Canteen Manager Training Part 1

Food Categories

Page last updated: 08 October 2013

The NHSC food categorisation system consists of three categories.

  • Foods categorised as Green – able to be sold without assessment.
  • Foods categorised as Amber – assessment required to determine if they can be sold.Foods categorised as Amber will need to be assessed against criteria before determining if they are suitable for sale. Foods that do not meet the Amber criteria will be categorised as Red and should not be sold.
  • Foods categorised as Red – should not be sold.

You will notice that there is no distinct line between foods categorised as Green and Amber. This is because there are many foods (mostly combined foods such as sandwiches, pizza, sushi etc.) that will not fit clearly into the Green or Amber category. This is what the term ‘traffic light spectrum’ refers to. The emphasis in the NHSC categorisation system is to move foods categorised as Amber closer to the Green end of the spectrum at every opportunity. This will be discussed in more detail later, but first let’s have a look at what types of foods are categorised as Green, Amber and Red.

The Green Category - Always on the Canteen Menu
Encourage and promote these foods and drinks as tasty, good value choices:
  • Provide them every day
  • Present as the main choice

Because they:
  • Offer a wide range of nutrients
  • Are generally low in saturated fats and/or added sugars and/or salt
In the Green category we have the foods and drinks that should be encouraged and promoted as the best choices for the school canteen menu.

They should be on the menu every day and presented as the main choice on the menu because they offer a wide range of nutrients, and they are generally lower in saturated fats and/or added sugars and/or salt (saturated fat and salt have been associated with the onset of chronic disease, added sugar contributes kilo joules without any nutrients).

The Green Category

1. Breads, whole grain breakfast cereals (without added confectionery), lower in added sugar, higher fibre
2. Dairy foods: low or reduced fat milk plain and flavoured, yoghurt, and cheese
3. Fruits (not dried); fresh, frozen or canned
4. Vegetables (including legumes): fresh, frozen, canned

Foods and drinks typically categorised as Green are listed as below.
1. Breads, whole grain breakfast cereals (without added confectionery), lower in added sugar, higher fibre
2. Low and reduced-fat flavoured milks, fruit yoghurts and custards may contain intense (artificial) sweeteners.
3. Fruits (not dried); fresh, frozen or canned
4. Vegetables (including legumes): fresh, frozen, canned
5. Unprocessed lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts*
6. Rice, pasta, plain noodles
7. Water, plain and nothing added that is Tap, spring, mineral or sparkling water

Note:
1. Participants need to check their school policy regarding foods containing allergens, e.g. nuts.
2. Suggested serve size for milk drinks is 375mL. However, canteen managers may sell larger sizes if they wish. (Exception is coffee-style drinks – see Amber foods and drinks slide.)

The Amber Category

These foods contain some nutrients but generally higher in saturated fat, salt and added sugar.If eaten regularly or in large amounts, foods in Amber category may contribute to excess energy being consumed. These foods should be provide in smaller serve sizes

Foods and drinks categorised as Amber include commercial products that may contain valuable nutrients but are generally higher in saturated fat, salt and sugar (or a combination of these). If eaten regularly or in large amounts they may contribute to excess energy being consumed.

These foods and drinks should:
  • not take over the menu
  • not be promoted at the expense of foods categorised as Green
  • be provided in smaller serve sizes, and
  • every opportunity should be taken to improve the nutritional value of these foods by ‘Greening’ them.

Note: An example of ‘Greening’ a food is a crumbed chicken burger where the white roll is replaced with a wholemeal roll, reduced-fat mayonnaise is used and extra vegetables are added for a healthier meal. Each step moves the food closer to the Green end of the spectrum. ‘Greening’ the menu will be discussed later.

Food and drinks typically categorised as Amber are listed as below.

Foods categorised as Amber will need to be assessed in some way before deciding if they may be sold.
Some foods and drinks will be assessed according to:
  • Fat content – e.g. full-fat dairy products
  • % of fruit – e.g. fruit juice and vegetable juice
  • Serve size – juice

Note :
  • Coffee milk drinks:
May be sold in secondary schools. Size restricted to 375mL to cap caffeine consumption. Includes coffee flavoured milk as well as milk containing caffeine – as it is difficult to tell the difference between the two. For all other milk drinks the suggested serve size is 375mL. However, canteen managers may sell larger sizes if they wish. A smaller size may be more appropriate in primary school.
  • Rationale for categorising dried fruit and fruit juice as Amber: In line with the AGHE it is recommended not to eat more than 1 serve of dried fruit a day and encourage the consumption of fresh fruit. In addition, dried fruit and fruit leathers are sticky and therefore adhere to the teeth. For this reason they are categorised as Amber foods and the serve size should be restricted. They are best eaten as part of a meal.
  • Fruit juice is not a good source of fibre and should be limited to encourage the consumption of fresh fruit.

Need to meet criteria:
  • Lean processed meats
  • Savoury pastry and bread products
  • Ready-to-eat pasta/rice/noodle dishes
  • Ready-to-eat hot mixed dishes
  • Oven-baked potato products
  • Snack food bars (breakfast bars, cereal bars, fruit filled bars)
  • Some un-iced cakes, muffins, sweet biscuits
  • Savoury snackfoods, biscuits, crackers and crisp breads
  • Low or reduced-fat ice creams, milk-based ices and dairy desserts
The types of foods and drinks that will need to be assessed against nutrient criteria to see if they fit into the Amber category.

Foods and drinks that do not meet all of the Amber nutrient criteria are categorised as Red and should not be sold.