The Heart Of

The Heart Of

This booklet accompanies the Heart of Newcastle Award Information and Menu Assessment Checklist and provides additional information to assist you in your application.

The Assessment criteria for the Award are based on the ‘Balance of Good Health’ and have been designed to assess the extent to which you are using healthier catering practices and offering healthier food and drinkoptions.

Why Offer Healthier Food and Drink Choices?

Eating out is now an increasingly important part of people’s lives, whether during the working day or out socially in the evening. As a food business, you are in a strong position to influence what people eat, increase awareness and enable those who already choose healthier options to continue to do so.

What is a healthier choice of foods?

Many people are confused by information about healthy eating and feel that messages are always changing. The basics of healthy eating however have remained the same for some time and are fairly straightforward. Once you understand the basic principles it becomes much easier to decide what makes a balanced diet.

A healthy diet is based on breads, potatoes, and other cereals and it is rich in fruits and vegetables. It also includes moderate amounts of milk and dairy products, meat, fish or meat/milk alternatives, and limited amounts of foods containing fat or sugar. No single food can provide all the essential nutrients that the body needs, therefore it is important to eat a wide variety of foods over the week to provide sufficient intakes of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.

Offering healthier choices on your menu

When planning changes to offer healthier choices there are 3 main areas to consider:

1. Which foods are offered directly to the customer?

Can the customer choose between low fat and full fat options e.g. spreads?

Is wholemeal bread on offer as well as white bread?

Are fruit and vegetables/salads available?

Does the menu encourage customers to ask for variations or choice?

2. How are dishes prepared and cooked?

Can certain ingredients be substituted by healthier alternatives, e.g. adapt a recipe to include more fibre by adding pulses or vegetables to a meat casserole?

Could the dishbe cooked using less fat, e.g. by stir frying or grilling rather than deep frying or roasting?

Could homemade soup replace packet to reduce the salt?

3. How are the foods served?

Are vegetables automatically glazed and salted or can customers choose to add their own?

Are bread rolls, toast and scones pre-buttered or are sachets of low fat spread, unsaturated margarine and butter available for customers who wish to add fat?

Are desserts topped with cream or is there a choice of lower fat alternatives, e.g. natural yoghurt or fromage frais?

Practical suggestions on how to offer healthier food options

The Balance of Good Health shows what makes a balanced diet. Many customers choose or need to eat healthily but not everyone will want to. Examples of healthier catering practices within each food group are shown below. You may choose some of these, depending on your business and the practicalities and costs of the changes needed. Offering a greater choice to customers is, of course, paramount.

The key points for healthier choices are: -

  • Base meals on a wide variety of breads, cereals and potatoes
  • Offer a wide range of seasonal fruits and vegetables
  • Limit the choices that are high in fat, especially saturated fat
  • Limit the choice of sugary foods and drinks
  • Use less salt in cooking. Limit choice of salty foods.

Breads, cereals and potatoes

These foods should make up about one third of the food we eat with at least one starchy food accompanying each meal. They are a good source of energy, fibre, protein and B vitamins and contain very little fat. Wholegrain or wholemeal varieties contain more fibre than refined ones.

Bread, teacakes, scones etc.

  • Offer a range of different breads, including wholemeal, granary, multigrain, pitta, chapatti, tortilla wraps.
  • Allow customers to add butter or spread themselves.
  • Offer free bread with a main course dish without extra butter.
  • Use thicker bread for making sandwiches.

Pasta, rice, noodles and grains

  • Use a range of different grains including couscous, bulgur wheat or quinoa.
  • If making composite dishes such as lasagne and pasta bakes use a mix of white and wholewheat pasta.
  • Offer boiled rice rather than fried rice, use brown rice in salads.
  • Be generous with the portion size.

Breakfast cereals

  • If you offer breakfast cereals half must be wholegrain varieties and less than half must be sugar coated.
  • Offer semi skimmed milk/low fat yoghurt to accompany them.
  • Use oats in recipes, e.g. crumbles.


  • Does the menu offer boiled or jacket potatoes as an alternative to chips or roast? Is this clearly stated?
  • Boiled potatoes must be served plain without the addition of butter.
  • Mashed potatoes must use milk only.
  • Chips should be thick cut and straight as they absorb less oil.
  • Oven roast and potato wedges should be chunky and cooked in the minimum amount of oil.
  • Try sweet potatoes and yams.

Fruits and vegetables

This includes all varieties of fresh, frozen and canned fruit and vegetables; dried fruit and fruit juices. All fruits and vegetables are a major source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals and anti-oxidants all of which are required for health and prevention of disease. The recommendation is to eat at least 5 portions each day. One portion is 80g fresh/frozen or 150ml pure fruit juice or 25g dried fruit.

Vitamin C in fruit and vegetables is very easily lost by exposure to air, water and heat. To minimise the loss you should:

  • prepare as close to cooking/serving time as possible
  • avoid soaking chopped green vegetables in water for long periods
  • avoid exposing cut surfaces of fruit and vegetables to the air for long periods
  • cook for as short a time as possible in the least amount of water
  • avoid keeping warm for long periods
  • to reduce vitamin loss,steam or stir fry.


