Grains, breads & cereals

Family of Complex Carbohydrates

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating a wide variety of mostly whole grain and/or high fibre varieties of breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley. Excluded are refined grain (cereal) food products with high levels of added sugar, fat (in particular saturated fat) and/or salt/sodium, such as cakes and biscuits.

Why is it important for children to eat breads and cereals?

Breads and cereals are good sources of fibre, carbohydrates, protein and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. This food group should form the main source of kilojoules (energy) in the diet. Grains are an essential part of a healthy diet, providing nutrients and energy for a child’s normal growth and development.

Whole grains vs processed (white) grains

Whole grain foods are any foods that contain every part of the grain, including the outer layers, bran and germ. Processed, white grains have the bran removed which is where many of the nutrients are stored; they therefore end up having less nutritional value than whole grains. It is possible to purchase fortified grains and cereals in which the lost nutrients have been replaced by the manufacturer, however, wholegrain foods are still the best option.

 How many serves of breads and cereals do children need to eat?

For children, offer a variety of breads and cereals each day and choose predominately wholegrain products. The recommended daily serves for children and adolescents are shown  below. It should be noted that the number of serves varies according to activity levels, age and health status.

Recommended number of grain foods per day

 2-8 years9-11 years12-13 years14-18 years

A serve of grains (breads and cereals) is equivalent to:

• 1 slice of bread or 1/2 a medium roll or flat bread (40g)  – at least half the bread kids eat should be whole grain or high fibre bread.

• 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta, couscous, bulgur or quinoa (75–120g)

• 1/2 cup cooked porridge (120g)

• 2/3 cup cereal flakes (30g) or 1/4 cup muesli (30g)

• 3 crispbreads (35g)

• 1 crumpet (60g) or 1 small English muffin or scone (35g)

• 1/4 cup flour (30g)

Glycaemic Index

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale of 0 to 100 according to how much they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are quickly digested and absorbed which results in a rapid increase in blood sugar levels.

Low-GI foods are preferable as they are slowly digested and absorbed, producing a gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. They therefore provide a continuous supply of energy from one meal to the next, which helps maintain energy and concentration levels and helps keep us feeling fuller for longer.

Lower GI grain foods

• Whole grain bread – look bread with intact grains

• Low GI white bread

• Basmati rice, low GI white or brown rice

• Pasta

• Oats

Higher GI grain foods

• White bread

• Jasmine and Arborio rice

• Rice cakes

• Most crispbreads

• Most flaked corn, wheat and puffed rice cereals