Days to celebrate in the canteen

Creativity is the key to making healthy food appealing to students. Special events are a great opportunity to provide themed foods and drinks, with interesting names and fun presentation.

Consider the demographics of your school and celebrate cultural or religious holidays which may be particularly relevant for your students (e.g. Chinese New Year, Jewish or Muslim holidays). Here are some general ideas.


Strawberries on sticks with yoghurt and coconut

Valentine’s Day (14 February)

  • Red or pink food and drinks: offer strawberry smoothies, red grapes, watermelon slices, red jelly with diced strawberries, raspberry wholemeal mini muffins.
  • Watermelon Whizzes: puree seedless watermelon in a blender. Pour into small plastic cups and freeze. Serve with a small spoon.
  • Be My Valentine: thread strawberries (minus husk) onto an icy pole stick, dip in plain or strawberry reduced fat yoghurt and roll in desiccated coconut (see picture). Great fresh or frozen.
  • Valentine’s Meal Deal: package a ham and salad roll, with strawberry halves and low fat yoghurt served in a cup or square ice cream cone, and a strawberry smoothie, served with a pretty red flower.
  • Gimmicky names: e.g. Heart Warming Hamburger.

Chinese New Year

(Dates vary, from late January to early March. Check calendar for dates)

Noodle box

  • Stir-fried noodles with vegetables, served in a noodle box with chopsticks.
  • Chicken and corn soup.
  • Egg rolls, steamed vegetable spring rolls or steamed dumplings.

Shrove Tuesday

(Dates vary from February to March. Check calendar for dates)

Hold a special pancake breakfast or offer sweet or savoury hot pancakes for lunch (use a healthy recipe), e.g. wholemeal pancakes with sliced banana or mixed berries with yoghurt, or chicken, tomato and reduced fat cheese.


Fruit cups

School Clean Up Day

(Friday before Clean Up Australia Day in March)

  • Reduce packaging waste and promote recycling in your canteen on this day.
  • Link in with environmental lessons in the classroom.
  • Encourage all students to use recycling bins to dispose of their litter.
  • Serve more over-the-counter snacks using paper napkins as plates.
  • Use edible packaging to serve snacks e.g. square ice cream cones to serve fresh fruit or veggie sticks with dip.
  • Use paper patty cases instead of plastic bags to serve snacks like popcorn or dried fruit.
  • Ask students to bring their own cup for soup.

Dried fruit snack

St Patrick’s Day (17 March)

  • Serve food and drinks that are green in colour – green grapes in green jelly, canteen made garlic bread with parsley, green apple mini muffins, pesto pasta, dip and sticks using cucumber, green capsicum, celery and snow peas as the veggie sticks.
  • Decorate the canteen with a green theme – cut outs of four leaf clovers, green streamers or green balloons. Get the students involved by advertising for volunteers to help decorate the canteen.

Harmony Day (21 March)

A day to celebrate all Australians, regardless of heritage or cultural background.

Fried rice

  • On this day, decorate the canteen with flags from around the world, especially include the Aboriginal flag.
  • To celebrate in the canteen, you could design a special Harmony Day menu.
  • Try these inexpensive, student-friendly recipes to celebrate Australia’s cultural diversity:
    • kangaroo burgers (Australian)
    • spaghetti and meatballs (Italian)
    • mango lassi (Indian)
    • pork rice paper rolls or vegetable fried rice (Chinese).



(Dates vary from March to April. Check calendar for dates)

  • Decorated eggs: sell hard boiled eggs as snacks, their shells decorated with food dye.
  • Bunny Buns: mini hot cross buns, with reduced fat cream cheese, sliced banana and honey.
  • Hot cross buns: select wholemeal varieties or mini sized hot cross buns. Serve with a thin spread of margarine or ricotta mixed with a splash of vanilla essence

Anzac Day (25 April)

Serve food and drinks that are green and yellow in colour. See St Patrick’s Day in March section for green food ideas, or try the following gold and green ideas:

Corn cobs

  • Golden corn on a cob
  • Juicy green grapes set in yellow jelly
  • Gold and green mini muffins, using reduced fat cheese, green capsicum and tomato
  • Freshly diced green apple or pear served with golden custard


National Heart Week

Visit for further information.

