Food and beverage choices are divided into tables based on the Canada's Food Guide Plate from the CFG: vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods, protein foods.

Food choices are categorized as “serve” or “do not serve” in these tables.

There is also a table for “minor ingredients”, which are foods that do not fit on the Eat Well Plate.

Understanding “serve” and “do not serve”

Serve

Foods and beverages in this category:

  • Have lower amounts of added sugar, salt and saturated fat. They are good sources of nutrients such as fibre, calcium and iron.
  • Are minimally processed
  • Can be served at all meals and snacks
  • Align with recommendations in CFG
  • Are safe to consume

Do not serve

Foods and beverages in this category:

  • Have higher amounts of added sugar and/or salt. They contain unhealthy fats and/or small amounts of nutrients such as fibre, calcium and iron.
  • Are highly processed.
  • Should not be offered in SNPs .
  • Do not align with recommendations in CFG.
  • May not be safe to consume (for example, raw fish, sprouts or unpasteurized dairy).

Note: The food and beverage choice tables are not complete lists. If you have a question about an item that is not on the list, contact your lead agency or local public health unit.

How to use the food and beverage choice tables

Most packaged foods and beverages have a food label. This information is needed to know if a food or beverage can be served (or not served) in your SNP. It is important to understand how to use the nutrition facts table and the ingredient list on foods and beverages. Here are some things you will need to know:

Samples of a nutrition facts table

  • Foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits do not have food labels because they have nothing added to them. All fresh vegetables and fruits are found in the serve category of the food and beverage choice tables (except for raw sprouts, for food safety reasons).
  • Information in the nutrition facts table is based on a quantity called serving size. It is listed at the top of the table. The serving size tells you the amount of food used to calculate the numbers in the nutrition facts table. It may or may not be the amount that you choose to serve in your SNP.
  • The % DV (daily value) shows how much (or how little) of a nutrient is in a food or beverage. 5% DV or less means there is a little of a nutrient and 15% DV or more means there is a lot of a nutrient in the food or beverage5. % DV is found on the right-hand side of the nutrition facts table.
  • CFG recommends having less sodium. Bread products, cereals, packaged snacks and processed meats, etc. can have a lot of sodium. Look for foods and beverages with less than or equal to 10% DV (daily value) of sodium to serve in your SNP.
  • CFG recommends choosing foods and beverages with less added sugar footnote 1. Items such as bakery products, sweetened cereals, packaged snacks and flavoured yogurts can have a lot of added sugar.
    • Look for whole grain products with less than or equal to 8 grams of sugar per 30 gram serving.
    • Look for flavoured yogurts with less than or equal to 11 grams of sugar per 100 gram serving.
  • CFG recommends eating whole grain foods. Whole grain foods are a good source of dietary fibre. Examples include whole wheat flour, buckwheat, barley, corn, oats, quinoa, spelt, bulgur, farro, whole wheat couscous, wheat berries, and brown rice.
  • The ingredient list shows all the ingredients in a packaged food in order of weight. It begins with the ingredient that weighs the most. Look for grain products with whole grain as the first ingredient on the ingredient list.

It can take some practice to learn to read and understand food labels. You may also need to do some manual calculations to see if a food or beverage meets the criteria to ‘serve’ or ‘do not serve’. Visit UnlockFood.ca and Health Canada for more information on reading food labels.

Vegetables and fruits

Serve vegetables and/or fruits at every meal and snack.

Vegetables
ServeDo not serve
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Frozen vegetables with no added salt or sauce
  • Potatoes, boiled, baked or mashed with no added salt
  • Canned vegetables with sodium less than or equal to 10% DV (daily value) per serving, drained and rinsed to lower the sodium content further
  • Canned tomatoes and tomato–based pasta/pizza sauces with less than or equal to 10% DV (daily value) sodium per serving
  • Vegetable juice, including 100% juice
  • Packaged potato products (for example, french fries, hash browns, instant potatoes)
  • Battered or deep-fried vegetables
  • Vegetable chips (for example, potato, carrot)
  • Canned vegetable soup, canned tomatoes and tomato-based pasta/pizza sauces with more than 10% DV (daily value) sodium per serving
  • Cream-based vegetable soups
  • Raw sprouts (for example, alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts, clover, radish and mung beans), due to food safety concerns
Fruits
ServeDo not serve
  • Fresh fruits
  • Frozen fruits with no added sugar
  • Unsweetened applesauce or fruit purées
  • Canned fruit in water or 100% juice, drained
  • Dried fruit with no added sugar
  • Fruit juice, including 100% juice
  • Fruit flavoured drinks such as fruit beverages, punches, cocktails
  • Unpasteurized juice or cider
  • Fruit leathers
  • Sweetened applesauce or fruit purées
  • Canned fruit in syrup
  • Dried fruit with sugar added
  • Battered or deep-fried fruits
  • Jellied desserts that contain fruit
  • Fruit flavoured candies (for example, gummies, fruit rolls) including those made with juice
  • Fruit chips (for example, banana, plantain)

