Using the school canteen or tuckshop
If your child is buying lunch from the canteen or tuckshop, it’s a good idea to talk with your child about which foods and drinks are healthy and which aren’t. You can also help them choose the healthiest food on the menu.
At some schools you can order lunch in advance – often online – from the canteen or an outside supplier. If your child wants to do a lunch order, it’s also a good chance to talk with them about healthy food choices.
Choosing healthy food from the canteen or tuckshop
Here are healthy options and ideas. If they’re available at your school canteen or tuckshop, these are the options to go for.
Sandwiches, rolls and wraps
Encourage your child to choose a multigrain, wholemeal or high-fibre white sandwich, roll or wrap. Healthy fillings include salad and protein like chicken, beef, fish, cheese, eggs or lentil patties.
- Fresh salads
- Rice paper rolls
- Fresh soups with wholemeal bread rolls on the side
- Pasta or lasagne with fresh tomato, bolognaise or vegetable-based sauce
- Burgers with meat, vegetable or lentil patties and salad fillings
- Lentil and vegetable hotpot
- Vegetable, chicken or beef curry with rice
- Rice or noodles with meat and vegetables
- Fruit salads or whole fruit
- Reduced-fat yoghurt
- Air-popped popcorn (not cooked in oil)
- Reduced-fat cheese with pita or wholemeal crackers
- Vegetable sticks with dip
- Boiled eggs
- Raisin or fruit bread
It’s a good idea to pack a bottle with tap water for your child to drink and refill throughout the day. This is always healthier and cheaper than buying drinks from the canteen. But if your child wants to buy a drink from the canteen, encourage them to choose water or reduced-fat milk and soy drinks.
If you have a healthy food environment at home, it helps your child learn about making better choices when they’re eating away from home.
Unhealthy canteen or tuckshop food and drinks
‘Sometimes’ foods are low in nutrition and high in sugar, saturated fat and/or salt.
These foods aren’t healthy for your child. They give your child a short energy boost that can leave them feeling tired for the rest of the day. They can also lead to unhealthy weight gain if your child eats too much of them.
‘Sometimes’ foods include:
- all deep-fried foods, including chips, wedges, chicken nuggets and dim sims
- hot pastries like sausage rolls and pies
- cakes, slices, croissants and sweet breads like donuts
- chocolates, lollies and packets of chips
- soft drinks, cordial, flavoured or sweetened water, sports waters, sports drinks, energy drinks, flavoured milks, iced tea, breakfast drinks and fruit juice
- coffee drinks – mocha, latte, cappuccino and so on – and coffee-flavoured milk drinks.
Vending machines at school
Schools sometimes use vending machines to provide food and drinks. Food in vending machines is often low in nutrition and high in sugar, saturated fat and/or salt – for example, soft drinks, lollies, chips and chocolate bars.
It’s best to send your child to school with enough healthy food for the day, including an afternoon snack if they need it. This might reduce the temptation to buy snacks from the vending machine. Or you might like to look at the food in the vending machine with your child and see whether there are any healthy options.
Nutrition policies at school canteens or tuckshops
Many school canteens or tuckshops have a nutrition policy that guides what foods they offer.
Some schools have developed their policies based on the 2013 National Healthy School Canteens – Guidelines for healthy food and drinks supplied in school canteens. Others base their policies on state nutrition guidelines for school canteens.
If you’re concerned about the nutritional quality of the food sold at your child’s canteen or tuckshop, you could ask your school about its canteen policy.
Safe foods at school canteens or tuckshops
All school canteens must follow careful food preparation procedures. Canteen providers must take proper steps to make sure foods are safe for children to eat.
Let your child know that when they buy food from the canteen, they should eat it straight away or put it in the fridge if there is one. These steps help your child avoid food poisoning.