Step 2: Packaged food check


The role of packaged foods

Packaged foods play a big role in a healthy school canteen because most foods are actually packaged -- think of dairy products, bread, cereals, and tofu.

As well as these Everyday foods, there's an almost endless variety of packaged products on the market. The choice can be overwhelming. That's why it is important for you to quickly and easily find out which products meet the Food and Drink Criteria.

How to classify packaged foods


The following tools were designed to help you. Each one highlights Everyday and Occasional products, Health Star Ratings and recommended portion sizes.

  1. Healthy Food Finder(External link) – a searchable online database.
  2. Menu Ready Reckoner(External link) – how to select the most appropriate packaged and freshly prepared food by menu section (cold food, hot food, snacks, drinks and breakfast).
  3. Healthy Kids NSW School Canteen Buyers' Guide(External link) – compare items available from manufacturers in this printed guide, which was sent to schools in Term 1, 2018.

If you can't find a product using the above tools, contact the Healthy Kids Support for advice. The details are at the end of this page.

Where does the Health Star Rating fit in?


All Occasional foods must have a Health Star Rating of at least 3.5 stars or above.

The Health Star Rating System is a quick and easy way to compare the nutrient content of similar packaged foods. It can be used to compare similar foods made by different manufacturers.

If a product doesn't have a Health Star Rating on the packaging, search for it in the Healthy Food Finder (External link) or the NSW School Canteen Buyers' Guide (External link).

Supplier/distributor agreements

If popular packaged products you buy don’t meet the new criteria you can usually find a healthier alternative. Start by asking your current supplier if they have an alternative which meets the criteria or whether they can source one for you.

If you supplier can't help, ask the manufacturer directly about alternatives or look in the Healthy Kids NSW School Canteen Buyers’ Guide (External link).

New agreements

Before you enter into new supplier agreements, do your usual checks such as finding out if there's a minimum order, whether they are registered for GST etc and remember you need to lodge a new credit application and set the supplier up as a new creditor in your accounting system. Factor in administrative tasks such as these as you progress towards a healthy school canteen.


Activity 1: Get to know the Health Star Rating

Using the available tools, make a list of 10 packaged food and drink items you currently stock or use and indicate whether they are Everyday, Occasional or do not meet the criteria. Also note the Health Star Rating of all Occasional Items.

Activity 2: Easy wins for a healthier menu

In Step 1, you wrote out your entire menu, including the food and drinks displayed on the counter. Let’s look at this list.

  1. Circle any deep-fried foods on the list
    1. Replace them with baked alternatives that meet the relevant portion size requirements (listed in the Menu Ready Reckoner).
  2. Circle any sugary drinks (including frozen sugary drinks)
    1. Offer water as the main drink.
    2. Remove sugary drinks and frozen sugary drinks and replace them with 99% fruit juice (portion sizes of 250 ml or less).
  3. Circle any lollies, chocolate, candy or other confectionery
    1. Remove all unless they are sold in portions of less than 50 grams and have a Health Star Rating of 3.5 stars or more.
    2. Most confectionery items don't meet the criteria.
  4. Circle any drinks that contain caffeine (primary schools only)
    1. Replace with Everyday drinks such as water, flavoured milk (portions of 300 ml or less) and 99% fruit juice (250 ml or less portions).
    2. Caffeine is found in coffee and coffee-flavoured drinks, colas and energy drinks. It is not recommended for young children.

Making these simple changes will get you off to a good start. It may take time to clear your current stock which will limit the impact on the students. They won't feel as if everything has changed at once!

Handy links

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.

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