Making great choices

A healthy school canteen encourages students to make great choices. Once you start thinking in terms of Everyday and Occasional food and drinks, you’ll find making great choices about what you offer the students starts to come naturally.

Boy eating fruit next to fruit platter with sign 'free fruit

Designing a healthy menu means offering mostly Everyday food and drinks. To tempt the students into trying all sorts of nutritious foods, make sure the menu has a mix of:

  • cold and hot items
  • freshly prepared and packaged meals and snacks

How to make your menu great

Everyday food and drinks are always healthier options than Occasional food and drinks.

Within both the categories of Everyday and Occasional categories, some menu items are better choices than others, and the tools below make it easy to find them.

It’s also important to get the portion sizes right for each. Again, once you know the basics, choosing portion sizes will be easy.

Choose the healthiest option

Use the Healthy Food Finder database to search for products and compare Health Star Ratings. You’ll also find suggestions on finding healthier options for similar food types.

The Health Star Rating (HSR) system is a quick and easy way to compare the nutrient content of packaged foods. It scores the overall nutritional content of packaged foods and rates them from ½ a star to 5 stars. The more stars, the healthier the choice.

To choose healthier products, look for products with more stars. Only packaged Occasional food and drinks with an HSR of 3.5 stars or more should be sold in school canteens in addition to Everyday food.

Choose the right portion size

Portion sizes have become larger over time and are often bigger than dietary guidelines recommend. Growing children and teenagers should eat appropriate-sized portions to meet their energy and nutritional needs. Getting the portion size right can also help you control food costs.

To assist, recommended portion size limits, available in the Menu Ready Reckoner, have been set for some Everyday and all Occasional food and drinks.

When deciding whether to sell certain packaged foods, you’ll need to check the portion size in advance. Portion size in this instance is the size of the meal, snack or drink as it is sold in the school canteen.

For packaged foods sold in individual portions check the weight (grams) or volume (mL for drinks and ice-cream) on the front of the pack against the maximum portion size for that item in the Menu Ready Reckoner.

The portion (serving) size for food sold from a multi-pack is on the nutrition information found on the outside packaging. The serving size of the individual portion should be checked against the maximum portion size for that item in the Menu Ready Reckoner.

If you buy large catering trays from a wholesaler – such as banana bread, lasagne or potato bake – you need to ensure the portions you sell are the recommended size for canteens listed in the Menu Ready Reckoner.

The portion sizing is done for you when you use the Healthy recipe ideas and serve out the correct number of portions per recipe.

If you use your own recipe, check the maximum portion size for that food on the Menu Ready Reckoner.

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