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Healthier school tuck shops

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The majority of school tuck shops sell a wide assortment of chips, fizzy drinks, sweets, chocolates and pies, with little, if any room for healthier alternatives. Here are some ideas within each food group to help develop a healthier tuck-shop menu:



Carbohydrates (bread, rice, cereals, porridge, potatoes, crackers, pasta, mealies and sweet potatoes) break down to give energy and so they provide the necessary fuel for children. A serving of carbohydrate-rich food should be planned at each meal of the day.

Carbohydrates also contain fibre and many of the B vitamins. Wholegrain varieties of starchy foods such as bran-rich cereals, oats, seed bread and brown rice, should be planned whenever possible, as they contain more fibre and other nutrients than white or refined starchy foods. They also help keep children fuller for longer.


Healthy carbohydrate tips

  • Children should start the day with a whole wheat breakfast cereal or porridge, such as bran flakes, Weetbix or oats porridge
  • School lunchbox should have a whole wheat or low GI bread sandwich or roll with a filling
  • Provitas with cheese or peanut butter are a better choice than sweet biscuits
  • Baked potatoes with their skin, sweet potatoes and brown rice are excellent high fibre choices.


The healthier choices for the tuck-shop

The less healthy choices

Low GI bread e.g. Albany low GI seed bread with a protein-rich filling

Regular white bread, hamburger rolls, hot dog rolls

Whole wheat pita bread – large cut into quarters with a protein-rich filling.

Croissants, Chelsea buns, doughnuts

Mealies or sweet corn – boiled




Brown rice cakes

White rice cakes

Oven-baked chips

‘Slap chips’

Baked potatoes with a protein-rich filling

Pies, sausage rolls, vetkoek

High fibre muffins

Bought muffins

Digestive biscuits

Sugar-coated or other sweet biscuits

Ouma Nutri rusks

Bought rusks



Breakfast bars



Protein-rich foods


Proteins (meat, chicken, eggs, fish, soya) help to build and grow little bodies. They are a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals, such as iron, selenium, zinc and B vitamins.

These protein-rich foods should be planned with each meal, if possible. However, some kinds of meat are very fatty, and the type of fat found in the meat is not healthy – it is called saturated fat and it is known to raise blood cholesterol levels. Having high blood cholesterol increases the chances of developing heart disease. The healthier choices of protein are meat with little fat, skinless chicken and soya.

Fish, whether it is fresh, frozen or canned is an excellent source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. The oily fish include pilchards, mackerel, sardines and salmon - they are rich in a special kind of fat, called omega 3, which can help keep our hearts and brains healthy. 


Healthy ways with protein:

  • A boiled or poached egg is a great breakfast before school and can also be packed for a lunchbox.
  • Biltong is a low fat protein treat!
  • Fat should be removed from meat and the skin from chicken before cooking.
  • High fat meat products such as sausages, pies and salami should be restricted.
  • Pilchards and sardines make wonderful sandwich fillings and fish cakes.


The healthier choices for the tuck-shop

The less healthy choices

Skinless chicken e.g. chicken from a roast with no skin

Fried or battered chicken or fish with skin

Lean cold meats such as ham and roast beef

Fatty meat, streaky bacon, fatty hamburger patties

Mince or bolognaise with lots of added vegetables (serve with pasta or as a filling for pitas or baked potatoes)

Fatty cold meats such as polony or salami

Lean hamburger patties


Mini beef or chicken kebabs


Baked beans (filling for pita or baked potato)

Pies, sausage rolls and quiches

Lean beef biltong

Fatty biltong and dry wors

Boiled eggs


Tuna (mix with low oil mayonnaise and serve with baked potato / pitas / sandwiches)


Pilchards (use for making fish cakes or as a filling)



Vegetables and fruits


Vegetables and fruits can help protect the body from illness. They are the most vitamin and mineral dense foods of all the food groups, making them the wisest choice for a child’s optimal health.

Different vegetables and fruits contain different nutrients making eating a variety each day vitally important. Brightly coloured vegetables and fruits such as butternut, pumpkin, carrot, spinach, peaches and pawpaw are mainly rich in vitamin A, while citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables can substantially boost vitamin C intake. And that is just the tip of the goodness – all vegetables and fruits contain so many other good nutrients, called phytochemicals that the scientists are only now beginning to discover and link to all sorts of health benefits.


