This group includes oats, rye, millet, barley, wheat, corn, some breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, cous cous, polenta and bread. These foods are often referred to as ‘carbohydrates’ although fruit, some vegetables and milk products are also carbohydrates and fall into separate sections of food groups.
|The Ministry of Health encourages you to choose mostly whole grain items and those naturally high in fibre.|
Energy & nutrients
- Foods from this group provide the main source of carbohydrates within the diet. Once eaten they are broken down in your gut to release glucose which is your bodies main fuel supply.
- It is recommended to eat at least six servings of grain foods every day to meet your energy and nutrient requirements.
- By eating some of these at each meal (three times a day) you are helping to keep your energy levels stable which will prevent you from feeling tired. This is particularly important if you have Diabetes.
Ways to include grain foods every day
- Choose a healthy breakfast cereal by reading the label and choosing one that is lower in sugar and higher in fibre. Wheat biscuits and oats are popular healthy choices.
- Toast is another healthy breakfast option if you choose wholemeal or wholegrain bread, and top with spreads, egg, tomato, banana or beans.
- Sandwiches, filled rolls, pita breads and wraps are easy eat-on-the-run lunch foods and can be prepared in advance. Choose wholemeal or wholegrain varieties where you can, add lots of salad fillings, some lean meat, egg, beans or cheese and a low fat dressing if you need it.
- Add pasta or rice to soups with vegetables so you have everything in one bowl and you may not need to eat it with bread or toast.
- To help get your portions right try and fill ½ your plate with vegetables or salad, ¼ with your carbohydrate / grain foods, and ¼ with lean meats, eggs or vegetarian alternatives.
- Another way to remember how much is a good portion is to eat approximately a fist-sized amount of a grain food e.g. pasta, rice, potato with your main meal – this means that you eat in proportion to the size of your body.
||Serving size examples||Nutrients provided|
Carbohydrates and the glycaemic index
All carbohydrates are broken down in the gut to release glucose, which is our main fuel supply. Many nutritionists now think the longer it takes for the food you eat to be broken down to glucose, the healthier that food is for you. That means some carbohydrates are better for you to eat on a regular basis than others.
The rate of breakdown is measured by a system called the glycaemic index (GI), which ranks food on a scale from 0-100 according to the effect it has on blood sugar levels. Foods with an index number of 70 or more are considered to be high GI (breaks food down quickly), foods with an index number between 55 and 70 are considered to be medium GI, and foods with an index number of 55 or less are low GI (breaks food down slowly).
People with diabetes are recommended to eat foods that are low GI as this helps to stabilise their blood-sugar levels.
New Zealand Eating and Activity Guidelines Ministry of Health, NZ