Rice is delicious. Personally, I could eat a whole pot of rice with butter and salt. But this is a rare treat because as we already know…rice is pure starch. And those carbs are digested quickly and spike your blood sugar quickly.
1 cup of cooked white rice contains 45-53 grams of total and net carbohydrates, depending on the type of rice!
For some of us with diabetes, that might be half our entire day’s worth of carbohydrates!
In this article, we’ll look at 5 alternatives to white rice that are low in carbohydrates and a tasty substitute for your next rice-based recipe.
5 low-carb alternatives to white rice
Certainly the most popular approach to replacing rice, cauliflower rice is remarkably low in carbohydrates.
Creating it can be pretty messy with a food grater, but you can easily put a head of cauliflower (chopped in 3 or 4 large chunks) into your food processor instead. A quick zap and you’ll have “rice” right before your eyes. If that’s too much work, you can find ready-to-go cauliflower rice in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores (or buy it on Amazon).
If you don’t like the taste of cauliflower normally, you might like it in rice form when it’s covered in a delicious sauce. But hey — cauliflower isn’t for everyone!
We have several cauliflower rice recipes here on Diabetes Strong:
Edamame/Mung Bean Pasta
You can find edamame pasta in many grocery stores or buy it on Amazon.
When it comes to eating pasta, this is the only way I do it. After subtracting the dietary fiber from this type of pasta, the carb-count is so low that I can enjoy a bowl of pasta and meatballs with a relatively normal insulin dose and without a blood sugar battle.
To turn this pasta into rice, simply cook it as instructed (which takes mere minutes, by the way), and then use your kitchen scissors or large kitchen knife on a cutting board to chop it into rice-sized pieces! Tons of protein, tons of fiber, and very few carbs.
Don’t be deterred by its green appearance. The flavor is mild and the texture is great! (By the way, even my picky father-in-law liked this pasta…and that’s saying a lot!)
Shirataki (Miracle Rice)
You either love shirataki products or you really don’t like them at all. Often referred to as “miracle” noodles or rice, they’re made from the konnyaku flour which comes from — wait for it — the konnyaku plant! Go figure.
What makes them so “miraculous” is that in addition to containing no carbs at all, they also contain zero calories, too! Pretty weird — if you ask me — but a lot of people love shirataki rice and noodles.
They usually come in a liquid-filled bag and they don’t smell so great at first. It’s recommended that you rinse them thoroughly before using, then saute them in butter and add a sauce you love.
You can get miracle noodles and rice on Amazon.
Much like cauliflower rice, the prep for this one is either really messy (using a food grater) or really simple (using a food processor). Cabbage definitely has a stronger smell and taste compared to cauliflower so it may not be an acceptable rice substitute for some folks.
You could saute the grated cabbage in butter or just add your sauce and toppings onto a bowl of raw cabbage. Loaded with fiber, vitamin C, antioxidants and a slew of other vitamins, cabbage is by far a more nutritious alternative to rice!
Spiralized and chopped zucchini
Okay, this isn’t exactly the easiest approach to replacing rice but it is healthy and tasty. Before chopping into rice-sized bits, you’ll definitely want to roast your spiralized zucchini noodles in the oven to dry out the excess water.
* You can follow this guide to make zucchini noodles with or without a spiralizer
Add salt, herbs, your favorite sauce, and enjoy. Will you think you’re eating rice? Definitely not, but you’ll have a nice low-carb alternative for the same dishes. Just don’t forget your toppings!
A spiralizer is one of those gadgets you can get for a reasonably affordable price — the ones they sell for under $30 on Amazon are plenty. You don’t need a fancy one. And while you may not use it all the time, it’s great for a variety of other veggies.
Frequently asked questions about rice alternatives
Q: Is brown rice healthier than white rice?
A: Brown rice is a “whole grain” where all parts of the grain — including the fibrous bran, the nutritious germ, and the carb-rich endosperm is still left. White rice has had the bran and germ removed. This makes brown rice higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. So yes, brown rice is generally healthier than white rice, but still very high in carbohydrates.
Q: How about quinoa?
A: Quinoa contains the second most protein out of all grains and is high in fiber. This makes it a healthy rice alternative, but it’s still quite high in starchy carbs (39 total carbs and 34 net carbs per cup).
Q: What do you think about amaranth, barley, farro, etc?
A: These “ancient” grains have remained relatively unchanged for thousands of years with minimal genetic manipulation. They are typically higher in fiber and protein than “modern” grains and rice, but they are still primarily starch. They are great rice alternatives if you don’t mind the high carbohydrate content, but the other rice alternatives on this list are better for a low-carb lifestyle.
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