Why should we eat wholegrains?

Nicole Toia,

What is a wholegrain?

Before we dive in to why we should eat wholegrains, let us take a moment to define what a grain is, and more importantly what it means when we talk about wholegrains. A grain is a seed that comes from certain types of grass plants. The most common types of grains are wheat, oats, rice, barley, millet, quinoa, and corn. Once harvested these grains can be ground into flour to make pasta, breads and noodles, or rolled and made into breakfast cereals.  

Grains are made up of three layers; the bran, endosperm, and germ. When we talk about wholegrains, we are simply saying that none of these three layers have been removed, the grain is whole.  Some examples of wholegrains are brown rice, wholemeal or wholegrain bread, wholemeal pasta, pearl barley, whole wheat-based cereal and rolled oats.

When a grain is processed and some of the layers are removed, we no longer have a whole grain. This is what happens in the production of white breads, rice, and pastas. Known as refined grains, these white varieties usually only have the endosperm layer left. This layer is mainly made up of starchy carbohydrates, and only contains a very small amount of protein and nutrients.

So why should we eat wholegrains? Wholegrain

Wholegrains are essentially a whole package with all the goodies included that your body needs when eating grainy foods. When making refined grain products such as white bread, white pasta, and white rice, the bran (the outer layer), and the germ (the inside layer), are usually removed altogether. These layers are where most of the good stuff is found– fibre, vitamin E, B vitamins, healthy fats, iron, magnesium, and zinc. All these essential nutrients help with our children’s digestion, growth, and development, as well as provide long lasting energy to get them through the school day.

Check out the table below to see the difference between white and wholemeal bread options when looking at nutrients such as fibre, iron and zinc.


White Bread

Wholemeal wholegrain bread










Total fat






Vitamin E












Source: Adapted from the Australian Food Composition database, by Food Standards Australian New Zealand, 2021, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/science/monitoringnutrients/afcd/Pages/foodsearch.aspx). Copyright 2022 by Commonwealth of Australia and Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

Uh oh… my child only likes white bread!

We hear you. Children are often drawn to the soft texture and sweet taste of refined grains, whereas wholegrains can be a little more bitter or earthy and can be harder to chew. When introducing wholemeal bread or brown rice it may take children a few tries before they adjust and get used to the taste and texture of wholegrains. Try introducing wholegrain foods slowly; for example if you are having rice for dinner, serve up mainly white rice and add a small spoonful of brown rice on the side, encouraging your child to have a taste. Alternatively make a half white, half brown rice blend and introduce it this way instead.

Including more wholegrains into your child’s day.

For most children it is recommended they have four to five serves of grains each day. Here are a few ways you can get some more wholegrains into their day:

Breakfast – whole wheat cereal with milk and yoghurt, oat porridge with fruit, wholemeal toast topped with baked beans or egg and mushrooms.  

Morning tea – fruit muffin made with wholemeal flour.  Try our Choc Zucchini muffin.  

Lunch – wholemeal or wholegrain sandwich. Use our sandwich builder to put together a tasty sandwich combination.

Afternoon tea - wholegrain crackers with sliced avocado and tomato, or cheese and vegemite.

Dinner - wholemeal pasta bake, curry with a brown rice blend (or try serving barley on the side), vegie filled fried rice using a brown or wild rice.

Overnight oats Choc Zucchini Muffin Wholemeal roll Fried rice