NSW Fresh Tastes @ School

The Fresh Tastes @ School NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy outlines the type and frequency of food and drink permitted for sale through canteens in NSW government schools. It also supports the Nutrition in Schools Policy, which identifies that any school program or activity relating to or involving food and drink should promote healthy eating and good nutrition to students.

However, determining what’s allowed and what’s not can be complicated in the school canteen. Healthy Kids is here to help you wade your way through the guidelines so you can make the best choices for your canteen menu.

Here’s a quick video snapshot on Fresh Tastes @ School and how it works in the canteen:

Where to start?

The best place to read about Fresh Tastes @ School is in the Canteen Menu Planning Guide published by NSW Health. Here you’ll learn how to place foods in a colour spectrum (see below). The spectrum goes from GREEN to AMBER to RED. GREEN foods should make up the majority of your menu. You can include include AMBER foods on your menu, but select them carefully and watch portion size. As for RED foods, Fresh Tastes in NSW only allows them to be served twice per term throughout the entire school, so we recommend planning your RED days with the principal and P&C/P&F to ensure your school stays within this limit. RED foods should not be a regular menu item.  Here’s a simple flyer you can print that shows which foods are GREEN, AMBER or RED.

Choosing foods that fit Fresh Tastes @ School

There are so many food products on the market, that choosing items for your menu that fit within the Fresh Tastes @ School policy can be complicated. You can get in touch with us for support on choosing foods, when building your menu and to check that certain products meet the guidelines.

The ‘Occasional Food’ criteria (below), or the Occasional Food Calculator  can also help you determine whether a prepackaged food is AMBER or RED.

Planning your menu

If you need help planning your menu to ensure it fits the guidelines you may want to start by looking at some sample menus – these examples show how important it is for GREEN foods to dominate the menu, with AMBER food appearing less frequently and RED foods not at all.

If you’re looking to change or update an existing menu to make it more nutritious, you may like to start with a menu review (free for Healthy Kids members). This will provide information on how to ensure your menu is nutritious and compliant with the guidelines.

Get inspired by checking out our canteen and recipes, and like our Facebook page so you can receive updates, menu ideas and inspiration for your canteen.

Need further help? Contact us.

Understanding GREEN, AMBER and RED foods

What is a GREEN food? Generally, foods in the GREEN segment:

  • Are a good source of nutrients
  • Contain less saturated fat and/or added sugar and/or salt
  • Help to avoid an intake of excess kilojoules

What are examples of GREEN foods?

  • All fruit, legumes and vegetables
  • Lean meat, fish and lean poultry
  • Breads and wholegrain cereals
  • Low fat milks, yoghurts and cheeses
  • Water

What is an AMBER food?

AMBER foods should be selected carefully because they have moderate levels of saturated fat and/or added sugar and/or salt and can, in large serve sizes, contribute excess kilojoules. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if a food is AMBER or RED. That’s when you need to look at the nutrition information on a product label and compare it with the Occasional Food Criteria Table below. If a product doesn’t have a label, contact the Healthy Kids team for support.

What are examples of AMBER foods?

  • Full fat dairy foods
  • Some savoury commercial products
  • Processed meats
  • Margarine, mayonnaise and oil
  • Spreads, sauces and gravy
  • Some snack food bars
  • Some savoury snack foods and biscuits
  • Some cakes, muffins and sweet biscuits
  • Some ice creams, milk based ice confections and dairy desserts
  • Some ice blocks, fruit based and ice confections
  • Some fruit juices and sugar sweetened drinks

What does ‘select carefully’ mean?

AMBER foods must not dominate the menu. Ideally there should be a majority of GREEN foods available every day, with a restricted variety of AMBER foods for sale.

Select small to moderate rather than large serve sizes to avoid excess kilojoule consumption. If you think a small serve won’t satisfy some of your customers, think about combining it with a GREEN menu items such as a salad, bread roll or piece of fruit.

What proportion of AMBER to GREEN foods on the canteen menu?

The answer is that there is no specific rule governing the percentage of GREEN and AMBER foods on the canteen menu. Fresh Tastes states that schools should ‘fill the menu’ with GREEN foods and not let AMBER foods ‘dominate the menu’. It is up to individual schools as to how they go about this. Below are some strategies to help you develop the menu that best suits your school.

Combine AMBER with GREEN

You may like to encourage the intake of healthier GREEN foods such as vegetables by teaming them up with your AMBER foods on the menu. For example, team chicken tenders or nuggets with a side salad or crunch veggie sticks. You could also mix veggies into pasta sauces and rice dishes, and add salad to all your sandwiches and burgers.

Combo deals

Sell AMBER foods with GREEN foods. For example, sell a reduced-fat pie with a reduced-fat flavoured milk and a piece of fruit.

Promote GREEN foods

There is no point having a menu that is predominately GREEN if the majority of sales are from the AMBER category. Ensure that those GREEN foods are presenting enticingly and promote them.

• Promote the GREEN foods you sell through advertisements in the school newsletter or on notice boards.

• Use new packaging methods to help make GREEN foods look more appealing and place the GREEN foods at eye level in the fridge or on the front counter.

• Price healthier GREEN foods at a lower cost than an AMBER item. Increase the mark up of AMBER foods to compensate for lower prices of GREEN foods to ensure your costs are covered.

Restricted days

Have a variety of GREEN foods available every day, but have a restricted variety of AMBER foods for sale. Some schools remove all hot AMBER foods during summer and serve only fresh sandwiches, wraps and salads. Madang Public School does this on a Friday to coincide with sport. The school found that it was more convenient for students travelling to sporting venues to have a cold sandwich or a wrap rather than a hot lunch. 

Serve size

Care needs to be taken to avoid serving large portions of AMBER foods, for example chicken nuggets, meatballs, hash browns or fried rice. If you feel that a small serving wouldn’t satisfy the hunger of a student, then the foods should be combined with a salad, bread roll, fruit or milk.

The Healthy Kids Buyers’ Guide

If you are after some ideas on prepackaged products that meet the guidelines, the Healthy Kids Buyers’ Guide lists GREEN and AMBER products that are placed at the healthier end of the Canteen Menu Planner.

NSW occasional food criteria

Before you can sell a prepackaged food in your canteen, you need to know if the product meets the Fresh Tastes @ School guidelines.  The ‘Occasional Food Criteria’ chart (below) explains the levels of saturated fat, sodium, energy (kilojoules) and fibre that are required for the food to be classified as AMBER. To use the chart, determine which category the food falls into, then check the nutrition information panel (NIP) for the specific levels of nutrients. If you need help, call us on 02 9876 1300 and we’ll assess the product for you.


The Ready Reckoner is an additional resource to help choose GREEN and AMBER foods for the menu.