National Healthy School Canteens

Guidelines for healthy foods and drinks supplied in school canteens

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating

Page last updated: 28 October 2013

The Australian Guide to Health Eating is the national Australian food selection guide. The guide is consistent with the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines and visually represents the recommended proportion for consumption from each of the five food groups each day. Following a dietary pattern in these recommended proportions will provide enough of the nutrients essential for good health.

Australian Guide to Healthy Eating image showing the list of items which are categorised into five different categories

What are the five food groups?

Five Food GroupsMajor foods in this group
Vegetables – different types and colours, and legume/ beans
  • Dark green and cruciferous vegetables: bok choy, spinach, broccoli,cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts
  • Orange vegetables: sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots
  • Salad vegetables: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, capsicum
  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, sweet potato, taro, corn
  • Legumes: dried peas, beans, lentils, chick peas
Fruit
  • Pome fruits: apples and pears
  • Citrus fruit: oranges, mandarins and grapefruit
  • Stone fruit: apricots and peaches
  • Tropical fruit: bananas, mangoes, pawpaw, and pineapple
  • Berries
  • Other fruits: grapes and passionfruit
Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high in fibre
  • Wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, millet, quinoa, and corn
Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs,
tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
  • Lean meats: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, kangaroo
  • Lean poultry: Chicken, duck, emu, goose, turkey
  • Fish and seafood: Fish, clams, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, prawns,scallops
  • Egg: chicken, duck
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazel nuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts
  • Beans/legumes: all beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas, tofu
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their
alternatives, mostly reduced fat
  • Milks: long life, fat reduce or full cream milks – preferably unflavoured types, buttermilk, evaporated milk, powdered milk
  • Soy or other beverages (fortified with at least 100mg calcium/100ml)
  • Yoghurt: all yoghurts including reduced fat or full cream – without added sugar; soy yoghurt (calcium fortified)
  • Cheese: cheddar, edam, gouda, ricotta, soy cheeses (calcium fortified)

Discretionary foods and drinks

Some foods and drinks do not appear in the table above. The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines refers to them as ‘Discretionary’. Discretionary choices are called that because they are not an essential or necessary part of healthy dietary patterns. Discretionary foods are high in kilojoules, saturated fat, added sugars, added salt, or alcohol. If chosen, they should be eaten only sometimes and in small amounts.

For younger children (up to about 8 years of age), discretionary choices are best avoided or limited to no more than serve a day unless the child is taller or more active, in which case they could have 0-2 serves a day. Older children and adolescents who are more active and not above their healthy weight range could have up to 2 serves a day, and older adolescents up to 3 serves a day.

A sample Discretionary serve could be: 2 scoops (75g) ice-cream, 1 (40g) doughnut, 1 can soft drink, small bar (25g) chocolate, 12 (60g) fried hot chips, meat pie or pastie (full pie = 4 serves).

How many serves do children need?

How many serves of each of the five food groups a child needs each day will depend on their size, physical activity levels, stage of growth and whether they are male or female. The following table gives a guide for most healthy children to achieve their recommended minimum daily nutrient intake.

Additional serves of the five food groups or unsaturated spreads and oils or discretionary choices are needed only by children and adolescent who are taller, more active or in the higher end of a particular age band, to meet additional energy requirements.


Food Groups Number Of Serves for Boys of age groups (4 – 8 years)Number Of Serves for Boys of age groups (9 – 11 years)Number Of Serves for Boys of age groups (12 – 13 years)Number Of Serves for Boys of age groups (14 – 18 years)
Vegetables4 55 5
Fruit1 222
Grain (cereal)4567
Lean meats and alternatives1 2 2 2
Dairy and alternatives22 3 3

Food Groups Number Of Serves for Girls of age groups (4 – 8 years)Number Of Serves for Girls of age groups (9 – 11 years)Number Of Serves for Girls of age groups (12 – 13 years)Number Of Serves for Girls of age groups (14 – 18 years)
Vegetables4 555
Fruit1 222
Grain (cereal)4457
Lean meats and alternatives1 2 2 2
Dairy and alternatives1 33 3

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating

How much is a serve?

Food GroupsServe Size
Vegetables – different types
and colours, and legume/
beans
  • cup cooked green or orange vegetables (eg broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin)
  • cup cooked dried or canned , peas or lentils
  • 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables, cup sweet corn, medium potato or other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, taro or cassava), 1 medium tomato
Fruit
  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
  • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums
  • 1 cup diced or canned fruit (no added sugar)
Grain (cereal) foods, mostly
wholegrain and/or high in fibre
  • 1 slice bread, medium roll or flat bread,
  • cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta, bulgur or quinoa
  • cup cooked porridge, 2/3 cup wheat cereal flakes, cup muesli
  • 3 crispbreads, 1 crumpet, 1 small English muffin or scone
Lean meats and poultry, fish,
eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds,
and legumes/beans
  • 65 g cooked lean red meats such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat or kangaroo (about 90-100 g raw)
  • 80 g cooked lean poultry such as chicken or turkey (100 g raw)
  • 100 g cooked fish fillet (about 115g raw) or one small can of fish
  • 2 large eggs (120 g), 1 cup (150 g) cooked or canned legumes/beans such as lentils, chick peas or split peas
  • 30 g nuts*, seeds, peanut* or almond butter *or tahini or other nut or seed paste
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/
or their alternatives, mostly
reduced fat
  • 1 cup (250ml) milk, cup (120 ml) evaporated unsweetened milk, 2 slices (40 g) hard cheese, such as cheddar
  • cup (120 g) ricotta cheese
  • cup (200 g) yoghurt
  • 1 cup (250ml) soy, rice or other cereal drink with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml
*Check your school policy regarding the use of nuts and products containing nuts

Healthy kids need healthy canteens!

Always on the Canteen Menu

Encourage and promote these foods and drinks. These foods and drinks:
  • are the best choices for a healthy school canteen
  • should be available every day and be the main choices on the canteen menu
  • contain a wide range of nutrients
  • are generally low in saturated fat and/or sugar and/or sodium (salt).

Select Carefully

Do not let these foods and drinks take over the menu and keep serve sizes small. These foods and drinks:
  • contain some valuable nutrients
  • contain moderate amounts of saturated
  • fat and/or sugar and/or sodium (salt)
  • if eaten in large amounts, may increase the amount of energy (kilojoules) being consumed.

Not Recommended on the Canteen Menu

These foods and drinks should not be sold in a healthy school canteen. These foods and drinks:
  • may contain excess energy (kilojoules) and/or
  • saturated fat and/or sodium (salt) and/or sugarare low in nutritional value.