Encouraging children to eat more vegetables and fruit

  • For breakfast - blend fruit into a smoothie by whizzing up a banana with some frozen mixed berries and some yoghurt
  • Squeeze 2 oranges and get children to drink this before starting school
  • A serving of fruit should be included in every lunchbox – an apple, a small bunch of grapes, a banana or a naartjie
  • A fruit kebab is a fun way with fruit - pineapple, melon, strawberries and grapes can be placed on a skewer
  • Raw vegetables such as carrots, baby tomatoes and sticks of cucumber are delicious with a dip, such as hummus or cottage cheese.
  • A homemade soup with a variety of vegetables taken to school in a flask is a delicious winter-warmer
  • Vegetables should be added to soups, mince dishes, stews and even pizza
  • Frozen mixed vegetables are as healthy as the fresh varieties – sweet corn is a treat
  • Baked beans on toast is itself a healthy, balanced meal, but beans, peas and lentils can also be added to soups, casseroles and mince.


Some vegetable and fruit ideas tuck-shop

Pick n Pay prepared soups e.g. minestrone and tomato (winter)

Fruit smoothies – need a blender / liquidiser

Dried fruit pieces – can make a kebab out of different dried fruit

Dried fruit rolls

Raisins (sachets of raisins in SAD blue box) / peanuts and raisins

Fruit bars

200ml cartons of fruit juice


Dairy products

Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are a great source of protein, as well as being rich in calcium and vitamins A and B12. Calcium is a mineral that is very important for a child’s health, as it helps to keep their bones and teeth strong. 3 servings of calcium-rich foods should be included into a child’s diet daily:


1 serving =    a cup of milk

a tub of yoghurt              

a matchbox-size block of cheese


Getting children to enjoy more dairy

  • Start the day with milk or yoghurt with cereal or porridge.
  • Porridge should be prepared with milk rather than water – it’s delicious and nutritious!
  • A glass of milk makes a great snack – it can be flavoured with Milo or Nesquik.
  • Yoghurt, drinking yoghurt or a block of cheese is a great addition to a lunchbox.
  • Cheese grated over a pasta dish in the evening can help boost a child’s calcium intake.


The healthier choices for the tuck-shop

The less healthy choices

Tetrapaks of full cream and low fat milk

Large ice-creams

Flavoured drinking yoghurts

Full cream milkshakes

Flavoured milks


Tubs of fruit yoghurt


Sachets of fruit yoghurt – these can be frozen


Cheese wedges


Pre-packed cheese portions


Sippahh straws for flavouring milk


Milkshakes made from low-fat ice cream and milk



The ‘treats’ - sweets, chocolates and chips

Since most of these ‘treats’ have a high fat and/or sugar content, the following guidelines are recommended:

  • Children should only be allowed to buy these treats once a week, e.g. on a Friday. This rule should also apply to foods brought from home.
  • Only small portions e.g. bite size chocolates (20g portions) or 15g boxes e.g. Smarties should be available to the children.
  • 30g packets of crisps can be available once a week.
  • These treats should be sold on a one per child basis.



Water should be the drink of choice offered to children of all ages, irrespective of whether they are playing sport or not. However, be careful of flavoured waters – they can contain as much sugar as sweetened fizzy drinks. Energy drinks are not recommended for primary school children, before or even after sport, as they have excessive glucose content.


Suitable drinks for the tuck-shop

Inappropriate drinks

Water – still or sparkling - unflavoured

Sugary fizzy and energy drinks e.g. Colas, Fantas, Energade, Powerade

Slush puppies made with pure fruit juice

Slush puppies made with sugary mixtures

200ml fruit juice cartons

Drinks containing stimulants or herbal ingredients e.g. guarana

Drinking yoghurts and flavoured milks

Energy drinks e.g. Red Bull

Hot chocolate, Nesquik or Milo made with milk



For further information, please contact the Pick n Pay Health Hotline registered dietitian on 0800 11 22 88 or healthhotline@pnp.co.za. To find a registered dietitian in your area, visit the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) website at www.adsa.org.za.

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