Five Minutes With Dr Sara Grafenauer

As an accredited practising dietician and managing director at the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council, it’s safe to assume Dr Sara Grafenauer knows a bit about bread and its important role in the daily lives of Australians. She talks to Baking Business about bread, health, and how bakers can make us all a bit healthier.

What does your role as Managing Director at the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council entail?

I have been at the Council since mid 2017 and we have a really clear strategy across four pillars—Evidence, Market Insights, Industry Engagement and Community Engagement. There were so many great things that the Council was already doing as part of their normal work, so for me, it was really about taking these to the next level. We now have a searchable database for >1000 whole grain foods which are registered with us. We publish our findings from audits, consumer and health care professional research in scientific journals for greater accessibility, and this has also helped with recognition of the Council on the global stage. We now have two flagship campaigns, one coinciding with the end of the school break, called Bring Back the Sandwich, aimed at taking the pressures off parents packing lunches and Whole Grain Week in mid-June, aimed at swapping to whole grain to meet the 48g target.

What is the goal of Whole Grain Week?

Whole Grain Week is aimed at more Australians achieving the 48g Daily Intake Target (DTI) for whole grain by swapping out refined foods for whole grain. This year we will have new supermarket tour videos with Dietitians showing the key pantry items for every household—helping show how to choose whole grain foods while shopping.

What are the health benefits of switching to whole grains?

There are day-to-day benefits of ensuring regularity and better gut health—but the longer-term benefits are far greater. Reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, particularly bowel cancer.

Do you have a few “quick and dirty tips” for getting more whole grains in our diets?

The easiest path is by choosing a whole grain cereal and a wholemeal bread. You can check our searchable database for the best brands and those certified by GLNC.

In fact, if you choose a really great, high in whole grain bread, a simple sandwich can get you to the 48g target in just two slices.

Other methods might include using brown rice, especially in dishes where the family can’t tell its brown, like fried rice (a healthy version of course!). There are lots of varieties of flat breads, English muffins and fruit bread that all are available in whole grain.

What role can bakers/bakeries play in improving public perception of whole grains?

Bread is a key food in the Australian diet and a key source of whole grain. I think working with millers to buy really fresh whole grain flour and then working with bread recipes to really perfect the best wholemeal product possible. This could just be a 50 per cent whole grain, 50 per cent white flour product. There is also an opportunity to promote whole grain by teaching sales assistants to offer these breads… and allow people to taste the beautiful fresh bread.

What would you say are the biggest issues with the typical Australian diet right now?

Discretionary foods and drinks make up on average 35 per cent of our energy intake. For everyone it is a bit different… for some people, it may be alcoholic beverages for others its snack foods or poor meal choices with fatty meats. I still have a private practice and through my clinic I see a real variety of issues. People are hungry, and eating a better-quality bread and breakfast cereal can really help manage hunger, assist with weight loss and manage more regular gut health.

Naturally, there are other issues with consuming sufficient fruit and vegetables, but getting the grains back into the diet goes a long way to ensuring there is enough dietary fibre. More Australians could consult with a dietitian—and get the advice that’s right for them. It is really far better than going it alone when it comes to life long good health.

Bread and carbs in general get a pretty bad rap these days; how do we reverse the negative perceptions?

It’s about pointing to quality carbohydrates. Our new research shows that there are significant healthcare cost savings if people ate whole grain foods, and were able to reach that 48g DTI. We’ve calculated a $750 million saving for Type 2 Diabetes and a $717 million saving for Cardiovascular disease annually if all Aussies were to simply choose wholemeal bread, whole grain breakfast cereals, crackers or grains. This equates to a $1.4billion in savings annually for a simple swap to whole grain and prevention of disease.

Can you tell us a bit about the ‘Bring Back the Sandwich’ campaign?

Bring Back the Sandwich was inspired by a nutrition audit of the bread category we had conducted in late 2017. We found there were 20 fewer white loaf breads and these had been replaced by 20 wholemeal varieties. The simple sandwich, with two slices of bread and a nutritious filling, can help kids (and adults) get through the work day. Bread is fortified with iodine, folate and thamin, so it is a useful support for adequate intakes of these vitamins and minerals. The actual aim of the campaign is to help parents who feel pressured to be creative—when really, it’s as simple as choosing a good wholemeal bread. We provide ideas for fillings—but the aim is to have something that the kids can eventually do for themselves. There is no reason by fifth class that kids can’t be making those sandwiches themselves.

What’s your favourite way to have a sandwich?

I love a combination of three simple fillings… always a green leafy, a free veg and a protein… it’s a dietitian thing… something like rocket/lettuce/spinach with cucumber or capsicum and cheese, tuna or hummus (homemade of course). It’s a recipe for success!


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