Guide to counting foods and drinks in menu assessments

Health services
Plates of different meals in a display case.

Use this guide to understand how to count food and drink items when doing a retail outlet menu assessment in FoodChecker.

This will ensure the percentages of GREEN, AMBER and RED food and drinks are calculated accurately according to the Victorian Government’s Healthy Choices guidelines.

Counting guide

The Healthy Choices counting method has been updated to simplify the process in all Healthy Choices settings. The new counting guide video and document will step organisations through how to count the food and drink items in their retail environment.  

Use this video to understand how to count food and drink items when doing a retail outlet menu assessment in FoodChecker. 

This will ensure the percentages of GREEN, AMBER and RED food and drinks are calculated accurately according to the Victorian Government’s Healthy Choices guidelines and Healthy choices: policy directive for Victorian public health services.  

View video transcript

[Text displayed on screen] Counting Guide.  

Counting foods and drinks in your retail outlet is an essential part of being able to input information into Food Checker accurately and receive correct results.  

Follow along to find out how best to count the items in your retail outlet. Some organizations start by entering their recipes into Food Checker.  

Others start by identifying and counting all products in their retail outlet and adding these to a Food Checker menu assessment. To help you with counting, take photos in the retail outlet or get a copy of the menu.  

Overall, each time food appears in a unique location in your outlet, each different variety, flavor or type of food item is counted once. It doesn’t matter how many times it appears on the shelf, items presented in the Bay Marie or as ready to serve meals should be counted once, regardless of how many spaces the item takes up.  

For example, the fried rice is shown in two trays and serves many people, but as it’s only one variety, it is added to Food Checker once. And counted as one option.  

If there are two varieties, for example one vegetarian and one with meat, each variety would count as one item. Each filling available in a sandwich bar should also be counted once. Items such as bread wraps and rolls should be counted for each variety.  

This outlet has bread rolls in three varieties whole meal, white and multigrain. Therefore, three items would be included in the food checker assessment. Each variety counts as one option.  

In this sandwich bar, the lettuce appears in two containers but is counted as one option and therefore only entered into food checker once.  

There are two containers of cheese in this sandwich bar. One is reduced fat, and one is regular fat, meaning that these count as two separate options. Food items in fridges and readymade items should also be counted once for each time they appear.  

For example, there are five strawberry yogurts. These count as one option and therefore are added to food checker once there are. Also vanilla yogurts.  

These also count as one option. The four fruit salads are also counted as one option. Each flavour or variety is only counted once, not every time it appears.  

Snack foods available for purchase are counted once for each flavour, variety or type. Each time you have a different snack flavour or variety, this should be reflected in food checker.  

For example, with these chip displays, one has many packets of original chips, and they are counted once. The other chip display has five different flavours and therefore is counted as five different items.  

Items available on a menu board should also be reflected in your food checker assessment to avoid double counting. These items should only be counted when they are not represented elsewhere in the retail outlet.  

For example, the jacket potatoes are visible on the Bain Marie, so they don’t need to be counted again from the menu board. The Thai beef salad on the menu board, however, is not visible in the retail outlet, so it should be added to food checker. Drinks fridges like vending machines use. Different approach.  

Each front facing item in the drink’s fridge should be counted once. This is because drinks fridges and vending machines have a structured layout and are automatically refilled in this layout which allows them to be easily counted.  

For example, the bottles of water in this fridge take up 27 positions. Therefore, they are added to Food Checker and copied to show 27 bottles of water.  

Now you know how to count items in your retail outlet. Use food checker to complete your assessment.  

Contact us for dedicated support. Our expert dietitians and nutritionists are ready to help.  

[Text displayed on screen] 

Frequently asked questions

What if there is a menu, but the foods and drinks aren’t visible?

If foods and drinks are not physically on display but are listed on a menu, they are just counted once per menu item listed, or as listed in the above menu examples. This would also apply when items are made to order, but not actually put out on display e.g. fried food and other hot dishes/meals.

How do I assess drinks fridges that are out of sight (e.g below the counter), or where the door is covered by a poster/decal so the drinks aren’t visible?

Similar to above, the drinks are just counted once per type and size available if they are not actually seen by the customer. You do not need to count number of positions if the customer cannot see the drinks displayed in the fridge. They do still need to be counted however as they are available for purchase.

How do I count for added tomato sauce with pies, or sugar in coffee?

Items are counted as sold. If a customer has to request sugar or syrups in their coffee, or if there is a condiments station with tomato or soy sauce to add to hot items, these additions are not factored into the classification. If a roast beef dish automatically comes with gravy, for example, then it would be counted in the classification.

For more information please phone 1300 22 52 88 or email

Except where otherwise indicated, the images in this document show models and illustrative settings only, and do not necessarily depict actual services, facilities or recipients of services. This document may contain images of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In this document, ‘Aboriginal’ refers to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Koori/Koorie’ is retained when part of the title of a report, program or quotation. Copyright © State of Victoria 2016

Written and reviewed by dietitians and nutritionists at Nutrition Australia, with support from the Victorian Government.

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