Best Rice Alternatives for Diabetics (From A Diabetes Educator)

rice alternatives for diabetics

Rice is delicious and is a popular ingredient. It’s found in a range of meals, across all cuisines. However, if you have diabetes, it can create a potential problem. Rice is ranked very highly on the glycemic index (73). Because of this, there is a risk that it can cause a sudden increase in your blood glucose (sugar).

The good news is that this doesn’t mean that you need to stop enjoying rice-based meals. You’ll just need to turn to some alternatives to get the familiar rice textures. Most importantly, they will offer a plethora of interesting flavor combinations.

13 of the best healthful rice alternatives for diabetics and diabetes meal plans. 


One of the most popular rice alternatives is couscous. It has a similar taste and texture to rice. It is made primarily from semolina. This is a purified middling from durum wheat. Not only is this delicious, but it’s also very fast to cook. You should be able to make a medium-sized serve of couscous in as little as five minutes. 

There are a few benefits of regularly eating couscous. For example, it has been linked to weight loss. It might also lower your risk of a heart attack. A typical serve contains a high level of selenium, around 60 percent of the recommended daily dose. This nutrient has been shown to help your body repair damaged cells. Higher levels of selenium have also been shown to improve immune health. 

Couscous Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: 78.5 grams (1/2 cup cooked)
  • Calories: 88
  • Grams of Protein: 3
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 18
  • Grams of Fiber: 1.1

If you don’t like couscous, there are a few alternatives that you might want to explore. For example, you might want to make riced cauliflowers. Another good suggestion is to use riced broccoli. These will have a similar texture to couscous but will have a more flavorful taste. 


Quinoa is a thin bean that is made from the seeds of a flowering plant. Though this has the same texture as rice, it also has a similar number of calories. Because of this, it’s best to consume it in moderation. 

The biggest complaint that quinoa can be dry. This can often be a result of the way that it was prepared, rather than the ingredient itself.  To fix this problem, you’ll need to use two cups of water per cup of quinoa. Then, as you are cooking it, you’ll need to leave it on a gentle simmer until the quinoa has absorbed all the water. This site gives you more tips for making soft quinoa. 

I wrote an article specifically about Quinoa diabetes diet benefits, cooking methods and recipes check it out when you get a chance.

There are a few health reasons why you might want to consider adding quinoa to your diet. First, it contains high levels of magnesium, zinc, and iron. These are some of the nutrients that most people aren’t getting enough of. One cup will provide around 30 percent of the recommended daily dose of these important nutrients. To improve absorption, you’ll need to soak the quinoa before you cook it. 

Quinoa Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: 93 grams (1/2 cup cooked)
  • Calories: 111
  • Grams of Protein: 4
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 21
  • Grams of Fiber: 1.8

Sweet Potato Rice

If you are looking for a more flavorful alternative to rice, you might want to try using sweet potato. This will require a little more preparation than some of the other options on this list. Though, it will be worth it. Aside from the delicious flavor, it will be high in Vitamin A, Potassium, and Calcium. 

Once you have made the rice, it will be a soft, crisp taste. You will still be able to taste the distinctive flavors of the sweet potato. This makes them ideal for pairing with meat like steak or roast chicken. Alternatively, you can use this rice to lend a sweeter note to the meal. 

Sweet Potato Rice Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: 133 grams (1 cup)
  • Calories: 114
  • Grams of Protein: 2.1
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 27
  • Grams of Fiber: 4


This next rice alternative has been around for many years. It’s believed it was used as far back as the Mesopotamian period, 2,000 years ago. 

There are a few types of farro that you can find in the shops. Whole farro will usually have the best flavors. Though it will take the longest to cook. If you want something that you can cook quickly, you might prefer to use pearled farro. This is the most popular variety. 

Farro Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: ¼ cup of dried farro
  • Calories: 120
  • Grams of Protein: 7
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 37
  • Grams of Fiber: 7

Shirataki Rice

At first glance, this will look identical to regular rice. However, there are a few key differences. Shirataki rice has significantly fewer carbohydrates. This reduces the chances that it will cause your blood pressure to spike. It also has significantly fewer calories than regular rice. Because of this, it will be a much healthier option for you to use.  

While it might look like normal rice, it won’t have the same flavor. Shirataki rice is flavorless. Because of this, it will often be best to pair it with a sauce that is loaded with plenty of tastes. This will balance out this effect, stopping the meal from becoming bland. 

Shirataki Rice Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: 224 grams (8 oz)
  • Calories: 20
  • Grams of Protein: 0
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 6
  • Grams of Fiber: 6

Chopped Cabbage

If you are looking for a more unique approach to replacing rice, you might want to try chopping cabbage. This will add some crunch and flavor to the meal. It’ll also just take a few minutes to prepare this rice alternative. 

Though it won’t be suitable for all meals, it will be versatile. For example, cabbage will go especially well with stir-fried cooking styles. Like everything on this list, you’ll need to be prepared to experiment, to find where it will work best. 

