Cheap, filling, and delicious when mixed with something flavourful, it’s little wonder why rice is a staple diet. But it’s full of carbs, high in calories, and can make you even feel bloated if you eat too much of it, so rice might not be a suitable staple for everyone.
Here, let's explore some of the healthiest substitutes or alternatives to rice, so you can swap it out with ease.
What is rice?
Rice is an edible cereal grain produced by the grass plant Poaceae.
Approximately half of the world’s population depends on rice as a staple food in their diet.
White Rice side effects
Here are a few reasons why rice (especially white rice) can be bad for you if you eat it a lot:
- It could increase your risk of diabetes as white rice especially has a high GI, which means its carbs are turned into high blood sugar more quickly than brown rice.
- It may raise your risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that could enhance the risk of health conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure. Studies show that people who regularly eat huge quantities of white rice have more risk of metabolic syndrome.
Reasons to opt for a rice substitute
Why do you need its substitute, why not stick to it in small portions?
This may be very hard to do if you’re used to having rice in multiple meals per week. So to help you better, you can swap it out for a rice substitute.
Another reason to choose rice alternatives is if you’re trying to be on a calorie deficit as rice can be pretty high in calories if you’re used to having big portions.
Healthy substitutes for white rice
From riced vegetables to other kinds of grains, thankfully there are a variety of healthy rice alternatives you can try. Try swapping it out for some of these simple healthy substitutes:
A great low-carb alternative to rice is riced cauliflower. It’s a great alternative to rice as it has a very similar consistency and texture, but with very less amount of calories and carbohydrates.
Similar to riced cauliflower, riced broccoli has a similar amount of calories to riced cauliflower, it is also a good source of vitamin C which provides several benefits like:
- Acts as an antioxidant
- Supports immunity
- Helps with iron absorption
With a chewy texture and earthy taste, barley is a delicious alternative to rice.
It has the same amount of calories as white rice, but it does contain more protein and fibre than white rice. It also contains a range of nutrients, like zinc and selenium.
The low carb content and mild flavour of chopped cabbage make it a great substitute for rice.
It’s a good source of vitamins C and K (which helps regulate blood clotting and circulation, as well as good for bone health).
Quinoa has a grain-like taste, is gluten-free and has a high protein content – just ½ cup of quinoa contains 4 grams of protein, which is just double the amount found in the same serving of white rice.
It’s also a complete protein, which means it contains all 9 vital amino acids needed by your body.
Being similar in texture to white rice, wholewheat couscous is also a great source of protein for people on a vegan or plant-based diet.
Shirataki konjac rice
Shirataki konjac products are a rare type of food that’s low in calories yet filling is miracle rice or noodles.
This is due to it being high in glucomannan fibre.
They’re also popular food among those who are trying to lose weight, as the soluble fibre contents move through your digestive system slowly, helping you keep full for a longer period.
Another great alternative for rice is bulgur wheat! It’s very similar in appearance and grain size to couscous, bulgur wheat is a grain that has been steamed and toasted so it is already partially cooked.
Orzo is technically pasta made into rice shape. It is a better alternative to rice due to its higher level of protein and fibre.
With a nutty flavour and chewy texture, farro is a great rice substitute if you’re looking to add a bite to your dishes – and even improve the flavour!
It is packed with protein which may help to keep you fuller for longer throughout the day.
Looking for low fat, low carb and low-calorie substitute for rice? Try using riced courgette. The key is to spiralize it first, dry it in the oven and then cut it into rice-sized chunks.
With a slightly creamy and sticky texture, buckwheat is a great alternative to use for sticky rice. Being low in calories is another swap if you’re trying to lower your calorie intake.
So while white rice may have been a staple on your food shelf, if you’re trying to optimise your diet there are a range of tasty, healthy substitutes to rice for you to try instead and reap all their benefits.