Northeast Baptist Hospital looks to go sugar-free

Dietitian making new herb-infused water

By Ursula Pari - Anchor
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SAN ANTONIO - Northeast Baptist Hospital's quarterly wellness fair offered few sweet thoughts about sugar and sodas.

In fact, the Wellness Director Karen Singstad is on the march toward making the entire campus a soda-free zone, much like when it became tobacco-free. 

The reason for the villification of sugar is a simple case of medical science, which can pinpoint a chain reaction of health problems that begin with a heavy intake of foods and drinks containing high amounts of sugars.

Singstad said, "We need to think about sugar as being shards of glass going through our system." 

When it comes to energy drinks, sports drinks, orange juice and sodas, they can be packed with as much as a half of a cup of sugar in many cases.    

"It's very damaging to the vascular system. That's why it can result in lost toes, it can result in blindness. It can result in kidney disease," she said.

Singstad's partner in crime is dietitian Jennifer Meacham, who has been mixing up decanters of homemade herbal infused waters. The combinations include cucumber/mint, strawberry/basil and lemon/lime/mint, all made with simple tap water and fruits and herbs.

The crowd around the waters seems to appreciate the flavors and the health benefits they will provide. One woman who has been drinking these concoctions for a year or so in exchange for soda says she's lost 20 pounds in the process.

Her story may help Meacham's efforts to make hospitals soda-free zones, much like tobacco-free zones.

Meacham said, "The big change was we stopped the free sodas. That was a really big win as far as wellness initiatives, so we would love to eventually have a soda-free facility. But it's baby steps with everything."

She says the trick to substituting infused water with soda is patience because you may need to adjust your sweetness expectations after so many years of soda consumption.

You can find recipes for herbal-infused waters here.

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