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Easy ways to add wholegrains to your diet

You often read about ‘low carb’ diets and how we should be cutting back on carbohydrates. But hold on a minute, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Highly processed carbohydrates such as white bread, cakes, biscuits and sugary drinks are often referred to as having empty calories. They provide calories for our body to use but that’s it. There is very little of the good stuff, such as vitamins, minerals and fibre.

On the flipside, wholegrain carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread and breakfast cereals, brown rice, oats, barley, wheat germ, millet and quinoa not only provide us with calories but also many nutrients like dietary fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E and healthy fats.

Wholegrains are important for wellbeing. They can reduce our chances of getting heart disease and type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes they help stabilise blood sugars. Wholegrains are high in dietary fibre. Fibre feeds the good bacteria in our gut and prevents constipation.

How to up your wholegrains

We get most of our wholegrains from bread and breakfast cereals so it’s important to look for wholegrains and check the fibre content on these products. Aim for more than 5g dietary fibre per 100g when you are checking the label. Swap white bread for wholemeal or wholegrain.

Oats make a great breakfast choice, either as porridge, muesli, or soaked with added yoghurt and fruit.

Try brown rice instead of white rice. If you live alone or with one other, you can now buy handy pouches of brown rice that take just 90 seconds in the microwave. Or make a larger amount and freeze in portions. Brown rice salad is a lovely way to enjoy this nutty grain.

Mix and mingle your grains – try bulgur (cracked wheat) in a salad or add a sprinkle of wheat germ to your morning porridge.


This is a great way to start your day, and you can vary the ingredients according to the season.

Serves 1


½ cup rolled or wholegrain oats

½ cup trim milk

½ cup natural yoghurt


1/ Place oats, milk and yoghurt in a container with a lid.

2/ Stir well, cover and refrigerate overnight.

3/ In the morning, stir and add any of the following ingredients:

  • mashed or chopped banana; grated or chopped apple or pear; stewed fruit; fresh or frozen berries.
  • raisins or other dried fruit; pumpkin or sunflower seeds; chopped nuts.
  • cinnamon; lemon zest or juice.


Here’s a good introduction to brown rice. If time or energy is in short supply, use a pouch of cooked rice and a commercial Asian dressing.

Serves 4


2 cups cooked brown rice

½ red pepper, seeds removed, finely diced

½ cup whole kernel corn, canned or frozen

2 tbsp currants or raisins

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

225g can pineapple pieces, drained – save the juice for dressing

¼ cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped


1/ Mix all salad ingredients together in a bowl.

2/ For the dressing, combine in a jar the saved pineapple juice, 2 tsp oil, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp crushed garlic, 1 tsp crushed ginger, salt and pepper to taste.

3/ Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

The salad will keep well for up to two days. It is great the next day for lunch!

About Senior Chef

Senior Chef
Senior Chef is an 8-week cooking class for people aged 60 and over who want to improve their cooking skills, confidence, or motivation around cooking for one or two people. Classes are held in various locations around Christchurch and Canterbury. Senior Chef is free to attend. Everything, including the ingredients for the cooking class and recipe book, is provided. To find out more, go to seniorchef.co.nz, email senior.chef@pegasus.org.nz or phone 0800 333 405.

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