National Healthy School Canteens

Guidelines for healthy foods and drinks supplied in school canteens

Food categories for foods and drinks sold in healthy canteens

Page last updated: 28 October 2013

Foods have been categorised based on The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and according to their nutritional value.
Always on the Menu - The Green Category*
Select Carefully - The Amber Category*
Not Recommended on the Canteen Menu - The Red Category*

Green - Always on the Canteen menu

Foods and drinks categorised as Green are the best choices for the school canteen menu as they contain a wide range of nutrients and are generally low in saturated fat and/or sugar and/or sodium (salt). These foods and drinks should be:
  • available every day
  • included as the main choices on the canteen menu
  • presented in attractive and interesting ways
  • promoted as tasty, good value choices.

Amber - Select Carefully


Foods and drinks categorised as Amber contain some valuable nutrients as well, but may also contain higher levels of saturated fat and/or sugar and/or sodium (salt). If eaten in large amounts these foods may contribute to excess energy (kilojoules) being consumed. These foods and drinks should be:
  • sold in smaller serve sizes
  • less prominent on the canteen menu
  • moved towards the ‘Green’ end of the spectrum at every opportunity.*

Red - Not recommended on the canteen menu

Foods and drinks categorised as Red are low in nutritional value and may contain excess energy (kilojoules) and/or saturated fat and/or sodium (salt) and/ or sugar. These foods and drinks should:
  • not be provided in healthy school canteens.
*Note: There is no distinct line between foods and drinks categorised as Green and Amber. Many combined foods,such as, sandwiches or sushi will sit on the border of the Green and Amber category depending on the ingredients used. This is what is referred to as the ‘traffic light spectrum’. All foods should be moved towards the ‘Green’ end of the spectrum at every opportunity. To see how easy it is to ‘Green’ the menu turn to Frequently asked questions of this document.

Always on the Canteen Menu

The Green category - 'always on the canteen menu'

Foods and drinks categorised as Green are consistent with the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines and are based on the five food groups shown on The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating ‘plate’. These foods and drinks are the most suitable to be sold in school canteens and should be available on the canteen menu every day. Foods and drinks in this category offer a wide range of nutrients and are generally low in saturated fat and/or sugar and/or sodium (salt).

FoodExamples
DrinksLow or reduced-fat milk and soy drinks, plain and flavoured.
  • May contain intense (artificial) sweeteners.
  • Suggested 375mL serve size or less (except coffee-style milk drinks).
  • Coffee-style milk drinks (including flavoured) may be sold in secondary school (maximum 375mL serve size).
Water: plain (tap, spring, mineral or sparkling),with nothing added.
Bread and alternativesBagels, burritos, crumpets, English muffins, foccacia, gluten-free, lavash, Lebanese,
multigrain, pita, rye, tortillas, Turkish, wholegrain, wholemeal, white high fibre, white.

Raisin and fruit bread, un-iced fruit buns, glazed hot cross fruit buns.

Plain and savoury scones, pikelets and pancakes.
Breakfast cerealsWholegrain, wholewheat flakes, wholegrain puffed cereals, porridge, wholewheat
biscuits, low in added sugar, higher in fibre and without added confectionery.
Rice, grains, pastaPlain rice, noodles, pasta, burghul, cracked wheat, polenta, couscous.
Plain air-popped popcorn with nothing added.
Yoghurt, custard and
cheese (including soy
alternatives)
Low or reduced-fat cheese without added confectionery. Low or reduced-fat plain
or fruit yoghurt and custard without added confectionery.
  • May contain intense (artificial) sweeteners.
FruitFresh, in-season is the best choice.
Frozen, pureed or canned in natural juice (does not include dried fruit).
VegetablesFresh, in-season is the best choice.
Frozen or canned without added flavourings.
Chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, baked beans (dried or canned), lentil patties and
falafels (grilled or baked).
Lean meat, fish, poultry
and alternatives
Unprocessed lean beef, chicken, lamb, pork, turkey, fish.
Canned tuna, salmon, sardines.
Eggs, nuts* (un-salted, un-roasted, dry roasted).

*Check your school policy regarding the use of nuts and products containing nuts.

Select Carefully

The Amber category - 'select carefully'

Foods and drinks categorised as Amber also contain some valuable nutrients, but may be too high in saturated fat and/or sugar and/or sodium (salt) to be categorised as GREEN. If these foods are eaten regularly or in large amounts, they may contribute to excess energy (kilojoules) being consumed.

