Do you ever see the irony in serving our children unhealthy foods like sugary sport drinks and candy while encouraging them to participate in athletics, play outdoors and be physically active? We focus a great deal of time, care, and concern on getting good coaches (and rightly so), but ignore getting good food for our concession stands.4

With childhood obesity on the rise in our nation and state, improving the concession stand environment will make it easier for kids and families to make healthier choices that can ultimately impact their health.Children in the United States are becoming more overweight and obese, putting them at risk for serious health concerns such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and elevated cholesterol and blood pressure levels.5 With over 30% of South Dakota children overweight or obese, communities must collectively address improving the nutrition environment.8

Concessions sales should provide and promote healthy food and drink choices.2 This is especially important when concession stands are the only food/beverage options available during all day events where outside food is not allowed.

By creating social support for healthy lifestyles, such as implementing policies like this, youth and families can make better choices when eating at concession stands. Thank you again for taking the necessary steps to improve the offerings in your local concession stand by consideration of this model, science-based policy. 

Healthy Foods & Beverages for Concessions

Ideally, ALL foods/beverages served in a concession stand environment should follow standard nutrition guidelines. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends the following in the 2007 IOM Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools.5 We recommend you follow these guidelines when selecting food and beverages for your concession stand.


  • ≤200 calories per portion as packaged 
  • No more than 35 percent of total calories from fat 
  • <10 percent of total calories from saturated fat 
  • Zero trans fat (less than or equal to 0.5 grams per serving) 
  • ≤35 percent of calories from total sugars, except for yogurt with no more than 30g of total sugars, per 8-oz portion as packaged 
  • Sodium content of 200mg or less per portion as packaged 


  • Water without flavoring, additives, or carbonation 
  • Low-fat (1%) and nonfat milk (in 8-oz.portion), including lactose-free and soy beverages 
  • Flavored milk with no more than 22g of total sugars per 8-oz.portion 
  • 100% fruit juice in 4-oz.portion as packaged for elementary/middle school and 8-oz.(two portions) for high school 
  • Caffeine-free, with the exception of trace amounts of naturally occurring caffeine substances 

Categorizing Options

While there are many interpretations in classifying concession foods and beverages as healthy or less healthy, this policy will encourage the adoption of a color coded approach to choosing healthier items to offer in your concession stand. Rather than an ‘all or nothing’ approach, this guidance will identify those foods and beverages that have been categorized into three areas—GREEN, YELLOW, and RED.1,3 

GREEN foods/beverages are the healthiest options and can be enjoyed often

YELLOW foods/beverages have added sugar, fat and calories and should be eaten occasionally

RED foods/beverages are the highest in sugar, fat, and calories and the least healthy, and should be eaten sparingly.

This model policy recommends that most of your concession foods and beverages should be GREEN options (60-100%); some of your concessions foods and beverages can be YELLOW options (30% or less); and very few (10% or less) should be RED options.1 However, you can certainly choose to avoid RED offerings altogether.

For the purposes of this model policy, and to allow for flexibility in your concession environment, the foods/beverages listed under the GREEN and YELLOW categories represent much healthier alternatives to typical concessions offerings, but may or may not necessarily meet the IOM standards.5 However, we do encourage that every attempt be made to align your concession offerings with the IOM standards in order to offer the healthiest choices.

  • In addition, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and non-fat or low-fat milk and dairy products are highly encouraged in your concession stand.
  • When selecting products for your concession stand, it is also very important to read nutrition labels and consider serving sizes as many beverages and packaged products offer more than a single serving, sometimes two or three servings in a package, which greatly increases caloric content.Strive to serve single servings only (200 calories or less) in your concession stand for both food and beverages.

The use of the color coded identification also allows for creative marketing strategies to enhance your sales of these items. Youth, along with their parents, can learn to identify the GREEN foods/beverages as the healthiest, and to steer clear of the RED items. Free marketing and messaging materials available to support this policy were developed around this color coded approach and are available to you at no cost, as well as suggestions for how to display the materials.

