3 Healthier Substitutes for Rice

January 4, 2017

Rice – whether white, red, or brown – has been a staple ingredient in many cuisines around the world, especially in Asian countries. Some of the best examples of dishes that use rice as its key ingredients are risotto, fried rice, buttered rice, sushi, maki, gimbap, and even some onigiri.

In the Philippines, most especially, people can’t seem to have enough rice in their meals. Elders even have a proverb saying that a person cannot be full without eating rice. Because of this, many food establishments in Manila – even catering services – are offering various deals like unli-rice to encourage more Filipinos to buy more from them; and for most cases, this gimmick seems like it is working!

But let’s face it, Filipinos does not really have to go out of the comfort of their homes in order to eat rice. All they have to do is stay in and prepare their own home-cooked meals. Essentially, they can eat rice as a side dish to most of their food, such as adobo, sinigang, tinola, and bulalo.

However, rice – especially white rice – is not always the best choice, especially if you want a healthier diet. Basically, it is a source of simple carbohydrates, which primarily means that it is composed of basic sugars, meaning it has no nutritional value whatsoever. In short, white rice shouldn’t be a viable option if you want to partake in a healthy lifestyle. It is also not a good food for people prone to numerous health problems like diabetes.

Admittedly, carbohydrates (which rice provides) are still essential to the body. They are responsible for providing you energy that gets you through the day. But the truth is, you don’t have to get your carbohydrates from rice. You can get them from other substitutes, like the following:



A great gluten-free option is quinoa – a grain that has been gaining popularity just recently. Quinoa is a great source of carbohydrates because of the additional nutritional value it contains. Amazingly, it also provides Omega 3 fatty acids or good fats that counter the bad effects of excessive carbohydrate intake. Omega 3 also helps regulate digestion and the processing of different calories that your body digests.

This rice substitute also has high percentages of fiber and is a good source of protein. Quinoa is a great rice replacement because it is very adaptable as well. More than that, it goes well with a lot of delectable dishes and can be incorporated in many nutritious and healthy recipes.

Here is an example:


  • 1 cup salsa
  • 6 cups spinach leaves
  • 4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. ground pepper
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • ¾ cup rinsed quinoa
  • 1 ½ cups water


  • Get a saucepan and heat water until it boils. Afterwards, add salt, garlic, quinoa. Cover the pan and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Uncover it and continue cooking for two more minutes. Then, transfer it to a big bowl and let it cool.
  • Preheat your oven to 175-degree Celsius.
  • Now, heat 2 tsp. olive oil using a non-stick skillet. Cook the quinoa pancakes until they are golden on both sides. Then, move them onto your baking sheet.
  • For about 5 minutes, bake the pancake until they are heated thoroughly. You can serve them with spinach and salsa.



Barley, the other grain on the list, is a perfect alternative to rice as well! This one is high in fiber and contains numerous vitamins and nutrients that are significant for the cardiovascular system. It also contains potassium, zinc, and calcium – all of which are great for the well-being and improvement of your liver and intestines.

Also – like quinoa – barley can be served with your meals as a direct replacement for rice. In some countries, barley is being boiled for people to drink the juice it produces. You can certainly follow their example, because by doing so, you can get the full benefits barley offers.

Here is a simple recipe you can follow:


  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 15 oz. drained garbanzo beans
  • 1 chopped zucchini
  • 5 diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 chopped celery
  • 2 chopped carrots
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • 2 quarts vegetable broth


  • In a large pot, pour the vegetable broth. Then, mix in the bay leaves, onion, garbanzo beans, zucchini, tomatoes, celery, carrots, and barley. Season your mixture with Worcestershire sauce, paprika, curry powder, parsley, pepper, salt, sugar, and garlic powder. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 90 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and serve!



There is bound to be a non-grain option on the list and it is here: cauliflower. Cauliflowers are also gluten-free, perfect if you loathe gluten products. It is also packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Plus, it is good for your digestive system since it is a natural antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory effects.

The cauliflower is usually seen as a side dish; just another vegetable that is usually forgotten (or feared by children). But you can easily make it more appetizing by throwing it in the food processor. Or you could also boil them and mashing them so that you can serve it as you would typically serve mashed potatoes – creamy and smooth in texture. Enjoy this dish with your favorite protein source, perhaps with some white meat, in order to complete the whole healthy and hearty dish you are going for.

Key Takeaway

With these three substitutes, you can say goodbye to white rice. Not only are these three nutritious, they are also very tasty. In addition to this, they are very versatile compared to rice. Plus, you can let your imagination run wild with them while preparing your meals – so you can have variety!

If the recipes included above do not satisfy you, you can always check out and follow other recipes that will suit your taste. Don’t be afraid to experiment with these substitutes!


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