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New Ulm Medical Center

HONU’s SWAP IT to DROP IT™ campaign encourages small, daily changes

Building on the success of a convenience store Beverage SWAP campaign launched this past February, Hearts Beat Back: the Heart of New Ulm Project (HONU) is launching an eight-month campaign and expanding it to grocery stores, restaurants and worksites.

“SWAP IT to DROP IT is based on the message that making small changes on a daily basis can have a big impact on your health,” said HONU Dietitian and project manager Rebecca Lindberg, MPH, RD. “If you’re someone who drinks a 20-ounce soda every day, consider switching to a 12-ounce soda. Or switch from a 12-ounce soda to water. If you’re a coffee drinker, skip the creamer or sugar. You can still have all your favorite foods and beverages, just in moderation.”

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The SWAP IT to DROP IT campaign will feature SWAP tips around monthly themes in grocery store stores, convenience stores and restaurants over the next eight months.

The SWAP IT to DROP IT campaign begins in September and each month will feature a different theme around ways that people can make SWAPs to save 100 calories a day. These SWAPs might be around beverages, vegetables and fruits, portion sizes, etc.

Residents can expect to see a different billboard message each month, a full-page ad in The New Ulm Shopper, table tents, fliers and menu inserts around town, and signs about how to make SWAPs in stores. In addition, there will be events such as cooking demonstrations and tours at grocery stores and Dine with a Dietitian events at restaurants. The campaign also features a different casting call winner each month with a success story to share about how small nutrition changes have improved their overall health.

New Ulm residents Lori Burkhart, John Gag, Susan Hogen, Lynnette Holm, Tanya Horner, Cindy Midas, Jeanne Moeri, Pat Novak, Kim Schlumpberger and Carmen Williams will all be sharing their stories and tips to help spread the message. Nine of them have each lost from between 25 to 73 pounds, and one was already at a healthy weight but decreased his Body Mass Index.

After the Beverage SWAP campaign launched in several convenience stores around New Ulm in early 2012, surveys indicated that people were indeed more likely to make a healthy choice when they saw a simple reminder displayed on cooler clings or posters which promoted a healthy SWAP, such as bottled water instead of sugary soda.

Based on that success, HONU applied for and received a grant from the United Healthcare Services for a social marketing campaign to expand the initiative.

“Our lives have changed in small ways daily over the last 20 years without us even noticing it. For instance, the average bagel now has 200 more calories than it did than 20 years ago, but we’re still eating a whole bagel. Calories have gradually crept up on us and plate sizes have increased,” Lindberg said. “We’re eating more often than before and we’re really bombarded with more food messaging than ever before.”

The SWAP IT to DROP IT campaign is about taking those calorie levels down bit-by-bit, decreasing serving sizes and reminding people that simple SWAPS done each day can have an impact on weight. For example, SWAP a water for a cola and you’ll save 100 calories. Do this once a day and you could lose up to 10 pounds in a year!

“With the Heart of New Ulm Project in its fourth year, we’re already seeing that healthy eating reminders are working,” Lindberg said. “Restaurant owners are seeing more people requesting healthier items or smaller portions.”

In addition to messaging and participation by convenience stores, grocery stores and restaurants, the hope is that worksites around town will also participate by displaying the SWAP IT to DROP IT fliers and table tents encouraging healthy substitutes near their vending machines or in employee cafeterias.

The SWAP IT to DROP IT campaign will run through April 2013. Go to heartsbeatback.org for more information about Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project.