New menu for school canteens? Here’s what DepEd wants kids to eat

Jee Y. Geronimo

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New menu for school canteens? Here’s what DepEd wants kids to eat
A department order lists strategies that will 'promote healthy diets and positive eating behaviors' in public schools as well as DepEd offices nationwide

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) has strengthened its campaign toward healthier food and beverage choices in all public elementary and high schools in the country.

In a March 14 order signed by Education Secretary Leonor Briones, the department listed the strategies that will “promote healthy diets and positive eating behaviors and provide [a] healthy eating environment” in public schools and DepEd offices nationwide.

Healthy diet, as defined in the order, refers to a balance in food intake which:

  • achieves energy balance and a healthy weight
  • limits energy intake from total fats and shifts fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and toward the elimination of trans-fatty acids
  • increases consumption of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts
  • limits the intake of free sugars
  • limits salt (sodium) consumption from all sources

The DepEd order cited the 8th National Nutrition Survey which showed that for children 5-10 years old, 29.1% were underweight, 29.9% were stunted, 8.6% were wasted, and 9.1% were overweight.

“The double burden of [undernutrition] and overnutrition experienced by the school children in the Philippines is due to the fact that total food intake for some children has remained inadequate, resulting in undernutrition,” the order read.

“Unhealthy food eating patterns…and a sedentary lifestyle led to an upward surge in overweight and obesity.”

One of the DepEd’s strategies is to make sure every school develops its own healthy menu, with food and drinks that are nutritious and affordable.

“The canteens in schools and DepEd offices shall not sell foods and beverages high in fat and/or sugar and/or sodium…. There shall be a shift towards healthier fat consumption by providing more of foods with unsaturated fats and limiting foods laden with saturated and trans fats,” the order read.

The order also mentioned other strategies such as the Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s (FNRI) Pinggang Pinoy, and the importance of reading a product’s Nutrition Facts.

In addition, the order classified canteen-cooked food, common Filipino snacks, and those without Nutrition Facts into 3 categories:

GREEN – Food and drinks that should always be available in the canteen. The DepEd described the following examples as “the best choices for a healthy school canteen.”

Milk (unsweetened)Safe and clean water (nothing added)
Fresh buko water (unsweetened)Milled rice
Brown rice or iron-fortified riceCorn
OatmealWhole wheat bread
Cassava (kamoteng kahoy)Boiled sweet potato (kamote)
Boiled saging na sabaCorn, binatog
Boiled peanutsSuman
ShellfishSmall shrimps
Lean meatsChicken without skin
Fresh fruits, preferably those in seasonGreen, leafy, and yellow vegetables

YELLOW – Food and drinks that should be served carefully. The DepEd said these examples may be served once or twice a week only (Tuesdays and Thursdays), in small servings, and should be less prominent in the canteen menu, because they may contribute to excess calories if eaten in large amounts.

100% fresh fruit juicesFried rice
Bread (using white refined flour)Biscuits
Banana cue, camote cue, turon, maruyaPancakes
PancitArroz caldo
Sandwiches (cheese, egg, chicken filling, etc)Butter, margarine, mayonnaise (use sparingly)
Processed food such as meat/fish, hotdogs, sausage, burger patties, chicken nuggets, tocino, tapa, etc (still subject to evaluation of saturated or trans fat and sodium as reflected in their Nutrition Facts)Stir-fried vegetables

RED – Food and drinks not recommended in the canteen menu, since they contain high amounts of saturated fat or sugar or salt.


Soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, sports waters, sports drinks, flavored mineral water, energy drinks, sweetened waters, powdered juice drinksAny product containing caffeine (for school canteens)
Any processed fruit/vegetable juice with added sugar of more than 20 grams or 4 teaspoons per servingAny jelly, slushies
Any ice cream/ice drops/ice candiesCakes and slices, donuts, sweet biscuits and pastries, and other sweet bakery products
All types of candies including chocolates, hard/chewy candies, chewing gums, marshmallows, lollipops, yema, etcFrench fries, bicho-bicho, etc
Instant noodlesAll types of heavily salted snacks such as chips
ChicharonChicken skin
BaconDeep-fried food including fish balls, kikiams, etc
Fruits canned in heavy syrupSweetened fruits or vegetables


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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.