 in 2 people said that they would purchase more often from the cafe and or kiosk if they had a larger variety of healthy options available.
  • Almost 4 in 5 ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that they support the café/kiosk to offer healthier food and drink options.

Some customer comments from the survey include:

“After a workout you want to be able to refuel your body with the best options. There shouldn’t be any unhealthy options, it’s just a total contradiction of what the centre is trying to achieve.”

“I think that there should be a balance of food options from very healthy options to less healthy options and provide a choice.”

“Customers should be able to have a choice of healthy snack options”

Congratulations and thank you!

We want to celebrate and congratulate Belgravia Leisure and Peninsula Leisure for all for the hard work, effort and input, changes and flexibility they gave to this project. Even amongst the challenges of COVID-19, the centres continued to work hard on this project and due to their commitment, the Project has enabled members, visitors and staff of each of the 5 centres to purchase healthier food and drink options. 



Nudge Trial case studies: Nudge Trial Infographics

Nudge Trial Videos:

The Healthy choices: food and drink classification guide https://heas.health.vic.gov.au/healthy-choices/guidelinescategorises foods and drinks as GREEN, AMBER or RED based on their nutritional value:

  • The GREEN category – best choices
  • The AMBER category – choose carefully
  • The RED category – limit

To learn more about the trials and their results, contact healthpromotion@phcn.vic.gov.au