Friday, December 16, 2016

Whole Grains and Legumes: A Source of Dietary Fibre for Toddlers

By Jennifer Zhang

Why is toddler nutrition important?

The current Australian Dietary Guidelines and Infant Feeding Guidelines lack recommendations for whole grains and legumes for toddlers (a toddler is defined as a child aged between 1-3 years in this instance). This is also an issue amongst international guidelines where very few recommendations for whole grains and legumes are available for children under the age of three. This is most likely attributed to the lack of evidence regarding the benefits of whole grains and legumes on toddler health and the highly variable requirements amongst toddlers where a specific recommendation may result in inadequate or excessive intake for some children.

A focus on toddler nutrition is very important as this is when children are learning eating behaviours and forming attitudes towards food. The development of these attitudes and practices can determine lifelong eating patterns and thus influence health outcomes and risk of diet-related disease later in life (1). Therefore, the introduction of whole grains and legumes as part of a healthy diet for toddlers is important to promote healthy eating habits from a young age, as the benefits of consuming high fibre grain foods in adulthood are well established.

Why fibre?

Both whole grains and legumes have a range of nutrients including B-group vitamins (folate and thiamin), iron, magnesium, and most importantly, fibre. Dietary fibre refers to the indigestible parts of plant foods that are usually partially or completely fermented in the large intestine (2). The health benefits of fibre for adults is well documented, with evidence suggesting that higher intakes are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers, as well as improvements in blood glucose and cholesterol levels (3). Therefore, it is important to encourage adequate fibre intake from a young age to develop good eating habits and promote favourable health outcomes later in life.

Fibre is also an essential nutrient for bowel health where inadequate intake is associated with constipation, a common issue amongst toddlers (3). The prevalence of constipation varies between 5-30% of children where increasing dietary fibre (and water intake) is usually the recommended treatment (4). It has also been shown that preschool-aged children identified as picky eaters have lower intakes of dietary fibre and increased prevalence of hard stools (5). Therefore, adequate fibre intake is very important for toddlers to prevent constipation and maintain bowel health. The current recommendation for dietary fibre is an intake of 14g per day for those aged 1-3 years (2).

Current Intake of Whole grains and Legumes

The Australian Health Survey (AHS) 2011-13 found that 2-3 year olds consumed approximately three serves of core grain foods per day, which was below the four serve per day recommendation (6,7). The AHS also found that on average 2-3 year olds consumed 16g of fibre per day which is above dietary fibre recommendations. However, only 39% of grain foods consumed by 2-3 year olds were from whole grain or high fibre sources, which falls short of the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommendation to consume at least two thirds of grain intake from whole grain or high fibre varieties (6,7).

The AHS also looked at legume intake for children aged 2-3 years as part of both the vegetable and lean meat and alternatives food group. It was found that less than 1% of children aged 2-3 years consumed the recommended 2.5 serves of vegetables per day, with an average intake of 1.4 serves for males and 1.1 serves for females (6,7). Of the types of vegetables eaten by 2-3 year olds, only 11% were legumes or beans (6). Similarly, less than 16% of males and 6% of females aged 2-3 years met the one serve recommendation for lean meat and alternatives, with an average intake of 0.7 serves per day (6,7) and only 10% coming from legumes (6).

Therefore, overall intake of both legumes and whole grains is very low amongst toddlers. It is important to include whole grain foods and legumes in the toddler diet to ensure that requirements for important nutrients such as fibre are met.

Fibre in Whole Grains

But there is some good news! Fibre intake can be easily increased by substituting current grain foods with whole grains. See the below table comparing the amount of fibre in one serve of refined and whole grain versions of foods (8).

