Wrapped up in sushi in Japan, as the base of a paella dish in Spain, or served as a risotto in Italy, almost every culture includes rice in their diet. Especially the American diet, whose rice consumption has increased dramatically in the past several years according to WebMD. Unfortunately, white rice, which is many people’s “go-to” starch, doesn’t offer a lot in terms of nutrition. So what rice substitutes can you eat instead, and how do they stack up nutrition wise?
The most obvious alternative is probably brown rice. It’s the whole-grain (a word you see a lot in healthy eating advice) alternative to white rice. Swapping out brown for white rice has even been shown by research at the Harvard School of Public Health to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One of the most beneficial things about brown rice is its lower glycemic index, meaning it doesn’t spike your blood sugar as high. Brown rice also boasts higher fiber, mineral, vitamin, and phytochemical content. Eating one cup of brown rice will provide over 80 percent of your daily magnesium value according to Livestrong.
Even though brown rice has a nuttier flavor than white rice, it can easily replace white rice in any recipe and the dish will still taste great. Opt for brown rice when you are placing your Chipotle order, or use it in these Turkey and Rice Stuffed Peppers.
Couscous is just as fun to eat as it is to say. Couscous is made from crushed durum wheat semolina and can be found in a whole-wheat variety in many grocery stores. While couscous is probably on the lower end of the nutrition spectrum when it comes to white rice alternatives, it does still boast a lower glycemic index, more protein, and more fiber.
Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, and CEDRD, recommends roasted chicken, Brussels sprouts, and whole wheat couscous with pine nuts as a high-fiber, protein rich meal.
Wild rice isn’t technically rice at all. It’s the seed of a native North American grass. Wild rice has a strong flavor and is firm. While it’s very different in taste from brown rice, it’s comparable in nutrition. They have similar high levels of protein and fiber, but wild rice has fewer carbs and calories. Wild rice can be more expensive, but you can make it go further by mixing it with brown rice. However, doing so will make it a little more complicated to figure out your carb counts.
Try using wild rice in an unexpected way by adding shiitakes and toasted almonds like in this recipe.
If you’re still scared to say the name of this grain out loud, fearing you might get it wrong, it’s pronounced keen-wha. According to Healthline, some reasons quinoa has been touted as a “superfood” the last couple of years include high levels of protein (there’s a reason your vegetarian friend loves this stuff), high fiber, and it’s high in minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. For people with diabetes, the best part is that quinoa has significantly fewer carbs than white rice, especially in relation to the amount of protein it packs.
If you really want to get serious about cutting down on the calories and carbs in your rice dish, Jewels Doskicz, RN, suggests cauliflower “rice” is the way to go. It only has about five grams of carbs per cup, according to Health.com. No, it’s not actually rice, it’s just small bits of cauliflower—but it can still taste great. You can find cauliflower pre-riced in the produce section at many grocery stores, or you can buy a head of cauliflower and toss it in the food processor or grate it using a cheese grater.
Reintroduce one of your favorite Chinese dishes into your low-carb life with Cauliflower “Fried Rice.”
Have you tried one of these white rice swap-outs? Which one is your favorite? Share in the comments below.