Menu planning guidelines for long day care

Early childhood services Food industry

The menu planning guidelines for long day care assist your long day care centre to plan a nutritious and balanced menu for 1–5 year old children.

The menu planning guidelines includes three key sections:

  • The menu planning guidelines – outline what to include and what to leave off a healthy menu for long day care.
  • The ingredient quantity guide –  helps you work out how much food you’ll need for the number of children you’re cooking for.
  • The menu planning checklist for long day care – can be used to check your menu on the spot and identify areas for improvement.

The document contains suggested resources to support you with your menu planning.

The menu planning guidelines for long day care are based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines and are consistent with the recommendations in the Australian Government’s Get Up & Grow: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for Early Childhood.

Following the guidelines will also help your long day care service towards achieving:

  • Quality Area 2 of the National Quality Standard
  • Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations
  • the Achievement Program’s Healthy Eating and Oral Health benchmark
  • the Smiles 4 Miles award

Guidelines Snapshot

The guidelines specify the minimum number of children’s serves from each food group that should be provided to 1–5 year old children each day in long day care.

They also contain recommendations for feeding infants under 12 months of age.

The menu planning guidelines in a snapshot:

  • Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea should provide 1-5 year old children with around half of their recommended daily intake from the five ‘core’ food groups (as recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines and Australia Guide to Healthy Eating). The five core food groups include:
    • fruit
    • vegetables and legumes
    • grain (cereal) foods
    • milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives
    • lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans
  • Sources of added fat, sugar and salt should be limited.
  • Water should be the main drink provided.
  • Menus that include breakfast and/or a late afternoon snack will need to offer additional foods and drinks based on the five core food groups.
  • The guidelines also provide guidance on catering for food variety, allergies, and more.

Find out more about the five core food groups at

Download the menu planning guidelines for a detailed insight into menu planning and food and drink provision in long day care.

Children’s serves

A ‘children’s serve’ refers to the portion of food that is appropriate for children aged 1–5 years. To be practical for a childcare setting, ‘children’s serves’ are an adaptation of the standard ‘serve sizes’ in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

This checklist summarises the menu planning guidelines for long day care in a checklist that you can use when planning or reviewing your long day care centre’s menu.

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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