Amount of Fibre
% Increase in Fibre

Whole Grain
Bread (1 slice)
1.1 g
1.9 g
Rice (1/2 cup)
0.9 g
1.4 g
Breakfast Cereal (2/3 cup)
0.8 g
4.6 g
Pasta (1/2 cup)
1.7 g
4.2 g

Amount of Fibre per 75 g
(1/2 cup serve)
Baked Beans (Canned)
3.9 g
Black Beans
6.6 g
Kidney Beans
5.4 g
Split Peas
6.2 g
2.8 g
3.5 g

As you can see, simply switching refined options for whole grain options can increase dietary fibre intake dramatically, helping a toddler reach their goal for fibre intake. For example, one ½ cup serve of wholemeal pasta can provide up to one third of a toddler’s dietary fibre requirement (2).

Fibre in Legumes

The total amount of dietary fibre in legumes can vary widely between 3-6 g per 75 g of cooked legumes. Below is a table showing the amount of dietary fibre in commonly eaten legumes (8):

A portion of legumes as small as ½ cup cooked can provide up to 20-47% of a toddler’s dietary fibre requirements (2).

In summary, the consumption of whole grains and legumes can be very beneficial for increasing fibre intake for most toddlers, especially if you have a picky eater as each small portion of whole grains or legumes can provide a significant amount of fibre. The early introduction of whole grains and legumes should be encouraged to prevent childhood constipation, help form healthy eating habits from a young age and promote long term health.

1. Queensland Health. A healthy start in life: a nutrition manual for health professionals – Toddler nutrition [Internet]. 2008 [cited Dec 6]. Available from:
2. Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand – Nutrients, Dietary Fibre [Internet]. 2014 [updated 2014 Sep 4; cited 2016 Dec 6]. Available from:
3.  Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis JRH, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition reviews. 2009;67(4):188-205.
4. SA Child Health Clinical Network. South Australian Paediatric Practice Guidelines – Constipation in Children [Internet]. Government of South Australia; 2014 Feb 11 [cited 2016 Dec 13]. Available from:
5. Taylor CM, Northstone K, Wernimont SM, Emmett PM. Picky eating in preschool children: Associations with dietary fibre intakes and stool hardness. Appetite. 2016;100:263-71.
6.  Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4364.0.55.012 - Australian Health Survey: Consumption of Food Groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2011-12. Canberra; 2016 May 11 [cited 2016 Dec 13]. Available from:
7. National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Government; 2013 [cited 2016 Dec 13]. Available from:
8. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. AUSNUT2011-13 – Australian food composition database [Internet]. Canberra: FSANZ; 2014 May 9 [updated 2016 Apr 27; cited 2016 Dec 6]. Available from:

Looking Ahead to 2017: 5 Key Food Trends

By Alexandra Locke

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to start looking at the key trends for the year to come, highlighting new and innovative ways to reach consumers, provide key benefits and ultimately raise awareness of our brands by offering a new outlook for the coming year.

We’ve taken a look at 5 of 2017’s top trends and the considerable opportunities for change and innovation!

“A key trend is a genuine growth opportunity. It’s a set of changes in consumer beliefs and behaviours, leading to a change in a market. It’s something on which a company can base its strategy to increase sales of existing products or create new products, to boost market share and profitability.”

Number 1: Digestive Wellness 2.0

Forecast to be the biggest trend for 2017 according to the New Nutrition Business 2017 Trends Report, digestive wellness reflects the rise in consumer awareness of the effects of good and bad digestive health. Emerging research is connecting the digestive system to all areas of health including anxiety, depression, weight management and diabetes amongst many others and is continuing to reveal new developments in this area. No longer purely a reaction to the hot topic of gut health and the microbiome, this area encompasses other trends such as the gluten free movement and rise in plant based eating. 

Consumers are now paying more attention to how a specific food can make them feel, so want to feel the benefit of the products they buy and feel assured that they’re promoting their digestive health and overall wellness when making food choices – these consumers will pay a premium for products which taste good and offer functional digestive benefits. And so the opportunities for manufacturers within this sphere will grow too – this is a trend to get on board with now!

