Healthy eating in schools: guidance 2020

Statutory guidance supporting the implementation of the Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2020.

Section 5: Nutrient standards for primary school lunches, secondary school analysed lunches and secondary school hostel evening meals

These nutrient standards are based on the most up-to-date scientific evidence and dietary advice about the amount of energy and nutrients needed by school age children and young people as set out in the following sources:

  • Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom[17] (COMA);
  • Salt and Health[18] (SACN);
  • Dietary Reference Values for Energy[19] (SACN); and
  • Carbohydrates and Health[20] (SACN).

Table 5 sets out the amount of energy (calories), the minimum levels for key nutrients and the maximum levels for total fat, saturated fat, free sugars and sodium that must be contained in an average day's primary school lunch, secondary school analysed lunch and secondary school hostel evening meal.

Table 5: Statutory nutrient standards for schools
An average day's primary school lunch An average day's secondary school analysed lunch and secondary hostel evening meal
Energy (calories/kilojoules) 518 kcals(+/- 78Kcals) 745 kcals(+/-112kcals)
2165 kJ(+/- 325kJ) 3114 kJ(+/-467kJ)
Total fat Not more than 20.1 g Not more than 29.0 g
Saturated fat Not more than 6.3 g Not more than 9.1 g
Total carbohydrate Not less than 69.1 g Not less than 99.3 g
Free Sugar3 Not more than 10.4 g Not more than 14.9 g
Fibre (AOAC1) Not less than 6 g Not less than 9 g
Protein Not less than 19.4 g Not less than 27.9 g
Iron Not less than 3 mg Not less than 4.4 mg
Calcium Not less than 165 mg Not less than 300 mg
Vitamin A Not less than 150 µg Not less than 187 µg
Vitamin C Not less than 9 mg Not less than 11 mg
Folate Not less than 45 µg Not less than 60 µg
Sodium2 Not more than 686 mg Not more than 824 mg
Zinc Not less than 2.1 mg Not less than 2.8 mg

kcals = kilocalories; kJ = kilojoule; g = grams; mg = milligrams; µg = micrograms

1. The fibre value is based on the AOAC methodology.

2. For information on how to convert salt to sodium or sodium to salt, refer to the Nutritional Analysis Manual

3. refer to annex 1 for the definition of free sugar

The figures for nutrients have been designed to bring provision in line with achievement of the Scottish Dietary Goals. However, the figure set for free sugar is 7.5% of food energy requirements instead of the 5% set out in the Scottish Dietary Goals. This will ensure that free sugar provided as part of the school lunch and school hostel evening meal is significantly reduced but recognises the severity of moving to a 5% target in one step.

Further detail on what these nutrient standards are based on can be found at Annex E

What does this mean for menu planning

Caterers must plan their menus using the food and drink standards to ensure that the food and drinks on offer over a school week average out to meet the nutrient standards set out in Table 5.

Consideration should also be given to menu planning where a school lunch service and a school hostel evening meal service are being provided by different staff. Co-ordinating menus will help to avoid duplication and ensure variety across the week.

The weekly tolerance for energy and the new daily tolerance for energy will be applied automatically to primary school lunches, analysed secondary school lunches and secondary school hotel evening meals by nutritional analysis software. The nutrient standards do not include a tolerance for any other nutrient set out in Table 5.

Advice on portion sizes

As the new values set out in Table 5 are an average across a wide age range, caterers will need to ensure that they use their professional judgement to adjust portion sizes served depending on age and stage of development of each child or young person.

Refer to local guidance for further advice.

Advice on reasonable adjustments

The 2020 Regulations are designed to ensure children and young people are offered a balanced and nutritious diet that reflects the Eatwell Guide and is based on the dietary advice set out in the Scottish Dietary Goals. The Regulations are designed to be flexible enough to allow local authorities to make reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of a wide range of dietary choices. When deciding what is a 'reasonable adjustment' authorities and schools should consider whether the circumstances of the request justify an adjustment to the main menu or can best be accommodated by providing a pre-arranged separate meal each day.

For example: A vegetarian request can be accommodated by incorporating a meat free dish into the menu each day.

Where numbers requesting a particular dietary choice are small, for example Halal or Vegan, it may be more appropriate to offer those children and young people a pre-arranged separately provided meal. Where this is done, it would be good practice to offer something that broadly reflects the menu of the day by using as many of the same ingredients as possible. This will help to ensure that children and young people do not feel stigmatised and discouraged from taking a school meal.

Requests that are based on personal taste such as requesting the same sandwich each day would not be considered as a reasonable adjustment given the aim of the school meal service is to provide children and young people with balanced and nutritious meals across the week.

Secondary school analysed lunches

A secondary school analysed school lunch should:

  • Provide 2 courses which meets the nutrient standards set out in Table 5;
  • Offer a minimum of 2 options for a main course and at least one other course;
  • Include not less than two portions of vegetables and one portion of fruit;
  • Be available for no more than the value of a free school meal; and
  • Be clearly marked on the menu.

You may wish to consider how you promote this meal to encourage it as a positive choice for all young people. For example calling it 'today's special'.

Inclusion of a drink with this lunch is at the discretion of the catering provider (free drinking water should always be provided). If a drink is included as part of the secondary school analysed lunch it must be included in the nutritional analysis.

Further information can be found in the Nutritional Analysis Manual available on the Education Scotland website.

Nutritional Analysis Manual

This manual shows catering providers and local authorities how to conduct a nutritional analysis of a school menu to determine compliance with the nutrients standards for:

  • primary school lunches,
  • secondary school analysed lunches; and
  • school hostel evening meals for secondary aged children and young people.

The aim is to support a consistent approach across Scotland in delivering the statutory nutrient standards.



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