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Inclusive tuckshop menus for special diets

An inclusive tuckshop menu is one that caters for the entire school community.  

Children follow special diets for many reasons, including allergies, food intolerances, for cultural reasons, or a preference to avoid certain food groups.

The most common special diets that should be catered for in a tuckshop menu include:

  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Gluten-free
  • Dairy-free
  • Halal.

It is important to understand the differences because there could be severe consequences if you get it wrong.

What is a food allergy?

Food allergies are real and are increasing in Queensland children.

Food-induced anaphylaxis has doubled in the last 10 years. Up to 2% of the population will have food allergies for life.

Most schools have several children diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening food allergy.

Presence of even trace amounts of the allergen can result in an immune reaction. In the worst cases, they can trigger an an anaphylactic reaction.

The most common foods implicated in severe allergy causing anaphylaxis are nuts, eggs and wheat.

Common allergens when creating inclusive tuckshop menus

The risk associated with a food intolerance is far less severe. They usually result in digestive upset including diarrhoea, bloating, gas, and discomfort.

The latest advice is for schools and tuckshops to be ‘allergy aware’ rather than claiming they are nut, egg or gluten free, as this is very difficult to manage.

What are the most common special diets amongst children?

Dairy-free diets are most common amongst children aged 2–18-years-old, with a 3.5% prevalence rate. This is followed by vegetarian at 1.3%, gluten-free at 1.1%, and halal at 0.5%.

Nut allergies in kids in inclusive tuckshop menusNut/egg allergy can be very severe with allergies or intolerances quite high at 1.3% for eggs, 2.3% for peanuts and 1.3% for tree nuts.

As gluten and dairy avoidance is common in school-aged children, it’s important to ensure tuckshop menus cater to dietary requirements for these children.

It’s always helpful to have a clear conversation with parents of students with special diets to discuss their needs. This will help determine your processes for managing special orders and what could be offered by the tuckshop.

To ensure students are kept safe, separate utensils, cutting boards and work areas need to be used for allergen-containing foods. See our useful allergy guidelines for more information.

Cross contamination also needs to be considered for halal diets. If a halal food comes into direct contact with a non-halal (haram) food, it’s no longer appropriate for people following a halal diet. 

Catering to special diets

So how do you know what’s appropriate and what’s not? Here’s a summary of the main requirements of each diet, and options you could use as substitutes.

Popular menu item adaptations for special diets

This article was developed as part of the Healthier Tuckshops program which is proudly funded by the Queensland Government through Health and Wellbeing Queensland.

Health and Wellbeing Queensland
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