Implementing healthier foodservice guidelines in hospital and federal worksite cafeterias: barriers, facilitators and keys to success

J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016 Dec;29(6):677-686. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12380. Epub 2016 Apr 29.


Background: Healthy foodservice guidelines are being implemented in worksites and healthcare facilities to increase access to healthy foods by employees and public populations. However, little is known about the barriers to and facilitators of implementation. The present study aimed to examine barriers to and facilitators of implementation of healthy foodservice guidelines in federal worksite and hospital cafeterias.

Methods: Using a mixed-methods approach, including a quantitative survey followed by a qualitative, in-depth interview, we examined: (i) barriers to and facilitators of implementation; (ii) behavioural design strategies used to promote healthier foods and beverages; and (iii) how implementation of healthy foodservice guidelines influenced costs and profitability. We used a purposive sample of five hospital and four federal worksite foodservice operators who recently implemented one of two foodservice guidelines: the United States Department of Health and Human Services/General Services Administration Health and Sustainability Guidelines ('Guidelines') in federal worksites or the Partnership for a Healthier America Hospital Healthier Food Initiative ('Initiative') in hospitals. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse quantitative survey data. Qualitative data were analysed using a deductive approach.

Results: Implementation facilitators included leadership support, adequate vendor selections and having dietitians assist with implementation. Implementation barriers included inadequate selections from vendors, customer complaints and additional expertise required for menu labelling. Behavioural design strategies used most frequently included icons denoting healthier options, marketing using social media and placement of healthier options in prime locations.

Conclusions: Lessons learned can guide subsequent steps for future healthy foodservice guideline implementation in similar settings.

Keywords: health promotion; nutrition policy; qualitative; workplace nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Food Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Food Services / standards*
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Health Plan Implementation*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Workplace / standards