How schools can create a great canteen menu

Creating a well-balanced school canteen menu can be a challenge. There are multiple factors to consider, such as nutritional value, food diversity, student preferences and special dietary requirements.

To help you create a great tuck shop menu or canteen menu planning guide, take the following into consideration.


1. Align your menu with the National Healthy School Canteens (NHSC) guidelines

To help schools create a healthy canteen menu, the NHSC splits food choices into three categories:

  • Green (always include on the menu),

  • Amber (limit selections from this group), and

  • Red (not recommended).

On the “green” list are foods that are low in saturated fat, sugar and salt, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, lean unprocessed meat, eggs, bread and wholegrain cereals.

On the “amber” list are foods such as full-fat milk and yoghurt, dried fruit, meat products like burger patties and sausages, savoury hot food like pizza and noodle dishes, and baked snacks like crackers, biscuits and granola bars.

On the no-go “red” list are deep-fried foods, sweetened drinks and desserts, caffeine and energy drinks, and cakes and confectionery.

When using Flexischools, canteen managers can apply the above traffic light categories to each menu item, so parents can make informed decisions when ordering their child’s lunch.


2. Consider cultural and dietary requirements

It’s important to offer children from different ethnic or religious backgrounds, those with food allergies and intolerances or those who follow alternative diets (like vegetarianism or veganism) a diverse selection of food choices.  

It may be helpful to consult with parents and school management in this regard. The school will be able to provide you with a breakdown of data on the children with special dietary requirements.

When parents place school lunch orders through the Flexischools app, they can remove ingredients, add ingredients, and include special notes or allergies.


3. Create healthy versions of popular meals

Popular kids’ foods like hot chips, pizza, and macaroni and cheese can be modified to reduce saturated fat or increase nutritional value. For instance, you can:

  • Bake rather than deep-fry chips or offer sweet potato fries which have a lower glycaemic index.

  • Use wholegrain flour for pizza crusts or create a cauliflower pizza base, ideal for children with wheat or gluten sensitivities.

  • Add vegetables like peas or broccoli to pasta dishes.


4. Serve age-appropriate meals and portions

Creating a school canteen menu that suits different age groups can be tricky. You can develop a healthy canteen menu that suits different age groups by serving age-appropriate portion sizes (see the serving recommendations per the Australian Dietary Guidelines below). 

What constitutes a serving? Here are a few examples:

  • Fruits: 1 medium apple or 2 small plums

  • Vegetables: 1 cup of salad vegetables or ½ cup of cooked vegetables

  • Grains: 1 slice of bread, ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta or ⅔ cup of cereal wheat flakes

  • Protein: 80g cooked chicken or turkey, 2 large eggs or 30g peanut butter

  • Dairy: 1 cup (250ml) of milk, ¾ cup (200g) of yoghurt or 2 slices of cheddar cheese.

5. Review and adjust your meal offerings

Kids can become bored eating the same meals all through the year. Updating your menu is a great way to get families excited about ordering lunch from your canteen.

If your school is part of Flexischools, the sales data from the Flexischools online ordering system can be useful in determining your most and least popular meal offerings.

The Flexischools Supplier Portal enables canteen managers to easily add items, change prices, and make items inactive.

Want to learn more about Flexischools online canteen ordering system? Click here.


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