In an effort to help encourage students to follow a healthier diet, Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown has removed all pop and other sugary drinks from its vending machines.

'It's all about what you get used to, it's what you want.' - Sharla Goodwin

Two brands of soft drinks, as well as vitamin water, were available to students — until this week.

Principal Dominique Lecours said the plan to remove the drinks permanently came about after parents voiced concerns about the availability of the beverages.

Dominique Lecours

Principal Dominique Lecours says one part of ensuring the well-being of students is making sure they have healthier options. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"Part of our mandate as a school, as an education facility, is to educate students in terms of having a healthy lifestyle," Lecours said.

"We're concerned about the well-being of students, and part of that is making sure we have good, healthier food offered to students."

'Reduce their taste for those drinks'

Dispensers have been re-stocked with fruit juice, milk and water in place of carbonated beverages and vitamin water.

Four water fountains have been installed in different locations in the school, including one in the cafeteria, that let students refill their reusable bottles.

Colonel Gray pop gone2

Colonel Gray principal Dominique Lecours hopes the initiative will encourage more students to opt for healthier drinks, like milk, if given the choice. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

The fountains have proven to be very popular with students and staff so far, said Lecours, with more than 12,000 bottles of water already filled.

"They're very pleased that they can bring their own bottle and just fill their own bottle to drink water, which is a very healthy option," said Lecours.

"We have one in the cafeteria, one in the wellness room and two on one side of the school and it's our goal next year to get two or three more installed."

Practice what you preach

School and health officials hope eliminating students' access to pop will reduce their taste for those drinks in general.

"It's all about what you get used to, it's what you want," said Sharla Goodwin, a healthy eating program officer with the P.E.I. government.

Colonel Gray water fountains

Four water fountains installed in different locations at the school have proven to be very popular with students and staff, Dominique Lecours says. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"At the high school, they can still go off grounds and go and buy what they want, but to me, in the school, we should be actually practicing what we're recommending."

Goodwin is also optimistic the initiatives at Colonel Gray will encourage more students, when given the choice, will opt for healthier drinks at school.

"[They're] setting a good example for students and now we can see them as a champion school, too, which will hopefully inspire other schools to move in a similar direction if they're not already there," Goodwin said.

"We usually say habits, they develop when they're a lot younger, then they'll continue on with them later."