Step 1: Determining Everyday or Occasional foods

Step 1 in creating a Healthy School Canteen is to understand whether food and drinks are Everyday or Occasional.

You should fill at least ¾ of your menu with Everyday snacks, meals and drinks, with Occasional items making up ¼ of your menu.

Sugary drinks should not be sold in NSW school canteens.

Everyday food

  • Fill the canteen menu with at least ¾ of Everyday food and drinks.
  • Everyday food and meals are those made from the 5 food groups, plus water (see below).
  • Everyday food and drinks can be fresh or packaged.
  • Portion sizes apply to flavoured milk, juices and hot meals.
  • Every section of the menu should include at least 1 Everyday food or drink.
  • Everyday food should be promoted.

Five food groups

  1. Vegetables, and legumes/beans.
  2. Fruit, including fresh, dried, frozen, canned in juice, 99% fruit juice.
  3. Grain foods, including bread, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, oats – wholegrain and high-fibre varieties are recommended.
  4. Lean meats and alternatives, including poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes and beans.
  5. Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives – choose mostly reduced-fat varieties. Choose milk alternatives such as soy, rice or almond milk with calcium added.

Plain water

  • Children need water as their main drink.
  • Chilled, filtered, spring or sparkling water are suitable options.

Everyday menus tips

Occasional food

  • Limit Occasional food to no more than ¼ of your canteen menu.
  • These are mostly higher in saturated fat, sugars and/or salt, and may have little nutritional value. They are not needed as part of a healthy diet and should be eaten only sometimes and in small amounts.
  • These should not be the main choices on your menu.
  • Only the healthiest versions of these packaged foods with a Health Star Rating of 3.5 and above should be sold in school canteens
  • Check that your Occasional food or drink does not exceed the recommended portion size
  • These foods should not be promoted.

Examples include

  • Oven-baked hot chips and pastries: Chips, wedges, hash browns, pies, sausage rolls, samosas, spring rolls (do not deep-fry).
  • Processed meats: Hot dogs, bacon, salami; crumbed/coated meats, e.g. nuggets, schnitzel.
  • Sweet foods: Cakes, e.g. muffins, banana bread, muesli bars, sweet biscuits, croissants, danish, desserts, ice cream.
  • Diet drinks: Soft drinks, iced teas, flavoured waters or juices sweetened with intense natural or artificial sweeteners, e.g. stevia or aspartame.

Occasional menu tips

Note: It may be difficult to find some packaged foods (such as cakes, chocolate and confectionary) with a Health Star Rating of 3.5 or above. You may wish to use one of these Healthy recipe ideas or select from another Occasional food category.

What if you combine Everyday and Occasional food?

Adding an Occasional food ingredient (e.g. crumbed chicken) to an Everyday food (e.g. wholemeal bread) makes the end product (crumbed chicken sandwich) an Occasional food (no matter how many Everyday foods are included). You can make sandwiches healthier with Everyday fillings such as lean, skinless chicken, tuna, lean beef, egg, hummus and/or salad.

Occasional food + Everyday food = Occasional

  • Crumbed chicken + wholemeal bread = Occasional sandwich
  • Lean skinless chicken and salad + wholemeal bread = Everyday sandwich ✓

Don’t forget to choose packaged Occasional food with a Health Star Rating of 3.5 and above and check recommended portion sizes.

Make meals healthier by swapping Occasional for Everyday food items.

For example

  • Banana + frozen berries + ice-cream = Occasional smoothie
  • Banana + frozen berries + yoghurt = Everyday smoothie ✓

Meal deals – promote Everyday food and drinks

  • Adding an Occasional food to an Everyday food in a meal deal makes the meal deal Occasional.
  • Everyday food and drinks should be promoted in meal deals or specials in school canteens.

Occasional food + Everyday food = Occasional

  • Lean beef and salad burger + potato wedges = Occasional meal deal
  • Add an Everyday drink, fruit or yoghurt to the burger to make the meal deal Everyday. ✓

Lean beef and salad burger + 99% orange juice = Everyday meal deal

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