FoodExamples
DrinksFull-fat milk and soy drinks, plain and flavoured.
  • May contain intense (artificial) sweeteners.
  • Suggested 375mL serve size or less (except coffee-style milk drinks).
  • Coffee-style milk drinks (including flavoured) may be sold in secondary school
(maximum 375mL serve size).
Fruit and vegetable juice.
  • At least 99% fruit/vegetable juice, including sparkling varieties, no added sugar
(maximum 250mL serve size).
Breakfast cerealsHigher in added sugar and lower in fibre.
Yoghurt, custard and
cheese (including soy
alternatives)
Full-fat cheese without added confectionery. Full-fat plain or fruit yoghurt and custard
without added confectionery.
  • May contain intense (artificial) sweeteners.
Dried fruit,
fruit leathers
All types. Fruit leathers must be 100% fruit. Keep the serve size small.
Fruit ice blocks, fruit
jelly desserts, ice
crushes and slushies
At least 99% fruit juice and no added sugar.
  • Ice slushies and fruit jellies (maximum 200mL serve size).
  • Fruit ice blocks (maximum 125mL serve size).
Meat products and
alternatives
Burgers, patties, strips, balls, nuggets, sausages, frankfurts, saveloys (crumbed and
not crumbed), stews, casseroles and curries.

Lean processed luncheon meats, fritz, devon, chicken loaf, free flow chicken, cured
meats (for example: ham, bacon). Chicken drumsticks and wings.
Savoury hot food
items
Savoury pastries, filled breads, pasta dishes, pizzas, oven-baked potato products,
dim sims, spring rolls, rice and noodle dishes.
Sweet and savoury
snack foods
Baked snack biscuits, breakfast bars, rice/corn crackers and cakes, crispbreads, fruit
filled bars, flavoured popcorn, muesli bars, nut* and seed bars, sweet or savoury biscuits.
Un-iced cakes, muffins
and sweet pastries
Some un-iced cakes and muffins that are small in serve size or have been modified to
reduce the amount of saturated fat and/or sugar or with added fibre.
Ice creams,
milk-based ices and
dairy desserts
Low or reduced-fat ice creams (not chocolate-coated), milk-based ices, custards and
dairy desserts.
  • Milk must be listed as the first ingredient.
Fats and oilsChoose polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils and spreads and use sparingly
(for example: sunflower, safflower, corn, soya bean, olive, canola).
Spreads, dips, relishesNut* spreads, fish/chicken/meat pastes, yeast spreads, dips, salsa, relishes. Use sparingly.
SaucesTomato sauce, tomato paste, mustard, sweet chilli, BBQ, soy, satay. Choose low
or reduced-salt products and use sparingly.
Toppings, syrup, jam,
honey
Small amounts, use sparingly

*Foods and drinks categorised as AMBER may require assessment against the AMBER Nutrient Criteria Tables.

Not Recommended on the Canteen Menu

The RED category – ‘not recommended on the canteen menu’

Foods and drinks categorised as RED are not consistent with the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines and should not be sold in a healthy school canteen.

They are low in nutritional value and may also be high in saturated fat and/or added sugar and/or added sodium (salt). They may also provide excess energy (kilojoules). There is ample opportunity for children to consume these foods outside school hours at the discretion of their parents.

FoodExamples
DrinksSoft drinks, iced tea, cordial, sports waters, sports drinks, flavoured mineral water, energy drinks, sweetened waters.
Intense (artificial)
sweeteners*
Any product containing intense (artificial) sweeteners* with the exception of flavoured milk, fruit yoghurts and custards.
Caffeine and guaranaAny product containing guarana.
Coffee-style products (including flavoured), mocha, latte, cappuccino or similar, with
the exception of coffee-style milk drinks.
Coffee-style milk drinks (including flavoured) in primary school.
Coffee-style milk drinks greater than 375mL serve size in secondary school.
Fruit/vegetable juiceLess than 99% juice and/or added sugar and/or greater than 250mL serve size.
Jelly desserts, ice
crushes and slushies
Less than 99% fruit juice and/or added sugar and/or greater than 200mL serve size.
Icy-poles and fruit
ice blocks
Less than 99% fruit juice and/or added sugar and/or greater than 125mL serve size.
Cakes and slicesIced cakes and slices, doughnuts, Danishes, croissants, cream-filled buns/cakes.
ConfectionaryAll types: sold separately or added to products including; boiled lollies, carob,
chocolate (including choc chips and chocolate-coated), chocolate spreads, cough
lollies, 100s and 1000s, juice jellies, icing, liquorice, soft lollies, yoghurt/ carob-coated.
Deep-fried foodAll types.
FatsCream, coconut cream, coconut milk, butter, copha, ghee, lard.

*Code number and prescribed name for intense (artificial) sweeteners include:
950 (acesulphame potassium), 951 (aspartame), 952 (cyclamate), 953 (isomalt), 954 (saccharin), 955 (sucralose), 956 (alitame), 957 (thaumatin), 961 (neotame), 965 (maltitol or hydrogenated glucose syrup), 966 (lactitol), 967 (xylitol), 968 (erythritol)