Daily fruit and vegetables and a ban on foods high in sugar, fat and salt are on the menu for 250,000 children under changes to the school meals programme to be announced on Monday.
Schools should not offer meals containing foods and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar and will not receive funding for these if they do, according to the new nutrition standards.
The standards, to be launched by four Government Ministers, outline healthy and balanced choices for each meal and snack provided for children under the scheme.
They take account of revisions to the food pyramid last year that emphasise the role of salads, fruit and vegetables in a healthy diet and accord less prominence to cereals, breads, potatoes, pasta and rice.
High-fat, high-sugar and high-salt food, which were already at the top “shelf” of the pyramid, have been split from the lower shelves to emphasise that they should not be eaten more than once or twice a week.
Under the changes, only healthy food choices that meet the standards will be funded for breakfast clubs, school lunches and snacks, afterschool clubs and school dinners.
The standards also emphasise that milk and water are the best drinks to serve children.
At present, typical school meals include cereals or toast for breakfast, and filled sandwiches, or soup and a roll, or a salad plate for lunch. Suggested dinner options include meat, potatoes and vegetables, or chicken curry, or spaghetti Bolognese.
The school meals programme has a budget of almost €50 million a year, with priority being given to disadvantaged schools in the DEIS programme.
Minister for Health Simon Harris, Minister for Education Richard Bruton, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty and Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Health Promotion, Catherine Byrne, will launch the standards, developed as part of the Healthy Ireland initiative, in Dublin on Monday.