Whole grain foods

Whole grain foods
ServeDo not serve
  • Whole grain, whole wheat or bran is first on the ingredient list and
  • Sodium is less than or equal to 10% DV (daily value) per serving and
  • Sugar is less than or equal to 8 grams per 30 gram serving
  • Whole grain, whole wheat or bran is not first on the ingredient list or
  • Sodium is more than 10% DV (daily value) per serving or
  • Sugar is more than 8 grams per 30 gram serving

Bread products
ServeDo not serve
  • Whole grain or whole wheat breads, buns, bagels, rolls, English muffins, pitas, tortilla, flatbreads, roti, naan, bannock, chapatti, lavash, challah
  • Whole grain or whole wheat pancakes or waffles
  • Whole grain or whole wheat pizza crust or dough
  • Enriched wheat flour or multigrain bread, bagel, buns, English muffins, pancakes, waffles and tortillas
  • Flavoured or sugar-coated breads, naan and bagels (for example, cinnamon, raisin, blueberry)
  • White pizza crust or dough including frozen or purchased pizza
Cereals
ServeDo not serve
  • Oatmeal (for example, quick cooking or large flake)
  • Oatmeal, instant (lightly sweetened)
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Cereal with chocolate, candies, marshmallows or sugar-coated pieces
  • Oatmeal, instant (regularly sweetened)
Baked goods
ServeDo not serve
  • Whole grain muffins and scones
  • Toaster pastries, pastries, croissants
  • Muffins and scones with chocolate, caramel or candy
  • Cakes, cupcakes, donuts, pies, cookies and squares
Grain-based snacks
ServeDo not serve
  • Whole grain granola or cereal-type bars without chocolate, candy or marshmallows and not dipped in chocolate or yogurt
  • Whole grain crackers, breadsticks
  • Popcorn (air popped, unsalted, no butter) 
  • Brown rice cakes, unflavoured and unsweetened
  • Chocolate or yogurt dipped granola or cereal-type bars or those containing marshmallows, candy or chocolate pieces
  • Non-air popped popcorn (for example, microwaveable popcorn) and/or popcorn with added flavours
  • Pretzels
  • Tortilla chips
  • Pita chips
  • Chip-like snack foods (including seasoned mini-rice cakes, nachos)
  • Brown rice cakes, flavoured/sweetened
Noodles, rice and other grains
ServeDo not serve
  • Whole grains (for example, quinoa, oats, bulgur, buckwheat, barley, farro, whole wheat couscous)
  • Brown rice, wild rice
  • Whole wheat or whole grain noodles, soba, udon, vermicelli
  • Polenta
  • White rice (converted, parboiled), rice noodles and enriched white pasta
  • Flavoured, pre-packaged grains, rice and pasta (for example, garlic, herb, chicken, vegetable, macaroni and cheese)
  • Instant noodle soup

Protein foods

Milk
ServeDo not serve
  • Plain skim, 1%, or 2% cow’s milk
  • Skim milk or partly skimmed milk powder
  • Canned, evaporated milk, used in cooking and baking
  • Buttermilk, used in cooking and baking
  • Flavoured milk (for example, chocolate milk, strawberry milk)
  • Hot chocolate
  • Milkshakes
  • 3.25% cow’s milk (homogenized milk), table cream, coffee cream, whipping cream, non-dairy whipped cream toppings
  • Unpasteurized milk (for example, raw milk)
Milk alternatives
ServeDo not serve
  • Unsweetened/unflavoured, fortified soy beverage
  • Unsweetened/unflavoured plant-based beverages with at least 6 grams protein per 250 ml and at least 30% DV for calcium and 30% DV for vitamin D per 250 ml

Note: Unsweetened plant-based beverages that do not meet the criteria for protein, calcium and vitamin D (for example, coconut, rice, almond, potato, oat) may be served to accommodate children with allergies only if unsweetened soy beverage (or equivalent) is not an option.

