28 Apr 2022

There is so much to consider when planning a healthy canteen menu.

Some of the factors that can influence your menu selection include: 

  • Whether your school is government run or independent
  • Size of the school or organisation
  • Number of people working in the canteen
  • How experienced the canteen workers are
  • What equipment you have available 

Many WA Government and private schools are required to design a menu that complies with mandated policies. Whether or not the policies apply to your school or organisation, you should plan your canteen menu to reflect the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

So, let’s see what it takes to prepare a healthy canteen menu in 2022.

Recommended Foods for your Canteen Menu

A good place to start your menu preparation is with the Department of Education’s Healthy Food and Drink policy. The traffic light system makes it easy to determine which foods you should have more of and which foods should be left off the menu. By following these recommendations, you’ll ensure that everyone has access to a variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups.

Green Foods

Foods that sit under the green banner should make up 60% or more of the school canteen menu. It’s advised that you fill the menu with as many of these foods as possible.

Green foods include cereal foods, wholegrain/wholemeal breads, vegetables, fruit, lean meats, reduced-fat dairy and water.

Amber Foods  

Hesitation is the key for foods listed under the Amber banner. These foods should make up a maximum of 40% of the school menu (less than 40% is preferred) and should only be distributed in small serves.

Amber foods include savoury foods like pastries, pizzas and bread-based meals, processed meats, full-fat dairy products, dried fruit and 99% fruit juices.   

Red Foods

As you may suspect, foods listed as Red should be left off any school canteen menu. Most of these foods are full-fat items and are not considered healthy for children.

Red foods include deep-fried foods, sweet sandwich fillings (jam, honey, sprinkles), confectionery, soft drinks, caffeine drinks or flavoured milk, and chocolate coated ice-creams.

Essential Equipment for your Canteen

Now that you know the type of foods your canteen should be offering, it’s easier to outfit your kitchen, kitchen staff and serving areas. Outfitting your canteen with the right equipment will make food preparation and cleaning up easier.

Some essential equipment every canteen should have include:

  • Stainless steel benches for food preparation
  • Food warming equipment to ensure food stays at its recommended temperature
  • Commercial grade dishwashers
  • Plenty of refrigeration equipment
  • Disposable gloves and cleaning equipment
  • Kitchenware items including knives, cutting boards, mixing bowls etc (be sure to use colour coded kitchen equipment to avoid cross-contaminating food)
  • As most of the people working in a canteen are volunteers, you may need to supply kitchen or chefs clothing

Healthy School Canteen Recipes for 2022

When planning a menu, emphasis should be given to those foods in the Green list.

If you visit the Western Australian School Canteen Association website you can find a list of recipes that are nutritionally appropriate and have been implemented by some schools already. Some of the recipes include:

  • Chicken noodle salad (green)
  • Chicken, cheese and spinach Turkish wrap (green)
  • Ham, cheese and spinach puffs (green)
  • Chicken and veggie quesadillas (green)
  • Roasted veggie and fetta Turkish melt (green)
  • Banana or mango smoothie (green)
  • Waffles (green)