In the appendix of this model policy you’ll find a comprehensive table of suggested, popular concession foods and beverages categorized by color; download the PDF.


Lack of access to healthier itmes
Partner with local grocers, regional food wholesalers, and request healthier items.

Gain purchasing power by working with other groups in your community who may also operate concession stands and purchase in bulk.

The more requests a vendor gets for healthier items, the more likely they will begin to carry those items.
Facilities and storage inadequacy for fresh fruits/vegetables and other perishable healthier foodsConsider working with vendors who allow you to return unsold perishable items.
Profitability concerns
Research shows that serving healthier foods/beverages can still be profitable. Several studies have shown, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agree, that children will purchase healthful options and that schools and other organizations can increase their profit margins even when healthy food and beverage options are the only options available.1

Employing various pricing and placement strategies can increase sales of the healthier items.Use of the supporting marketing materials can enhance sales of the healthier foods/beverages.7
Constant turnover of staff, volunteers, and parents who operate concession stands make it difficult to try new things
Sharing and posting the policy along with using the marketing and messaging materials will help educate your concessions staff.

Gaining buy-in from your organization’s leaders, respected community champions, or local sports figures will help in institutionalizing the new policy.

Identify the health champions within your organization to help educate and encourage others.

To help you assimilate all of the information in this policy, here is a quick ‘check list’ to help you get started in offering healthier foods and beverages in your concession stand:

  • Convene your local concession stand decision makers, health/policy champions, parent volunteers and others together to read and discuss the model policy.
  • Discuss goals of organization, current concession stand offerings, budget, staffing, barriers/solutions to offering healthier foods and beverages.
  • Determine what changes you will make right now in offering healthier foods and beverages—assign tasks and dates for completion.
  • Determine what changes you will make in the future in offering healthier foods and beverages—assign tasks and dates for completion.
  • Enlist others in the community to support your efforts to offer healthier foods and beverages—city leaders, media, other youth organizations, local grocery/food industry partners, youth representatives. Share the policy with them and outline your plan for long-term improvement of your concession stand.
  • Communicate your new healthy concessions policy to others, incorporate marketing materials, and plan a kick-off to unveil your new and improved concession stand.
  • Congratulations on making the change to healthier foods and beverages for your concession stand and for improving the health of your community!
Beverages• Plain, non-carbonated bottled water without flavoring or additives
• 100% fruit juice
• 100% vegetable juice
• Skim, non-fat plain milk
• Unsweetened hot or cold tea
• 100% hot apple cider
• Milk alternatives: soy, almond, rice, no added sugar
• Low-sugar or low-calorie sports drinks
• Zero-calorie sports drinks
• Low-calorie flavored water
• Diet soda
• Seltzer water
• Club soda
• Sugar-free hot cocoa
• Coffee
• 2% milk
• Regular soda
• Regular sports drinks
• Regular hot cocoa
• Fruit drinks
• Sweetened teas, lemonades
• Flavored milk (chocolate, strawberry)
• Flavored milk alternatives
• Whole milk
Grains• Whole-grain baked chips, pretzels, soy crisps, pita chips, crackers
• Animal crackers
• Graham crackers
• Whole-grain cereal
• Low-fat / low-sugar sports bars and granola bars
• Whole-grain buns, bagels, tortillas
• Whole-grain fruit/fig bars
• Goldfish pretzels
• Whole-grain muffins, waffles, pancakes
• Whole-grain noodles, baked
• Regular granola bars
• Cereal bars
• Light popcorn
• Low-fat cookies
• Large soft pretzels
• White breads, pitas, tortillas
• Taco shells
• Rice cakes
• Cracker sandwiches (cheese, peanut butter)
• Goldfish crackers
• Cereal bowls
• Toaster waffles
• Waffles
• Pancakes
• Breadsticks
• Noodles, baked
• Regular chips
• Regular, buttered popcorn
• Cookies
• Cakes
• Toaster pastries
• Packaged muffins
• Doughnuts, croissants, danishes
• Marshmallow cereal treats
• Packaged snack cakes
• ‘Puppy Chow’ made with cereal
• Cupcakes
• Cinnamon rolls
• Ramen noodles
Meats, Hot Foods• Turkey hotdogs with whole-grain buns
• Wraps made with lean turkey, ham, and whole-wheat tortilla
• Cheese pizza with whole-grain crust
• Veggie pizza with whole-grain crust
• Veggie burgers with whole-grain bun
• 95% lean hamburgers, turkey burgers, buffalo burgers on whole-grain bun
• 95% lean fat-free beef, turkey, buffalo jerky
• Tatanka bars (buffalo & cranberries)
• Turkey chili
• Vegetarian chili
• Walking tacos with 95% lean meat on baked tortilla chips
• Taco burgers on whole-grain bun
• Sloppy Joes, BBQ on whole-grain bun
• Broth-based soups: vegetable, noodle, chicken noodle, tomato
• Turkey corn dogs
• Cream-based soups
• Regular hot dogs
• Regular corn dogs
• Regular meat/sausage pizza
• Chicken nuggets
• Slim Jims
• Sausage
• Chili cheese sauce
• Vienna sausages
• Pork rinds
Vegetables• Single-serving bags of carrots or other vegetables
• Fresh garden salad with no added fat
• Baked potatoes with veggie toppings, low-fat cheese
Corn on the cop
• Chef salads
• Large dill pickles
• Battered, fried vegetables
• French fries
• Onion rings
Other• Hard boiled eggs
• Salsa
• Mustard
• Fat-free dressings, dips
• Marinara dipping sauce
• Sugar-free gelatin
• Sugar-free caramel dip
• Low-fat caramel dip
• Candy
• Candy bars, chocolate bars
• Cotton candy
• Fruit Snacks/Fruit Bites
• Jello cups
• Full-fat dressings and dips
• Regular mayonnaise
• Regular sour cream
• Nacho cheese sauce
• Butter
• Lard