  • Always have a selection of fresh fruit available.
  • Promote fresh fruit by offering it as part of a set meal.
  • Make use of local seasonal fruit.
  • Make fruit-based desserts such as fruit cobbler, fresh fruit salad, stewed seasonal fruit, summer pudding with reduced amounts of sugar and a proportion of wholemeal flour/porridge oats.
  • Add fresh or dried fruit to salads.
  • Use dried fruit to sweeten cakes and puddings – reducing the amount of sugar needed.
  • Use fruit canned in juice not in syrup.
  • Offer a range of unsweetened fruit juices.
  • Use fruit juice as a base for fruit salads.


  • Offer a range of hot cooked vegetables each day.
  • Use vegetables in main course dishes.
  • Add beans and pulses to casseroles and salads.
  • Offer homemade vegetable soups or broths with beans and pulses rather than packet mixes.
  • Keep added fat to a minimum when stir frying or sautéing, and use unsaturated oils rather than ghee or saturated fats.
  • Allow customers to add their own butter or spread.
  • Limit the amount of salt added in cooking.
  • Choose lower salt, canned vegetables.
  • Use fresh seasonal local vegetables where possible.


  • Offer a range of undressed salads.
  • Offer low fat dressings to add as required.
  • Promote free salad with main course or use salad garnishes.
  • Use reduced fat mayonnaise and fat free dressings for coleslaw etc.
  • Include a range of salad vegetables and other raw vegetables to add to sandwiches.

Milk and dairy foods

This includes milk, cheese, yoghurt, and fromage frais. It does not include cream, butter or eggs.

Milk and dairy foods are a good source of protein and calcium. Lower fat versions are the healthier choice option. Some customers may request soya alternatives to milk – ensure thatthey are fortified with calcium but avoid those that have been sweetened.


  • Offer semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, or use semi-skimmed as a matter of course. If you cater for children under the age of two you will need to have whole milk (full fat). Semi–skimmed may be used over the age of two.
  • Promote milk as an alternative to sweetened drinks for children, e.g. display small cartons of fresh milk.
  • Use semi-skimmed or skimmed milk in sauces, soups and custards.

Yoghurt and fromage frais

  • Offer low fat “diet” varieties as well as low fat fruit varieties as desserts.
  • Use natural yoghurt in place of cream or mayonnaise in toppings, soups, sauces and salad dressings.
  • Promote low fat fruit yoghurts by offering as part of a set meal.
  • Offer low sugar yoghurts or fromage frais for children.


  • Offer lower fat varieties (cottage cheese, Camembert, Edam or Brie) or reduced fat versions, e.g. half fat Cheddar, for sandwiches or cheese boards.
  • In cooking, use smaller quantities of stronger flavoured cheese where possible.
  • Use reduced fat cheese where coverage of a dish is important, e.g. pizza or gratins.

Meat, fish and alternatives

This includes all fresh and frozen meat, poultry, bacon, salami, sausages, and beef burgers etc. All fish, whether fresh, frozen, canned, fish cakes and fish fingers; eggs, nuts, beans and pulses. All provide protein and a range of vitamins and minerals.

Meat, meat products, poultry

  • Use lean meat.
  • Remove skin from chicken, turkey and duck and trim off visible fat before cooking.
  • Use low fat sausages and burgers and grill rather than fry.
  • If using minced meat, fry without fat, drain off excess fat after browning.
  • Where possible poach, roast, grill or bake with minimal added fat. Roast on a rack and drain off fat.
  • Choose bacon which contains less fat, i.e. back rather than streaky bacon.
  • Consider adjusting the proportion of main dish to rice/pasta/potatoes to improve the balance, for example, by serving a little more rice and a little less curry.
  • Skim fat off gravy.

Meat products

Includes sausages, burgers, pate, reformed/ shaped meat and poultry products. These foods can be a source of extra fat and salt and therefore are not a healthy choice unless manufacturer’s nutrition data can be provided to show otherwise. If these products are on the menu use those with less than 10g fat per 100g.


  • Include omega 3 rich oily fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, fresh tuna, herring and mackerel on your menu.
  • Offer canned oily fish as sandwich fillings, with salads or a jacket potato, e.g. mackerel, tuna, pilchard, sardines.
  • Include a selection of seasonal white fish that is not fried or coated in rich creamy sauces.
  • Grill or bake breaded fish.
  • Offer an alternative to fish fingers for children, e.g. homemade goujons.
  • If fish is normally deep fried, use unsaturated oils, check the frying temperature, and drain off fat.


  • Offer non-fried options, e.g. boiled, poached, scrambled, without added fat.

Nuts, beans and pulses*

  • Offer a vegetarian main course based on lentils, peas, beans, “Quorn”, tofu.
  • Use low salt/sugar baked beans and no salt/ no sugar canned beans if possible (or wash off the salted water).

Vegetarian meals must contain two protein foods to ensure the correct protein mix e.g. beans and rice or pulses and chapatti to meet the healthy choice criteria.

*A small number of people suffer from very acute allergies to food, particularly to nuts and nut products. If nuts or nut oils are used in a recipe, and their presence is not clear from the name of the food, label the dish and include within your displayed menu.

