Step 6: Cooking up an Everyday storm

chopping board

In Step 6 of your journey to creating a successful, healthy canteen we will cover cooking Everyday foods in the canteen.  This includes how to review a recipe to make it healthier and how to cut both costs and time by using base recipes to suit many dishes. The aim is to keep it simple!

How to review a recipe

All canteens have recipes that are popular with students and always sell well. We also see new recipe ideas in magazines and online that look like they would work. We need to make sure both existing and new recipes are in keeping with the NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy.

Remember - if a food or drink is already Everyday and you add ingredients from the Essentials shopping list , it is still an Everyday food or drink.

To review a recipe, start by printing out a copy or make a photocopy so you can note any changes needed on it.

Look up the item on the Menu item ready reckoner which lists Everyday and Occasional items under hot and cold foods, breakfasts, drinks, snacks and frozen products.

Read what the  says about your menu item for both ‘Food (examples) column’ and the ‘Freshly prepared on site’ column. Use this information to see what ingredients can be added to the item and how it should be prepared.

Go to the Essentials Shopping List to check if any ingredients in your recipe are in the ‘Avoid’ column. You can swap ‘Avoid’ ingredients for those in the ‘Buy’ column.

Easy swaps to make recipes healthier


Butter Margarine or oil
Pastry Puff, shortcrust or filo pastry that has a Health Star Rating of 3.5 stars or above
Salt Fresh and dried herbs and spices
Cream or sour cream Reduced fat yoghurt or reduced fat evaporated milk
Deep frying Oven bake or shallow fry with small amounts of oil
Coconut milk Reduced fat evaporated milk
Confectionery in baked items Fruit or vegetables

Check out the Essentials Shopping List for more alternatives.

Some of the recipes being dished up in your canteen might already fit with the Strategy. Here are a few ideas to boost recipes to make them even more nutritious!

  • Replace all or some of the flour in a recipe with wholemeal flour
  • Add vegetables and legumes to meat dishes
  • Add fruit (fresh, dried or canned) to pikelets, pancakes and scones
  • Add extra vegetables to sandwiches, burgers, wraps, soups and pizza toppings
  • Always use lean meats, reduced fat dairy and wholegrains

Base recipes for multiple dishes

You don’t need to have a huge collection of recipes up your sleeve to cook up an Everyday storm in the canteen, you can use the same base recipe for several items which helps you reduce preparation time and also labour costs, as staff won’t need to be trained to produce each recipe.

It also makes it easier for you to add specials to the menu and entice more customers, even when you are using the same ingredients. For example, vegetable-based sauces can be easily modified so seasonal or leftover vegetables can be added to the recipe and you can serve them with rice, pasta or in a bake.

Some base recipe ideas

Recipe Use it in:
White (Béchamel) sauce Lasagne, macaroni and cheese, vegetable pies, tuna bakes
Pesto (nut free) Pasta, sandwiches/ wraps/ rolls, burgers, salad
Home-made tomato sauce Pasta (Bolognese, lasagne), pizza base, dipping sauce,
Roast chicken/ beef/ lamb Fillings for sandwiches, salads, quiche topping for pizza or pasta
Cooked sweet potato Mash, fillings for sandwiches, topping for shepherd’s pie, salads, frittata and quiche, blend with beans to make vegetarian burger patties, soup
Baked vegetables Blend to make soup, add to sandwiches, pizza, pasta or burgers

Example: Bolognese Sauce

If you prepare items fresh in the canteen, a staple is Bolognese sauce. It’s easy to make and is a part of many favourite dishes. We’ll show you an easy bolognese sauce recipe in the next 'how to' video.

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.


Activity 1: Assessing the staff training needs of your canteen

Think about what the staff training needs of the canteen are.  Do the staff know how to use knives safely and operate all aspects of the canteen without assistance?

Activity 2: List three items on your menu that could use a standard recipe.

List three items on your menu that will use a standard recipe (refer to basic recipe ideas)

Handy links

Document Library

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