Appendix I. Healthy SD Concession Stand Table of Foods/Beverage
See page 10

Appendix II. SD DOH Food Service/Preparation and Safety Guidance
This information is provided to assure you have access to proper food safety and handling guidance when operating your local concession stand.For more information, please contact the SD DOH at (605) 773-3737.

Refer to the following SD Department of Health website for proper food handling/food preparation requirements for food service establishments, regardless of your license status: http://doh.sd.gov/HealthProtection/Food.aspx.


  1. Nemours Healthy Concessions Guide Version 1.March 2010.© 2010.The Nemours Foundation, Nemours Health & Preventive Services, http://www.nemours.org/filebox/service/preventive/nhps/resource/healthyconcession.pdf
  2. Concessions, Successful Students Eat Smart And Move More, North Carolina, August 2007, http://www.eatsmartmovemorenc.com
  3. Criteria for Coding Foods, NEMS-V, Nutrition Environment Measures Survey for Vending, Iowans Fit for Life Active and Eating Smart, Iowa State University Extension.March 1, 2010. http://www.nems-v.com/attachments/CriteriaforColorCodingFood.pdf
  4.  Nutrition Standards For Foods in Schools: Leading the Way Toward Healthier Youth, Institute of Medicine (IOM) Nutrition Standards for Food in Schools, Report Brief, April 2007. http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2007/Nutrition-Standards-for-Foods-in-Schools-Leading-the-Way-toward-Healthier-Youth/FoodinSchools.pdf
  5. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, U.S.Department of Health and Human Services and U.S.Department of Agriculture.2005.6th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S.Government Printing Office, January 2005. https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/dietary-guidelines
  6. Nutrition and Physical Activity Information for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) – MAPPS Strategies Document, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), , September 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/CommunitiesPuttingPreventiontoWork/strategies/index.htm
  7. South Dakota School Height and Weight Report, South Dakota Students, 2009-2010 School Year, South Dakota Department of Health, November 2010. https://doh.sd.gov/statistics/school-height-weight.aspx