5 Healthy Alternatives to White Rice

Healthy Alternatives to White Rice

White rice, White rice, White rice! I love me some white rice! My rice of choice is currently Jasmine rice. I can eat Jasmine rice and stew all day every day for a month! I know there are many of you like me out there. This post is for us! lol! The issue with white rice is that it is predominantly carbohydrate, and unless you are trying to bulk up, it is not the best thing to have as the main component of your meal.

Something interesting to keep in mind though if you would like to quit eating white rice but still struggling; because white rice is a refined grain, manufacturers nowadays enrich white rice with vitamins and minerals. Be careful to read the instructions on the bag/box of rice you buy. You might notice that it says fortified with vitamins and to not wash the rice before cooking. For most Nigerians, I know this might be hard to do since we were brought up ensuring that we wash rice before cooking. A viewer rightly noticed on our Jollof Rice video that the rice was not washed, and I pointed out that it was intentional for the aforementioned reason.

Below, we discuss 5 healthy alternatives to white rice.

Brown Rice

This is probably the most obvious choice. Brown rice is really just white rice that has the bran and germ layers intact. Again, be careful, just because the packaging says it’s brown rice, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Check the packaging! White rice and brown rice have about the same amount of calories and carbs. The difference is that brown rice has a lot more nutrients, and is therefore, a more balanced meal. If you live in the United States, it is mandatory for manufacturers to put the nutrition facts on the box, and this is true for a lot of other countries as well. I discuss how to read nutrition labels here. Ensure that the fiber content is at least 8%. You will notice a lot of brands that have 4% fiber which is the same as most white rice brands.

Now, I can’t eat brown rice and stew. As I mentioned I’ve tried, and failed, lol. The best way I have found to eat brown rice, is in fried rice. Check out this recipe.

Brown Rice Fried Rice in Wok

Brown Rice Fried Rice in Wok

Pearled Barley

Pearled barley is barley that has been processed to remove its bran and hull. Only pearled barley is edible. The polished barley looks white, and this is what is eaten because it is easier to cook. However, cooked pearled barley is still very nutritious. 1 cooked cup of pearled barley contains 24% fiber, 16% Niacin, 12% Iron and several other minerals. See here for a complete list. I have eaten this with stew and that, I like. Mrs NaijaChef has recently started eating this a lot, and this is her current grain of choice.


Bulgur is a whole wheat grain that is partially cooked. It is full of nutrients and a much better alternative to white and brown rice. I must confess, that at the time of writing this post, I have not yet eaten bulgur, but that will change very soon. 1 cup of cooked bulgur contains 32% fiber, 14% Magnesium, 12% protein, 10% Vitamin B6, 9% Iron. Ronke over at 9jafoodie has created a recipe of Bulgur jollof. Check it out here.

Bulgur Jollof

Photo Courtesy:9jafoodie


There is one key thing to note about cooking quinoa. Always make sure you rinse well before cooking, else it will turn out bitter. Quinoa is a favorite in the naijachef household. Mrs NaijaChef has a wonderful recipe. The quinoa is first cooked in boiling water till it is well done and fluffy. Then, it is stir fried with mixed vegetables and coconut oil. You can also add strips of bacon and chicken for a delicious finish.


Photo Courtesy:Flickr


Couscous is not as healthy as some of the other alternatives listed here, but it is still a healthier alternative to white rice. It is a dish synonymous with North Africa. They are little steamed balls of semolina. I like to cook it with raisins and cranberries which I add when it is almost cooked. 1 cup has 9% fiber, 12% protein, 8% Niacin, 7% thiamin and 6% folate and Vitamin B5. It has several other vitamins and minerals but are insignificant at 3% or less.


Photo Courtesy:Wikipedia

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