Many consumers identify gluten and lactose free foods as a key to digestive health, which will ensure these trends persist. As such, those products experiencing the most growth in this area fall within the dairy alternative category. This highlights plenty of opportunities for both grain and legume products too, as consumers become increasingly aware of the benefits of fibre on good digestive health. Key opportunities include dairy alternatives, gluten free innovation and fermented foods which are also experiencing significant resurgence and innovation - pickled lentils anyone?

Number 2: Plant-Based

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Sage advice from Michael Pollan which many consumers are now taking to heart with the rise of the second biggest trend for 2017 and perhaps the most opportunistic for those in the grains and legumes industry - the plant based diet. With new research demonstrating the multiple benefits of a mostly plant based diet, ranging from up to a 25% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes to lower incidences of obesity and smaller waist circumferences (1), the possibilities for product development within this space are numerous, with plant milks and meat and dairy alternatives all increasing and a spotlight moment for seeds and grains.

Within this trend there’s been a significant increase in the number of consumers following a Flexitarian diet promoting a mostly plant based or vegetarian approach, whilst also including small amounts of animal based products. With an increase of seven times the amount of plant based claims on packaging since 2011 (2), there’s a clear indication that this trend is here to stay. The future looks bright for natural products, legume snacks, tempeh and protein based plant foods.

Number 3: Inflammation

A relatively recent area of focus in the FMCG space, inflammation is fast becoming the next hot topic. With inflammation now linked to everything from the development of chronic disease to how effectively we handle stress, this trend is driving consumer purchasing and behavioural decisions. A recent study has shown that whole grain intake had the strongest link to anti-inflammatory markers out of 37 foods studied (3) – highlighting more opportunities for the whole grain category in 2017. 

The star in this space is surely turmeric, recently attracting much praise for its anti-inflammatory properties and appearing in everything from wraps to tea to smoothies. You only have to take a quick sweep through Instagram to encounter numerous Turmeric Lattes, Golden Mylks and Glowing Smoothies. And single serve on-the-go drinks are the number one opportunity for manufacturers looking to weigh in on the inflammation trend, offering plenty of potential for dairy alternative inflammatory busting beverages. With research on inflammation coming thick and fast, this is one trend that’s not going away!

Number 4: Good Carbs, Bad Carbs

Over the past year we've increasingly seen consumers choosing between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbs, with an emphasis on the importance of choosing the most healthful carbohydrate format. Both the media and consumers are becoming more aware that carbohydrates are essential as part of a healthy balanced diet, focusing on crowding out refined and processed carbohydrates by increasing intake of whole grains, wholemeal bread and pseudo-grains, as well as eating more ‘alternative’ forms of carbohydrates, think sweet potato toasts and zucchini noodles. But consumers are still cutting carbs with 35% actively cutting down on carbs as a dietary priority with the breakfast cereal category amongst the hardest hit due to the persisting perception that many cereals are overly refined, processed and high in sugar (4).

With ‘healthier’ forms of carbohydrate on the rise in 2016, we’ve seen significant movement towards alternative pasta products made with quinoa, chickpea or rice flour to products avoiding the traditional carb-heavy format as much as possible such as veggie noodles made with zucchini or beetroot, with this trend set to continue well into 2017. The focus should now be on manufacturers emphasising the importance of good forms of carbohydrates and making traditional carbohydrates more convenient - think porridge and traditional breakfast items in on-the-go formats alongside products incorporating vegetables wherever possible.

Number 5: Snackification

And finally, the rise of the snack market. With the Australian snacking market now worth more than $2 billion and climbing fast (1), this field is seeing the most innovation in response to massive consumer demand for snack products of all varieties. Grains and legume innovation in this area is rife and for good reason – Australians are now snacking four times as much as 10 years ago.

