Enjoy a variety of wholegrain and cereal foods

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This week we are continuing on with the basics of a nutritious diet. Our choice of grain and cereal foods ideally considers our health requirements, a balance of the different grains available, and the degree of processing. Wholemeal and wholegrain varieties are promoted due to their higher content of fibre and other nutrients compared to refined products, such as those made with white flours.

Rows of whole grains

What are the Benefits of Wholegrain Foods?

Grains and cereals supply the body with a range of nutrients, including carbohydrate, iron and thiamin. They also provide protein, fibre, magnesium, zinc, riboflavin, niacin equivalents, folate and sodium. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend at least 4 to 6 serves a day of mostly wholemeal and wholegrain varieties. For men and active adults more than 6 serves may be required.

What is a Serve?

A serve equals any one of the following options:

  • 40g bread (this is equivalent to two thin slices or one thick slice or one small to medium sized bread roll)
  • ½ cup or 100g cooked rice or pasta or noodles
  • ½ cup cooked oats or mixed grain porridge (made of oats, rye, rice and other grains)
  • ½ cup cooked barley or buckwheat or quinoa
  • ¼ cup of muesli (30g)

I like to term the grain and cereal foods recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines as everyday foods. Foods that have high amounts of added sugar, salt and fat, such as cakes, sweet biscuits, commercially prepared muffins and some savoury biscuits are not included in the grain and cereals group. The natural nutritional balance of these foods through processing has been altered in a way that can be detrimental to health. Consider them as occasional foods.

What about Wheat?

Over the past several decades wheat based foods have had a high profile in the Australian diet. From my observation breads, muffins, wheat crackers and other savoury biscuits have become a convenient snack. The 1995 National Nutrition Survey estimated about 40% of our cereal consumption was from sliced bread and bread rolls. Breakfast cereals also contributed highly. The exceptions to this trend were people from Asian countries who consumed 70% of their grains and cereal as rice.

Eat Wholegrain Foods Mindfully

I encourage you to reflect on the cereal and grain foods that you have eaten during the past day and week. Do you eat at least 4 to 6 serves? Do you eat mostly sliced bread? Is it white, wholemeal or wholegrain? Perhaps if you eat mostly refined or occasional types of grain foods, consider ways of substituting these foods with more nutritious varieties. Try mixed grain porridge for breakfast, baked vegetable quinoa salad with lunch and boiled brown and wild rice with a stir-fry meal in the evening. I’m not suggesting that you totally remove bread; rather I’m encouraging you to enjoy a variety of foods.

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