  • Unfortified plant-based beverages
  • Flavoured/sweetened plant-based beverages
Yogurt
ServeDo not serve
  • Plain yogurt, soy yogurt and kefir with less than or equal to 2% milk fat
  • Flavoured/sweetened yogurt, soy yogurt and kefir with less than or equal to 11 grams of sugar per 100 gram serving and less than or equal to 2% milk fat
  • Yogurts with added sugar/candy/chocolate
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Drinkable yogurt
  • Yogurts made from unpasteurized milk
Cheese
ServeDo not serve
  • Hard and soft, non-processed cheese made from pasteurized milk (for example, cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, monterey jack, havarti, gouda, swiss, paneer, feta, ricotta, cottage cheese) with less than or equal to 20% milk fat (when possible)
  • Cheese strings, cheese curds with less than or equal to 20% milk fat (when possible) and less than or equal to 10% DV sodium per serving
  • Processed cheese slices
  • Cheese made from unpasteurized milk
  • Soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk (for example, brie, camembert, and blue-veined cheese like roquefort and gorgonzola)
  • Breaded or fried cheese (sticks), cheese curds with more than 10% DV sodium per serving
Eggs
ServeDo not serve
  • Eggs purchased from an approved source (or ‘graded’ eggs)
  • Plain pasteurized liquid whole egg
  • Pre-boiled hard cooked eggs
  • Eggs purchased from an unapproved source (or ungraded eggs)
  • Unpasteurized eggs
  • Seasoned or flavoured liquid egg product
  • Raw or lightly cooked eggs and egg dishes that contain undercooked eggs such as mousse, dressings, and sauces made on-site
Nut, seed, and legume butters
Follow your school's anaphylaxis policy.
ServeDo not serve
  • Nut, seed and legume butters (including peanut, almond, walnut, sesame, sunflower, pea and soy butters)
  • Whole nuts and seeds (dry roasted or unroasted, with no added salt, sugar, oil)
  • Nut, legume or seed butters that have added sugar (for example, chocolate, chocolate hazelnut, honey, berry)
  • Salted or coated nuts or seeds
Tofu, beans and lentils
ServeDo not serve
  • Dried beans, lentils, peas
  • Hummus or other bean dips with sodium less than or equal to 10% DV per serving
  • Baked chickpeas with sodium less than or equal to 10% DV per serving
  • Lentil, chickpea and other plant-based pastas with less than or equal to 10% DV sodium per serving
  • Canned beans, lentils, chickpeas with less than or equal to 10% DV sodium per serving, drained and rinsed to lower sodium content further
  • Tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein with less than or equal to 10% DV sodium per serving
  • Plant-based burgers and meatballs with less than or equal to 10% DV sodium per serving
  • Canned baked beans, in tomato sauce, with pork, molasses or maple syrup
  • Store-bought breaded and fried meat alternatives
  • Simulated meat strips
  • Plant-based hotdogs, sausages, bacon
  • Frozen and prepared tacos/burritos
  • Tofu dessert
Fish
ServeDo not serve
  • Fresh, frozen, or canned fish with less than or equal to 10% DV sodium per serving, drained and rinsed to lower sodium content further, and low in mercury (for example, cod, sole, haddock, salmon, tilapia, trout, canned light tuna, whitefish)
  • Store-bought breaded or battered fried fish
  • Fresh, frozen or canned fish high in mercury (for example, canned albacore tuna)
  • Cold smoked fish
Meat
ServeDo not serve
  • Fresh, frozen, ground or pre-cooked with less than or equal to 10% DV sodium per serving:
    • Lean cuts of beef, pork loin, traditional meats and wild game
    • Patties or meatballs
    • Skinless chicken and turkey
  • Canned chicken/turkey, drained and rinsed to lower sodium content
  • Pre-cooked chicken/turkey
  • Prepared/cured meats (for example, wieners/hotdogs, sausages, pepperoni sticks)
  • Deli meats (for example, bologna, salami, summer sausage, deli roast beef/turkey/chicken)
  • Store-bought breaded and fried meats
  • Ham
  • Ribs
  • Side bacon, back bacon, turkey/chicken bacon, imitation bacon bits
  • Meat pies

Miscellaneous items not to be served

These foods and beverages contain few or no essential nutrients, and/or contain high amounts of added salt, sugar or unhealthy fats.

Do not serve:

  • food and beverages containing caffeine such as coffee, tea and iced tea
  • diet and regular pop
  • energy drinks or sports drinks
  • flavoured or vitamin water
  • ‘protein’ or meal replacement drinks and bars (except when indicated by a parent/caregiver for medical reasons)
  • candy (including yogurt covered, gummy-type, licorice, fruit flavoured)
  • chocolate, chocolate bars (including energy and protein-type bars)
  • marshmallows
  • jellied type desserts
  • frozen treats such as ice cream, freezie-type, popsicles, slushies or frozen juice snacks
  • hard margarines
  • lard or shortening
  • palm oil
  • foods with artificial trans fat
  • foods with sugar substitutes or sweeteners
  • pudding

Minor ingredients

The following items can be used in small amounts (as indicated below) and served on the side, when necessary, or used in the preparation of mixed dishes.

  • condiments for example, ketchup, relish, mustard, cream cheese (approximately 1-2 tsp/student), for example, salsa (approximately 3 tbsp/student)
  • gravies, sauces (approximately 1-2 tbsp/student)
  • dips for example, salad dressings, sour cream (approximately 1-2 tbsp/student), for example, baba ganoush, spinach dip (approximately 3 tbsp/student)
  • oils, non-hydrogenated margarines, dressings, mayonnaise for example,canola, olive, safflower, soybean, sunflower, non-hydrogenated margarine, traditional fats that are liquid at room temperature, butter (approximately 1-2 tsp/student)
  • toppings and extras for example, coconut, parmesan cheese (approximately 2-3 tsp/student), for example, olives (approximately 4-5/student), pickles (approximately 1 medium/student)
  • honey, jam, jelly, marmalade, fruit butter, or syrup (approximately 1-2 tsp/student)