Grain foods

This food group includes bread, rice, pasta, noodles, grains (eg. oats, corn, maize, quinoa, cornmeal/polenta) and breakfast cereals.

Grain foods give us most of the carbohydrates we need for energy to see us through the day, help us concentrate at school and work, and power us when we play sports or do exercise. They contain:

  • B vitamins help our body use the energy from food
  • Fibre (especially from ‘brown’ wholegrain varieties)
  • Minerals, such as zinc and magnesium.

How much do we need to eat?

The amount we need depends on our age. For example, adults should aim to eat at least 6 servings of grain foods per day, choosing wholegrain varieties, such as brown rice & pasta and wholegrain or wholemeal bread (Ministry of Health, 2020). For further information please refer to Appendix 3 of the Ministry of Health Eating and Activity Guidelines. 

Serving sizes

  • 2 breakfast wheat biscuits
  • ½ medium whole grain bread roll or 1 slice of whole-grain bread
  • ½ cup of cooked porridge/rolled oats or ¼ cup of muesli
  • ½ cup of cooked pasta, brown rice, noodles, barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta, bulgur or quinoa
  • 3 (35 g) crispbreads or crackers (wholegrain where possible)

Tips for eating grains

  • Wholegrain types provide extra fibre, B vitamins and minerals.
  • Switch from ‘white’ to wholegrain or wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and breakfast cereals.  For reluctant family members, try one slice of wholemeal bread and one slice of white bread in a sandwich. Wholegrain varieties of breakfast cereals include porridge and muesli.  Whatever the variety though, these foods are important, so white is better than none!
  • Use foods from this group as a snack (eg. toast) or as a meal (eg. rice with a stirfry)
  • Grain foods are not automatically fattening, as many believe.  It’s how much you eat and what you add to them that adds calories.  Add just a scraping of butter or margarine to bread and toast, and use tomato-based sauces with pasta, rather than creamy sauces.

Grains what do kiwis think, and how do they enjoy them?

Produced by Cereal Partners Worldwide Nestle and General Mills.

This resource looks at the consumption of grain-based foods in New Zealand (in 2014), with emphasis on food categories and quantities. It also explores attitudes towards and awareness of grain foods and dietary recommendations; wholegrain and fibre recommendations; barriers to consumption, and influencers of food choices. Click to download Grains what do Kiwis think, and how do they enjoy them?


Ministry of Health. 2020. Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults: Updated 2020. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

Last reviewed: 21/06/2022

Last modified: August 16, 2023