Chopped Cabbage Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: 89 grams (1 cup)
  • Calories: 21
  • Grams of Protein: 1
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 0
  • Grams of Fiber: 1

Spaghetti Squash

Noodles can also cause some problems for diabetics. Like rice, it’s best to try to find some alternatives to them. Because of this, many people turn to spaghetti squash. To make this, you’ll just need to use a fork, forming the squash into strings. From there, you’ll be able to cook them like you would regular noodles. While they have a similar texture, they will have a sweeter taste than normal noodles. 

Spaghetti Squash Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 210
  • Grams of Protein: 1
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 10
  • Grams of Fiber: 2.2


While they might be larger than rice, lentils will have a similar flavor. There are plenty of different varieties, so you’ll be able to choose the one that works best for your meal. Experiment with multiple types of lentils. If you don’t like lentils, you will be able to use peas. 

They are packed with healthy nutrients. This will present a range of benefits. For example, they can help to boost your heart health. They can also be a good way to help you fight fatigue. The high levels of folate can help women who are trying to get pregnant. 

Lentils Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: 100 grams (1/2 cup)
  • Calories: 140
  • Grams of Protein: 12
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 23
  • Grams of Fiber: 9


This is easy to overlook. But it is one of the most versatile rice replacements. You will be able to add it to stews or put it into soups. You can also use it for stir-frying and casseroles. When cooked, it will have the same texture and nuttiness that you will find in brown rice.  

There are plenty of ways that increasing your consumption of barely might be able to help your health. For example, it comes packed with valuable nutrients. It has high amounts of Vitamin B1, copper, and antioxidants. It might also be able to help suppress hunger this can be good for those who are trying to lose weight.  

Barley Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: 100 grams (1/2 cup cooked)
  • Calories: 99
  • Grams of Protein: 1.8
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 22.7
  • Grams of Fiber: 3.1

Whole Wheat Orzo Pasta

Typically, this type of pasta is made from white flour. This makes it a healthier choice than rice. It will have more fiber, making it better for your digestive health. Though, it should still be used in moderation. 

When cooked, orzo will resemble longer grains of rice. They will often have a similar texture, though they will taste like pasta. You’ll need to cook it in a similar way to pasta, which means that it can be prepared in a few minutes. This means that there are plenty of recipes that you can cook with orzo.  

Whole Wheat Orzo Pasta Nutritional Information

  • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 210
  • Grams of Protein: 7
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 41
  • Grams of Fiber: 2

Mung Bean Pasta

Another alternative that you should explore is mung bean pasta. This is often made from a combination of beans. Often, it will be a combination of black beans, edamame, and mung beans. This will give you a good mix of textures and flavors. This ensures that it will be a suitable alternative for a range of recipes. Though they work best with Asian recipes. 

This type of pasta will present several health benefits. For example, it will be high in a range of important nutrients. It contains high levels of zinc, folate, and B vitamins. They can also provide chlorine. This will help you build strong cell walls. Most importantly for diabetics, they contain magnesium and potassium, which can help you lower your blood pressure.

Mung Bean Pasta Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: 55 grams (2 oz)
  • Calories: 190
  • Grams of Protein: 0
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 47
  • Grams of Fiber: 0

Spiralized Zucchini

A good alternative to noodles will be spirals of zucchini. This will be simple to make. Often, you’ll be able to whip some up in just a few minutes. If you want to turn zucchini into pasta, you can. All you need to do is chop the noodles up into smaller pieces. Then put them into the oven. This will dry them out, getting them nice and crispy. 

Aside from the delicious flavors, there are plenty of reasons why you might want to add more zucchini to your diet. First, it is rich in antioxidants. These perform a range of important functions in the body. For example, eating more zucchini will strengthen your heart and improve your eye health. There is also some evidence that it will be able to help you reduce your blood pressure. 

Spiralized Zucchini Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: 223 grams (1 cup)
  • Calories: 17
  • Grams of Protein: 1
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 3
  • Grams of Fiber: 1

Bulgur Cracked Wheat

Lastly, you might want to consider using some bulgur wheat. This is a whole grain. It’s become especially popular with Middle Eastern cooking, though it can be used with a wide variety of cuisines. Often, the varieties that you find in the store will be parboiled. This means that they will be partially cooked, so it will be easy to prepare the meals at home. 

The history of bulgur wheat stretches back thousands of years. This could be because of the impressive health benefits that they provide. For example, they contain phytonutrients. These will aid in the regulation of blood sugar levels. They might also be able to help you boost your heart health. High fiber levels have been shown to aid in weight loss. 

Bulgar Cracked Wheat Nutritional Information

  • Average Serving Size: 182 grams (1 cup)
  • Calories: 151
  • Grams of Protein: 6
  • Grams of Carbohydrates: 34
  • Grams of Fiber: 8

Final Thoughts

For those with diabetes, eating rice is not always a good idea. It can cause blood sugar to spike. The good news is that there are plenty of healthful alternatives. We’ve looked at the top 13. These can be used with a range of cuisines. Experiment with each of them. Find which ones you most like and what meals they are best paired with. While it might take a while, you’ll soon have a wide assortment of delicious, healthful meals.

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