DES MOINES — State employees and visitors to the state Capitol will be getting a healthy dose of nutritional advice if they decide to buy a food item from a vending machine on the Capitol complex.

Gov. Terry Branstad said today public health officials are instituting a color-coded system designed to inform consumers which products are the most nutritious as part of his effort to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation in four years. Items marked with a green label are the healthiest, followed by yellow labels for less nutritious items and red markings for those offerings with the lowest nutritional value.

“We are not the food police,” Branstad told reporters who wondered why state officials don’t just remove all “junk” offerings from vending machines in the 13 state buildings covered by the new healthy emphasis.

Branstad noted that he stopped consuming soda pop and made water his beverage of choice as part of the healthiest state in the nation initiative. He told reporters he could not remember the last time he purchased a food item from a vending machine.

“We’re trying to lead by example,” the governor said.

Mariannette Miller-Meeks, director of the state Department of Public Health, said vending machines in the Lucas State Office Building have been outfitted with a color-coding system for about a year with good success. She said the four vendors that supply items in machines on the Capitol complex have worked closely with her agency to stock a mix of snacks that taste good and are nutritious, and her department has randomly marked some green and yellow items with vouchers that can be claimed for prizes as another way to encourage healthy choices.

Branstad said Iowa recently improved from 19th to 16th place in state rankings for healthy activities, but he did not know if that was based on improvements by Iowans or whether other states had experienced health declines that contributed to Iowa’s rise.

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