Meat patties

  • Red food and drinks: offer special foods that are red in colour (refer to Valentine’s Day in February section).
  • Healthy Heart Burger: fish fillet, mashed avocado and salad in a toasted wholemeal bun.
  • Food for the heart: salmon and mixed vegetable frittata, tuna and sweet potato patties or warming minestrone soup.

Shavuot (mid May)

Dairy foods are eaten traditionally on this Jewish celebration day.


See Healthy Bones Week in August section for dairy food ideas.


Start of winter

  • Winter Warmer Day: launch new winter menu items such as canteen made lasagne, chunky veggie and pasta soup, stewed apple with reduced fat custard.
  • BYO Soup Mug Day: soups could include pumpkin, minestrone, or chicken and corn.

Pizza faces

Red Nose Day (last Friday in June)

  • Red food and drinks: refer to Valentine’s Day in February section.
  • Red Nose Pizzas: garnish pizza faces with cherry tomato halves as ‘red noses’.


Healthy Bones Week

Visit for further information.

Celery sticks with cream cheese and sultanas

Offer dairy-based snacks, foods and drinks, such as:

  • Reduced fat cheese cubes or slices.
  • Ants on a Log: celery sticks filled with reduced fat cream cheese and sultanas across the top.
  • Smoothies e.g. Building Bones Bananarama Smoothie, Super Strong Strawberry Smoothie.
  • Reduced fat yoghurts with 100% fruit coulis.


Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah

To celebrate Jewish New Year, serve sliced apples with a dollop of honey. This sweet treat symbolises the wish for a sweet new year.


Fruit and vegetable sticks

National Nutrition Week

Visit for further information.

Check out what Nutrition Australia is doing and get involved by choosing some healthy themed recipes for the school canteen.

Halloween (31 October)

  • Decorate the canteen with pretend cobwebs and bat cut-outs (buy cobwebs from a costume shop and make bats using black A4 paper and a stencil).
  • Jelly with purple grapesServe pumpkin-based recipes and ‘scary titled’ foods, such as:
    • Spooky Pumpkin Soup
    • Pumpkin Pita Bread Pizzas with mozzarella, rosemary and pine nuts.
    • Eye Popping Soup: button mushrooms floating in tomato soup.
    • Scary Eyeball Jelly: jelly with purple grapes.

Eid al-Adha

(Dates vary, scheduled for October in 2013 and 2014, check calendar for dates)

Eid al-Adha is a significant annual Islamic observance for Muslim communities. Red meat meals are traditionally served, and families come together for three days of celebration. The Eid al-Adha festival has a special atmosphere of peace, respect, giving and receiving.

  • Serve foods made with lean lamb, beef or goat.
  • Meat and vegetable curries or spiced minced meat kebabs are healthy options to sell for this event. For curries that use coconut milk, swap to coconut flavoured evaporated milk to reduce the overall fat content of the meal.


Start of summer

Hold a ‘Cool Summer’ or a ‘Groovy Smoothie’ day and offer different smoothie mixes:


  • Bananarama: banana and strawberries.
  • A Day in the Orchards: peaches, plums and pears.
  • Life’s a Beach: coconut and mango.


  • Christmas Lovers’ sandwich: lean ham or turkey, roast vegetables, cranberry sauce.
  • Plum muffins: using canned plums instead of the traditional plum pudding.

Top tips for success

  • Promote the theme days at least two weeks in advance.
  • Promote through the student notices, school newsletter and on A4 posters, or on the notice boards at the school canteen.
  • Ask teachers to assist with the promotion by reminding students in the classroom and at assembly.

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