Why Do We Need Wholegrains?

We’ve all heard that wholegrains are good for us, but what exactly are they and how much should we be feeding our kids?

Whole grains include whole wheat, oats, brown rice, corn (maize), barley, buckwheat, rye, and millet.

They are grains that are whole, intact and unrefined. The seed of a plant, is made up of three edible parts of the plant – the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Wholegrain food is any food which uses every part of the grain including the outer layers, bran and germ.

  • The bran is the outer skin; it contains dietary fibre, essential fatty acids as well as protein, vitamins and minerals.
  • The germ sits inside the bran, it is essentially the seed of the grain and contains a wide range of nutrients, including dietary fibre, vitamin E, folate, phosphorus, thiamine, zinc, and magnesium, as well as essential fatty acids. It is a good source of fibre.
  • The endosperm is by far the largest portion of the kernel. It contains starchy carbohydrates, protein and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

If a grain has been refined, heavily milled or polished, such as in ‘white’ versions of grains, the bran and germ will have been removed, leaving just the endosperm.

Why do little ones need wholegrains?

Wholegrains are a great way to start the day for a toddler or young child. For example, whole grain cereals such as wheat biscuits and oats, or wholegrain bread, are nutritious foods that are high in fibre and low in salt and sugar. And incorporating snacks which contain wholegrains into the diet of your little ones, can be a great way to up their intake.

Young children are growing, developing and constantly on the go; they also have small stomachs, which fill quickly and a fast metabolism. As a result, they need small amounts of food relatively frequently, in comparison to adults. Whole grains are nutrient-dense, energy-rich foods which can make them ideal foods for busy children. They help to maintain energy levels and help maintain a feeling of fullness for longer. Research has indicated that children who eat whole grains are at a lower risk of well-known chronic diseases including obesity and diabetes.

Another benefit of wholegrains is that they contain dietary fibre, which is the part of plant food which cannot be digested by the stomach or intestines. It helps to maintain digestive health, contributes to preventing constipation and also plays a role in stabilising blood glucose levels. With all of its health benefits, dietary fibre should be an essential part of the daily diet for children aged over 12 months.

Daily requirements

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend we eat a variety of grain foods each day choosing mostly whole grain and/or high fibre varieties. The table below indicates how many serves of wholegrains and how much dietary fibre children need.

Age Wholegrain serves per day Dietary fibre requirements
0-12 months    4 No average intake has been set.

Human milk contains no dietary fibre and as such, there are no functional criteria for dietary fibre in infants.

1-3 years    4 14g/day
4-8 years    4 18g/day

Most Australians consume less than half the recommended quantity of wholegrain foods. Whole Grain foods contain more fibre, vitamins and minerals than refined cereal foods and are important part of a child’s diet. Whole Kids know how important this is, so and over 50% of our current food range contains wholegrains and we are looking to incorporate even more!

About the Author

Diana Austen works for Whole Kids as a Nutrition Advisor. With a Master’s degree in nutrition, she has over six years’ experience working with a range of companies on innovation, strategic insight and regulatory and scientific affairs. Fascinated by the nutritional requirements of infants and young children she focuses specifically on products for this age group.

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