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Replacing rice in a diabetes diet

You don’t have to give up rice when you have diabetes. But, here are some alternatives you can use in place of rice.

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I’m always shocked, and a little disheartened when I hear someone with diabetes say the words “I could never eat that.” 

What I’ve learned from my experience with diabetes is that you most certainly can – you likely just need to pay closer attention to serving sizes. 

When I thought I couldn’t eat certain foods. I realized that I was actually just overeating and not paying attention to portions. 

Of course, starchy foods would spike me. It just became a matter of how much. 

Once I figured out that I could experiment with my portions to find balance, it completely changed the way I approached my eating.

I also had a better, less blaming relationship with myself. 

Although it took some getting used to, measuring my food became second nature, and now I know many foods and their serving sizes by heart. 

Rice is one food that tends to get a bad rap, and we’re going to talk about rice, and a dozen alternatives for rice for people with diabetes. 

Can you eat rice if you have diabetes? 

The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, and it’s best to measure your servings to understand how they might affect your own blood sugar. 

A single serving for a quarter cup of white rice, or 45g of rice comes in at 160 calories, with 3 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, 35 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of fiber. 

White rice has another huge benefit – it’s affordable in comparison to other grain options.

You can score a pound of rice for under $2, and sometimes the affordable price overtakes whatever health benefits it may be lacking. 

What rice is good for diabetics?

Brown Rice is a good alternative.

I cook mine with low sodium chicken broth for extra flavor and the chewier texture of brown rice is nice.

For a half cup of brown rice, you’re looking at 180 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 1.5 grams of fat, 39 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of fiber. 

What you can note here, is that the serving size for brown rice is double that of white rice, and it’s lower in carbohydrates overall. 

What are some options to swap for rice?

Maybe you’ve decided to try something new and you want to replace rice with something else. Here are some options you can try in place of rice

Shirataki Rice

shirataki noodles in a bowl with chop sticks

Shirataki rice is made from a native Asian vegetable called Konjac. It’s a fibrous root that is gluten-free, low carb and low calorie. They are about 97% water, and can be filling. You might often see them labeled as “miracle rice” or “miracle noodles.” 

This option has 0 calories, 0 grams protein, 0 grams fat, and one 1 gram of carbohydrates.


couscous in a bowl and scooped out of the bowl with a spoon.

Couscous is a crushed wheat semolina that is formed into spheres. You see it a lot in North African, Israeli and Lebanese cuisine.

It has a nice nutty flavor when cooked, and complements many proteins, or herbs. 

A 45g serving of couscous is around 170 calories, 6 grams of protein, 35 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber. 

Orzo Pasta

uncooked orzo pasta on a table

Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta made with semolina. It has a higher protein content than rice, giving it a slight advantage over the starch. 

You still should watch portion sizes when eating orzo, but it is a tasty and versatile option if you’re looking to skip rice

A half-cup of orzo (56g) comes in at 210 calories, 7 grams of protein, 1 gram of gat, 41 grams of carbs, and 2 grams of fiber. 


red, green and black lentils poured out of a glass jar.

Lentils are a legume, and a cousin to chickpeas, beans, and peanuts.

They’re low calorie per serving and higher in fiber and protein than a lot of the options on this list. 

They come in different varieties and colors – you can find red and yellow lentils most commonly. 

A quarter cup of lentils, or 32 grams, comes in at 7 calories, 8 grams of protein, o grams of fat, 19 grams of carbohydrates and 9 grams of fiber. 


farro on a spoon

This chewy and nutty ancient grain is a great source of magnesium, zinc and b vitamins. It’s also a great source of protein and fiber. 

Although it’s high in carbohydrates, it’s worth adjusting your portion. A typical serving of farro is 240 grams – which is quite a lot of grain. 

That weight will get you 259 calories, 9 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, 53 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of fiber. 


Freekeh in a bowl

Is like a lot of other grains you’ve probably heard of – like quinoa. 

It’s another ancient grain that contains magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, and manganese.

It can typically be found in your grocery store, and is great with the regular classics like roasted chicken or pork. 

¼ cup of Freekeh is 141 calories, 5 grams of protein, 24 grams of carbohydrate, and 5 grams of fiber in addition to all of its other nutrients.

Chickpea Rice

This was an interesting option for me. Chickpea rice is made with chickpeas, potato starch and sea salt. While it’s not rice, it has an interesting texture and flavor.

It’s also impressive with 170 calories, 11g of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 30 grams of carbs. 

It doesn’t seem to be widely available in stores yet, but it is available online.  

What low carb rice options do people with diabetes have?

Riced Broccoli

Riced broccoli is broccoli, just shredded with a grater to give it a rice-like shape.

A typical serving is 85g which is 20 calories, 2 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbohydrates, and  2 grams of fiber. 

Brocolli is also a good source of calcium and potassium. 

Riced Cauliflower

Riced cauliflower is just grated cauliflower that has been given a rice-like shape.

One great benefit to riced cauliflower is that it has a neutral flavor, so you can eat it with many different foods and it works as a complement to dishes, much like rice does. 

1 cup or 85 grams of cauliflower is 24.6 calories, 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of fiber. 

I’ve used riced cauliflower to make a great, low carb take on Shrimp Fried Rice.

Double your veggies

Sometimes if I can’t find the option I’ve been looking for, I double my veggies.

I’ll take whatever veggie option I have as my side, and I have twice as much to fill in for the rice.

This usually still ends up being a low carb option to help me stay in line with my goals. 

Fitting rice into a diabetic diet

While white rice is affordable, and a widely available option, there are some healthier choices you can make for your sides.

When you get creative, measure your portions, and know the options, it can change the way you eat! 

Recipes to try with your rice swaps

About Mila

Hi! I'm Mila.

I’m earning my Master’s degree in Applied nutrition.

I’m a journalist and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach living with  LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, a slow-progressing form of autoimmune Type 1 diabetes) I love food, travel, and my kitchen, and teaching you about diabetes self-management.

I’m here to help you live your best life possible diabetes by showing you how to create simple, blood-sugar friendly and delicious meals and tips on diabetes self-care.

Be sure to download my FREE Diabetes Community App Glucose Guide, or reach out for FREE 1:1 diabetes health and habit coaching.

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One Response

  1. I am a diabetic,type 2, my country doesn’t have a lot to replace as a diet, most times, I eat plantain,sweet potatoes and bulgur wheat or wheat bread in place of rice, is this okay for me, please advise.

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