Step 1: Understanding the Strategy

Welcome to the 10 Steps to a Healthy School Canteen - it's nice to have you on board.

Lugarno drinks

Here we will introduce the Food and Drink Criteria which make up the NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy and explain about the Everyday and Occasional food and drinks.

We'll then ask you to take a closer look at your canteen. Remember:

  • Making the transition to a healthy school canteen will take time.
  • Goals need to be set and plans need to be made.
  • Our aim is to provide you with support and guidance at each major step.
  • We've identified 10 steps but each canteen will have different needs and be at different points in the journey.
  • We've made each step self-contained so after you've completed the first two, you can complete the rest in your own way.

Let’s get started!

Building healthy habits

Your canteen's role in building healthy habits

The school canteen is a big part of many students’ school lives and it has the potential to help young people establish healthy habits for life.

What is the NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy?

The NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy is underpinned by the Food and Drink Criteria, which categorises food and drinks sold in canteens as either Everyday or Occasional. The criteria follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

These guidelines recommend that we eat from the five food groups: vegetables, wholegrain, diary, fish and meat every day, and only occasionally eat small amounts of foods that contain lots of fat, salt and sugar.

The Menu Ready Reckoner and the Healthy Kids Association Buyers Guide are valuable resources that will help you identify what foods are classified as "Everyday" and "Occasional".

Everyday food and drinks

Everyday food and drinks are from the five core food groups. They alone meet the nutritional needs of school students.

"Everyday" food and drinks should account for at least 75% of the items on a school canteen menu.

Occasional food and drink

Occasional food and drink

Occasional food and drinks are less healthy than Everyday foods yet still meet the nutritional requirements set out in the Strategy.

They are subject to maximum portion sizes and packaged items (as opposed to those freshly made on the premises) must have a Health Star Rating of 3.5 or more.

When kids do choose "Occasional" food and drinks from the canteen menu, they are not having an unhealthy option.

Occasional food and drinks can make up only 25% of the canteen menu.

Getting started

Let’s see where your canteen is at the moment. Understanding your current position in relation to the Strategy will help you identify where your gaps are, determine the changes that are required and help you plan for the changes you need to make.

Getting started

The Activities below will get you started.

We have a series of "How to" videos to help you along the way. These feature canteen managers from around NSW, sharing their knowledge and opinions.

When you are ready, take our first Quiz.

Then it is time to continue your journey to a healthy school canteen with Step 2: Packaged food check.

If you have any questions after completing this step, contact the Healthy Kids Support line on (02) 9876 1300 or 1300 724 850 if you are calling from outside of Sydney.

Introducing a new menu

You may be surprised to see how positively students react to their new healthy options, listen to out how these students responded to their new Healthy School Canteen menu.


Introduction: What's on your canteen menu?

Set aside some time to document your whole canteen menu, including the foods currently displayed on the counter. We will use the list in upcoming activities.

Activity 1: Looking ahead

Think about the questions below. Your answers will provide a fairly accurate assessment of where your canteen is at in relation to the Healthy School Canteens Strategy.

As this is the first activity, we've given you a hint on how to answer each question if you aren't sure where to start.

  1. How many items on your list are Everyday items?
  2. Do I know the Health Star Rating of my Occasional items?  (More information will be in Step 2)
  3. Have I considered portion sizes? (More information will be in Step 4)
  4. Do I have signs and posters advertising Occasional foods and drinks?
    Have a look! Do you? Be honest! (More information will be in Step 7)
  5. How have I arranged foods and drinks on the counter, shelves, fridges, etc?
    To encourage students to choose healthier options, place Everyday items in prime locations where they are easy to see and access. Remove Occasional items from prime locations.  (More information will be in Step 8)
  6. Do any of my regularly-used recipes have ingredients that I should swap for healthier options?
    All of the ingredients you use in your recipes will determine whether meals are classified as Everyday or Occasional so check them against the Healthy Food Finder. (More information will be in Step 6)
  7. Are there any sugary drinks in my fridge or freezer?
    This one is easy. Anything that isn't water, milk or 99% fruit juice should not continue to be stocked.
  8. Do I have equipment I need to get rid of, such as a deep fryer?

Handy links

Document Library

Return to top of page