White rice is a starch commonly found in many entrees and side dishes. While its mild taste lends itself well to a variety of cuisines, its simple carbohydrate content does not provide much nutritionally. While white rice in moderation is not inherently bad, choosing to opt for other healthy substitutions such as brown rice, quinoa, barley or a non-grain option like cauliflower, provide some easy nutritional alternatives.
White rice undergoes a milling process to remove layers of grain, stripping the rice of much of its nutritional content. Brown rice consists of the entire grain, containing more nutrients and fiber than its white rice counterpart. Long-grain brown rice works well in casseroles and other baked dishes while medium-grain brown rice lends a tenderness that is good for paellas and other dishes.
Quinoa is another great starch source with a mild nutty flavor and chewy texture similar to rice. Unlike most other grains, quinoa provides a complete source of amino acids. This makes it a great substitute for vegetarians or vegans who may be looking for some extra sources of protein. In addition, quinoa is also high in fiber, riboflavin, folate and iron, all being essential for good health. Whether it's mixed with herbs and spices for a simple side dish or served with milk and honey as an alternative to oatmeal, quinoa offers a wide range of nutritious options.
Often chosen as a white rice alternative, barley offers many vitamins and minerals, which are essential for good health. These include niacin and selenium, which have been found to be beneficial for the cardiovascular system. In addition, zinc, potassium and calcium help promote good health in the liver and intestines, among other benefits. Barley is also a great source of fiber and a good source of copper, phosphorous and manganese. Like other options, barley is usually used for dinner side dishes, but with a little creativity it can also be used for breakfast, lunch and even dessert.
Cauliflower is an easy grain-free, gluten-free and nutrient-dense way to substitute the white rice on your plate. A good source of vitamin C, manganese, vitamin K and fiber, it provides numerous antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and digestive health benefits. To turn your cauliflower into rice, blend with a food processor or blender. Top with your protein and veggies of choice and you've got a healthy "fried rice" that tastes just like the real thing.
Sarah Dreifke is a freelance writer based in DeKalb, IL with a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease. She holds a Bachelor of Science in both Dietetics and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is working towards a combined Master's Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship at Northern Illinois University.