This innovation combined with a low failure rate for products makes an attractive proposition for manufacturers, with 60% of snacks launched between 2003 and 2013 still on the market in 2016(4). And it would appear that anything goes with this trend, any food can be engineered to be thought of as a snack, any time of day is open to snackification and there are no limits on product development - almost any ingredient that can be dried, pureed, shaped, extruded or frozen is open to innovation. Take Peeled Snacks for example – a vegetable based snack made from rice and pea flour which passed $10 million in sales this year (4) thanks to hitting three of the recent major trends: plant based, no added sugar and a source of veggie protein. Chickpeas in particular have seen a surge in innovation, with products including low sugar, plant based cookies, roasted chickpeas and a range of healthy spreads made with the humble legume.

Professor David Hughes, Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London, sums up the gravitas of this trend, “...such is the degree to which snacking is becoming part of people’s everyday habits, whatever food commodity you are in, you need to have a snacking variant.”

For more on the irrepressible rise of the snack market, click here.

Consumers look set to continue experimenting with their preferred way of eating, working out what approach is best for them but the more trends a product can align with, the more successful it’s likely to become. And with so many areas of new and emerging research and technological and processing advances being made almost every day, it appears there are no limits to the opportunities manufacturers face throughout 2017 and beyond.

1. Innova Market Insights Report. 2016.
2. Harland J, Garton L. An update of the evidence relating to plant-based diets and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and overweight. Nutrition Bulletin. 2016;41(4):323-38.
3. Ozawa M, Shipley M, Kivimaki M, Singh-Manoux A, Brunner EJ. Dietary pattern, inflammation and cognitive decline: The Whitehall II prospective cohort study. Clinical nutrition. 2016.
4. Mellentin, J. New Nutrition Business. 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health 2017. 2016.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Highlights from the Nutrition Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting

By Rebecca Williams

The Nutrition Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting was held in Melbourne from the 29th of
November to 2nd of December. The conference brought together nutrition scientists from around the world to hear the latest research on the association between food and health. Some of the highlights from the conference included:

A Systematic Approach to Estimate the Legume Content of Australian Foods
GLNC’s University of Wollongong student Anna Ross gave an oral presentation which showcased some of the results of her Masters research project. This included the expansion of the AUSNUT 2011-2013 database to include legume content data from three legume subgroups: non-oil seed legumes, soy foods and beverages, and peanuts. Cereal based products and dishes formed the largest proportion (23%) of the database. This database will provide a tool for use in a range of research and practice settings.

Role of Nutrition in Immune Homeostasis
Professor Mimi Tang from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Victoria spoke about the critical role diet plays in regulating immune homeostasis through shaping the gut microbiota and promoting the production of short chain fatty acids. Children are born with a largely sterile gut which rapidly evolves in early life depending on the mode of delivery (vaginal vs caesarian section), maternal microbiota, whether the baby is breast fed vs formula fed and the types of first foods. The greatest shifts in the microbiota is believed to occur in the ‘first 1000 days’, particularly during the transition onto solid foods. Diets that contain high fibre foods are associated with favourable immune homeostasis, increased short chain fatty acid production (particularly butyrate and acetate) and a reduced risk of non-communicable disease.

Food Group and Dietary Fibre Consumption on Paleolithic and Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) Diets
A four week randomised intervention of 39 healthy females from Edith Cowan University showed that those following a Paleo diet had a higher intake of fruit, vegetables and protein, but a lower intake of grains, legumes and dairy compared to those following the AGHE diet. While there were no differences in total fibre, soluble and insoluble fibre intake, consumption of resistant starch was significantly lower on the Paleo diet. Therefore while the Paleo group did consume more fruit and vegetables, their reduced intake of grains and legumes appears to negatively impact resistant starch intake. This may have an unfavourable effect on gut microbiota and risk of chronic disease.

Fun Facts from Research Presented at NSA
  • One third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted.
  • Dietary factors are now the leading contributors to the global burden of disease.  
  • It is estimated that around one third of the most common cancers are preventable through appropriate dietary intake, maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity.
  • Transmissible diet-induced epigenetic changes can occur in a single generation.
  • Australians consumed nearly half of added sugars (as a proportion of daily intake) at non-main meal occasions, most of which came from energy dense nutrient poor foods.

