When planning a menu for the canteen, there are many factors that should be taken into consideration, including the size of the school, number of lunches prepared, the number of people who work in the canteen and their level of expertise in preparing food, and the equipment available. However, the first step should be to check that the menu is consistent with the nutritional guidelines of the canteen policy document. If a Government or Catholic school, the menu must comply with the appropriate mandated policies. The menu should be planned to reflect the Australian Dietary Guidelines. The majority of choices available should be based on the core food groups and be predominantly those classified as “Green”, which may be supplemented by convenience products which may be classified as either ‘Green or Amber’. No items classified as ‘Red’ may be sold.
The use of Star Choice™ Registered Products assists schools to select nutritionally preferable versions of favourite convenience products, such as pastries, hamburger patties, frankfurters, biscuits and cakes. The nutrient criteria for registration, ensures that these are approximately half the fat, sodium (salt) and sugar of their regular counterparts. However, although these products may represent a better nutritional choice than the full fat, sodium or sugar versions of similar foods, they should not be included on the menu to the exclusion of foods recommended for consumption by children and adolescents every day.
Creating winning menus
What’s on the menu provides an overview food and drinks classified as green, amber or red according to the Department of Education’s Healthy Food and Drink policy.
Conducting a survey can be a great way of ensuring you are meeting the needs of the school community. Use our Canteen survey for students to gather information to inform your menu decisions. The questions in this template are aimed at students. However, you can add and remove questions and change the language to suit your target audience e.g. parents or teachers.
Your canteen menu is likely to be the first form of ‘advertising’ the canteen. Click to view two pages from The Big Book of Menus (BBoM), published and sent to all schools in WA in 2013.
Page one is a ‘checklist to use when planning your menu’ (BBoM) – valuable points to consider when you are first putting the menu together or making significant changes. Page two contains the ‘essentials for your menu’ (BBoM) – all the ‘must have’ details that make a good menu, great.
To help you create or update your menu with ease, we have developed a range of templates for you to customise. The images have simply been inserted from clip art and can be moved, deleted or changed as you like.
Menu assessment tool
Assessing the canteen menu compliance with the Department of Education’s Healthy Food and Drink (HFD) policy is easy. Simply follow this step by step guide to ensure the canteen meets all policy requirements and offers a wide range of healthy choices.
Recommended food list
General rules for selection
Include a wide variety of fruit, vegetable, bread, pasta and rice choices; use spreads sparingly; select reduced fat/salt/sugar products and choose varieties which are good sources of dietary fibre/calcium/iron where appropriate.
If catering for vegetarians in your school see our great Vegetarian Diets fact sheet for some suggestions as well as the recipes page for loads of ideas that will suit both non vegetarians and vegetarians alike.
Include all types such as: white, wholemeal, multigrain, high fibre, wholegrain, Pita, Raisin bread/fruit breads, English muffins, Lavash, Lebanese, Mountain bread, Foccacia, Bagels, Rolls, Wholemeal Crumpets, Wraps.
Salad, Fruit, fresh/dried combinations (e.g. banana and date), Lean meat, lean chicken (no skin), Fish (e.g. tuna, salmon, sardines) in spring water, Creamed corn/corn kernels, Egg (hard boiled, mashed, sliced), canned spaghetti (reduced salt), Hummus, Baked beans (reduced salt), Cheese (reduced fat), Vegemite/yeast spreads (used sparingly), Peanut paste (according to school policy).
Whole fresh fruit in season (or cut portions), Fruit salad (fresh or pre-cut and unsweetened), Frozen or canned fruits (in natural juice), all may be served with fruit yoghurts as dip.
Water (tap, spring, mineral or sparkling – no added sugar), Milk or calcium enriched soy drink (plain, flavoured or fresh fruit milk shakes) reduced fat varieties encouraged, Fruit juice (100% juice, either chilled, frozen or sparkling – maximum serve size of 250mL), Drinking yoghurt (reduced fat).
Salads and vegetables
All Garden vegetable mixtures, bean mix, tabouli, rice, potato, coleslaw and pasta based. Dressings should be low fat/salt. Salads may include lean meats, reduced fat cheese and egg. Chunky vegetable pieces with low fat/salt dips, Vegetable sticks (e.g. carrot, celery).
Jaffles/hot rolls/toasted sandwiches (fillings as for sandwich fillings above), Baked potatoes (cooked in skins, split and filled with one or more of the sandwich fillings above or savoury mince), Rice (savoury or boiled, stir fried and served with liberal amount of vegetables), Burgers using patties low in fat/salt (meat, chicken, fish, lentil, vegetable) with liberal salad, Pizza either bread based or commercial using low fat/salt toppings and liberal vegetables, Soups (reduced salt/fat), Toasts (bread, muffins, crumpets or raisin bread, thinly spread), Pasta (reduced fat/salt toppings), Wraps (fillings as for sandwich fillings or burgers with liberal salad), Reduced fat/salt meat, chicken or vegetable pastry lines (with at least one day pastry free).
Fresh fruit pieces (or frozen pieces), Vegetable sticks/pieces, Yoghurt, (fresh, frozen, plain or fruit), Toasted bread, thinly spread, Plain or fruit scones, Raisin or fruit bread, Low fat fruit muffins, Finger buns or English muffins thinly spread, Pikelets (plain or with fruche or fruit), Breakfast cereals, Cheese (reduced fat – sticks, cubes, slices or triangles), Garlic or herb bread (minimal spread), Bread sticks, Bruschetta, Popcorn (low fat plain), Rice cakes, Crisp bread, Dried fruit with nuts and seeds, Trail mix based on breakfast cereals (low fat/sugar types), Wheat biscuits or water crackers, Fruche, Icecream (plain), reduced fat encouraged, Custard, Fruit juice/milk based icy poles (those meeting Star Choice™ nutrition criteria for registration).
For further food ideas and recipes specific to school canteens see the ‘Canteen Cuisine’ Cookbook available from WASCA.
Adapted with permission from a document produced by NSW School Canteen Association Inc.
Revised July 2006