Recommended Amount of Grains

The revised Australian Dietary Guidelines were launched in February 2013 and continue to encourage Australians to eat a variety of grain foods as part of a healthy diet.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines summarise the best available scientific evidence to provide a guide for a ‘healthy diet’. That is, they recommend food choices that provide the nutrients needed for optimal well being today and protect against chronic disease in the future.

There are five Guidelines. Guideline Two recommends people to eat a wide variety of foods from the five food groups: vegetables, fruit, grains, meat and alternatives and dairy. These are known as ‘core foods’ and are foods that we should all eat most of the time.

Guideline Three recommends people limit foods and drinks containing saturated and trans fats, added salt, added sugars and alcohol. While many of these foods, like cakes, pies, pizzas and salty snacks, may taste good most don’t contain a lot of important nutrients we need for optimal health. Also, people who eat these types of foods often are more likely to develop chronic disease. It is important to enjoy eating food and have variety so the Australian Dietary Guidelines state that people can choose these foods occasionally as part of healthy eating.

A factsheet has been developed to help explain the changes in core grain food recommendations in the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines. To download a copy click here.

Recommendations on the type of grains and how much to eat
Guideline Two recommends people ‘eat a variety of grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley.’  Grains are recommended because they are the leading source of a range of essential nutrients as well as fibre in the Australian diet.

It is recommended we choose whole grain and high fibre grain foods most of the time because they contain a range of protective components, such as phytonutrients, which are thought to play an important role in the prevention of disease. This means that refined core grain foods, like white rice and pasta, can be enjoyed as long as other grains in your day are whole grain or high fibre.

Table 1 lists the minimum number of serves of core grain foods recommended for people of average height with average levels of activity each day.  People who are taller than average or more active will need more.

Table 1: Recommended serves of grain-based foods

Identifying core grain foods
Choose core grain foods first:

  • Core grain foods including breads, breakfast cereals, crispbreads, rice, pasta and noodles are primary contributors of fibre, thiamin, magnesium and iron in the Australian diet.
  • Non-core grain foods are high in salt, fat or added sugar, including cakes, pastries, biscuits, chips, pies and sausage rolls.
  • Refined core grain foods including white bread, rice, and pasta are core grain foods and may be included if the other grain foods in your day are whole grain or high fibre.

What is a ‘serve’ of grain-based food?

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating defines a serve as:

  • 1 slice bread / flat bread (about 40g)
  • ½ medium roll (about 40g)
  • ½ cup cooked polenta, rice, pasta, noodles barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta or quinoa (75 – 120g)
  • ½ cup cooked porridge
  • ⅔ cup wheat cereal flakes (30g)
  • ¼ cup muesli (30g)
  • ¼ cup flour (30g)
  • 3 crispbreads (35g)
  • 1 crumpet (60g) or small English muffin or scone (35g)

Putting it all together
It’s easy to get 6 serves of grain foods every day, and with a little planning, easily make half of them whole grain or high fibre. This leaves room for some refined grains such as white rice, white pasta and white bread.

GLNC recommends people enjoy grain foods 3 – 4 times a day, choosing at least half as whole grain or high fibre. This is because people often eat more than one serve in a meal (see the meal plan below).

To help guide people on the amount of whole grain to eat to reduce risk of disease, GLNC established a whole grain Daily Target Intake in 2006, click here for further information.

Meal plan

To view references click here.

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