Making the Most of the Whole Grain Opportunity

By Rebecca Williams

New research examining global whole grain intakes suggests that Australia is doing better than some countries for whole grain consumption(1). However we still have a long way to go to meet the amount of whole grain recommended for good health and chronic disease risk reduction.

According to the most recent National Nutrition Survey only 34% of grain food consumed came from whole grain or high fibre grain foods(2). This aligns with GLNC’s own research, which shows that more than 40% of Australians eat less than one serve of whole grain food per day(3). An intake of three serves of whole grain a day is recommended to promote health and reduce chronic disease risk(4, 5), however in Australia only one in three people meets this target(3).

Whilst Australia is doing much better than the UK - where just 17% of people meet this target and the US where only 8% eat enough whole grain - we’re not doing nearly as well as countries like Denmark, Sweden and Norway(1). Residents in these countries typically consume twice as much whole grain as the average Australian and may experience fewer instances of chronic disease as a result.

One of the reasons Australians are not meeting whole grain recommendations may be because they are confused about which foods are whole grain foods. The 2014 GLNC Consumption Study found that less than half of survey respondents were able to identify that oats and wholemeal pasta were a source of whole grain(3). One of the contributing factors to consumer confusion may be that unlike other nutrients, the Food Standards Code does not regulate whole grain content claims, and consequently foods making whole grain claims may vary in the amount of whole grain they contain. Data from the 2016 GLNC product audit showed that the whole grain content of packaged breads with whole grain content claims on pack varied from around 8g to 60g of whole grain per serve(6).

To ensure consumers are getting consistent information on whole grain content, the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council launched the Code of Practice for Whole Grain Ingredient Content Claims in 2013. The Code helps to regulate whole grain content claims through the establishment of a benchmark for the minimum amount of whole grain a product must contain to make a whole grain ingredient content claim.

A recent impact assessment revealed significant uptake of, and a high level of compliance with, the Code by food industry. This should instil confidence in the Australian public’s ability to identify foods which contain a significant amount of whole grain.

Since the Code was launched Registered Users of the Code have added over 100,000 tonnes or more than 400 Olympic swimming pools of whole grain to the Australian food supply through new and renovated products. This is great news as it means that with increasing innovation in the whole grain category, it’s easier than ever for Australians to choose foods that are high in whole grain. 

While food industry is doing its part to support consumer choice, quantified public health recommendations would encourage consumers to choose whole grain more often. Based on the evidence for better health outcomes, this recommendation should be to choose whole grain for at least three of your six serves of grain foods a day.

The average Australian would need an increase of just 1.5 serves of whole grain a day to meet the recommended three serves and reap the significant health benefits of higher whole grain intake. This could be as simple as swapping the white bread in your sandwich for a wholemeal variety, or opting for a whole grain breakfast cereal in the morning. If you're in need of some inspiration, why not check out some of the delicious whole grain recipes available on the GLNC website.

Registered Users of the GLNC Code of Practice in Australia and New Zealand include:

If you're interested in registering with the Whole Grain Code of Practice or simply want to find out more click here.

1. Mann KD, Pearce MS, Seal CJ. Providing evidence to support the development of whole grain dietary recommendations in the United Kingdom. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2016:1-9.
2. ABS. 2011-2012 Australian Health Survey: Consumption of food groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2011–12 — Australia. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016.
3. GLNC. 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Report. Unpublished: 2014.
4. NHMRC. Australian Dietary Guidelines Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. 2013 Accessed online January 2014.
5. Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, Fadnes LT, Boffetta P, Greenwood DC, et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Bmj. 2016;353.
6. GLNC. GLNC 2015-2016 Grains and Legumes Product Audit. Unpublished: Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council 2016.