Foods containing fat; foods containing sugar

This includes margarines, butter, low fat spreads and other spreads, cooking fats and oils; oily salad dressings or mayonnaise; cream or biscuits, cakes and pastries; puddings; ice cream; soft drinks; rich sauces and gravies; chocolate, confectionery; sugar.

There are two types of fat in the foods that we eat:

1. Saturated fat is linked to raising the cholesterol in the blood, which increases the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats tend to be found in animal fats and processed foods.

2. Unsaturated fat will help to lower the cholesterol level. Unsaturated fats tend to be found in vegetable oils – the exceptions being coconut and palm oil.

A high fat food contains 20g or more per 100g

A low fat food contains 3g of fat per 100g

Fat spreads

  • Use spreads high in monounsaturated fat for sandwiches, or no spread.
  • Offer low fat spreads or unsaturated margarines in addition to butter for toast, scones, etc.
  • Give customers the choice of adding or omitting spreads to vegetables, baked potatoes, sandwiches and scones/teacakes.

Oily salad dressings and mayonnaise

  • Offer salad dressings alongside salads to allow the customer to add their own.
  • Use lower fat dressings and mayonnaise or dilute with yoghurt.
  • Use herbs to adjust taste.

Rich sauces and fatty gravies

  • Allow customers to add their own.
  • Minimise fat content and use sparingly.

Cooking oils

  • Use mono (rapeseed, groundnut or olive) or polyunsaturated oils (sunflower, soya, corn) instead of lard, ghee or palm oil.
  • Use minimum oil when frying and drain off excess fat.
  • Ensure that thermostats on fryers operate at the correct temperature, turn down when not in use and change oil regularly to prevent degradation.


  • Allow customers to choose whether to add cream or other toppings.
  • Use lower fat options of biscuits, cakes and pastries.
  • Offer high fibre options.
  • Offer fruit cake and plain cakes in addition to iced.
  • Offer small portions for children.
  • Include fruit puddings not based on pastry or cream.
  • Pastry-based desserts should have a single crust and pastry should contain unsaturated fats.

Ice cream

  • Offer lower fat versions, sorbets or low fat frozen yoghurt.

Chocolate and confectionery

  • Keep display discreet.
  • Do not promote king-size or super-size products.

Licensed Premises

  • Where the products are available, offer reduced calorie product.
  • Offer low- no- alcohol alternatives.


  • Offer sugar substitutes for use in hot drinks.
  • Don’t use sugar to decorate puddings and pastries.
  • Adjust dessert recipes, perhaps incorporating fruit as an alternative sweetener.

On a food ingredient list sugar can be identified in various forms, some examples are: White/brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose,fructose, glucose,glucose syrup, invert sugar, molasses, raw cane sugar, syrup,treacle. A food is high in sugar if these items are near the top of the list. The nutrition information label will tell you the total sugars in the product but does not tell you how much is from added sugar and how much is naturally occurring i.e. that found in fruit and vegetables.

A lot of sugar is 10g or more per 100g

A little sugar is 2g or less per 100g

Salt (Sodium Chloride)

There should be evidence to show that you are reducing salt in the preparation of food. Salt is one source of sodium in the diet and eating too much salt has been linked with high blood pressure. This may lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. On average people consume 9.5g salt per day, this should be less than 6g per day. 75 –80% of the UK salt intake comes from tinned and packaged food (such as flavourings and sauces). Food manufacturers have been requested by the Food Standards Agency to gradually reduce the salt content of their products. Caterers are in an ideal position to lower the salt content of the items on their menus.

Clues to the presence of salt/sodium can be found on food labels. Any of the following ingredients and descriptions show a source of sodium:

Baking Powder; Baking Soda; Bicarbonate of Soda; Brine; Cured; Disodium; Monosodium Glutamate(MSG); Na; Self Raising; Smoked and Soy sauce.

On the nutrition information on a label, salt will be identified as sodium.

A lot of salt is 1.25g or more per 100g/0.5g sodium per 100g

A little salt is 0.25g or less per 100g/0.1g sodium per 100g

(Note: 1g salt = 0.4g sodium; Salt = sodium X 2.5)

If you are preparing a dish from scratch, only one major source of sodium should be added.

Remember: if you add salt to food customers cannot remove it. Give customers the choice by letting them add it if they wish.

Fluids and Soft Drinks

A selection of hot and cold drinks should be available.

  • Fresh drinking water should be available.
  • No added sugar and diet drinks must be available in equal or greater choice as sugared varieties.
  • Customers must have a choice of milk and sweetening agents for tea and coffee.
  • Offer mineral water and unsweetened pure fruit juices.
  • Promote milk, water and unsweetened fruit juices for children.
  • Milk and yoghurt drinks should contain less than 5% sugar.
  • Use semi-skimmed milk to prepare milk shakes.

What about children’s meals?

Parents today want a healthy selection of meals for their children. Children have sophisticated tastes and want a wider choice than fish fingers or sausage and chips. The choices should be attractively served and in child friendly portions e.g. sliced fruit rather than a whole orange.