The Filipino diet is incomplete without rice. I daresay when you were younger, your mother would scold you whenever you ate your fried chicken or pork chop without finishing your rice. She’d tell you that you need to finish your meal to grow big, strong, and healthy.
Your mom had a point. Carbohydrates are macronutrients that provide most of your body’s energy. Once digested, carbohydrates become glucose, our body’s main energy fuel (the other two being fat and protein). Glucose fuels the body’s cells and organs, enabling their proper function. The brain, in particular, requires plenty of glucose as it consumes 20 percent of the body’s energy.
Rice is a rich source of simple carbohydrates. The body can digest it easily, and you get a quick burst of energy as a result. The downside is you also crash hard and fast.
It’s why you feel incredibly sleepy after a heavy lunch.
The Philippine Food and Nutrition Research Institute recommends that Filipino adults ages 20-39 years old should consume five to eight servings of rice, grain, root crops, bread, and noodles every day.
Let’s be clear: It’s not five to eight servings of only rice, but a combined serving of the entire carbohydrate food group.
I believe this is where most people get their diet wrong. Most would eat too much white rice (extra rice, anyone?) and suffer the consequences in the afternoon. Just when you need to be alert and focus on school or work, you’re drowsing, hunched over your keyboard, and spending the next 45 minutes in a sleepy daze.
To avoid experiencing a glucose crash, replace your standard fare of white rice with something equally filling but less likely to make you sleepy.
Greens and Vegetables
Plant-based food is an excellent alternative to rice. They make you feel full, but since they’re rich in fiber and don’t contain as much starch, they take longer to digest. You won’t experience sugar high or get sleepy soon after eating. Of course, you also get nutritional benefits like vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, potassium, and folate, to name a few.
Rice has a bland taste, making it the perfect complement for a tasty viand. Corn is a suitable replacement for it because although it has a distinct taste, it’s subtle and doesn’t overpower the other flavors in a dish. Corn enhances the flavor of chicken, pork chop, fish, or other fried or saucy meat. You also get more in terms of nutritional value. Corn is rich in protein, antioxidants, lutein (a phytochemical that promotes good eyesight), and fiber. It also has a low glycemic index, making it ideal for people with diabetes.
Given the state of Manila’s daily morning commute, it’s unsurprising that many of us hit the roads at the crack of dawn without eating breakfast. Give your body fuel as you endure the heavy traffic by eating an apple or a banana while on the road. Other fruits you can munch on are grapes, oranges, pears, and guavas.
What’s also great about fruits is they make you feel full, so if you eat enough, you’ll no longer feel the need to eat rice with your meal. Just make sure to eat them with healthy sources of protein and fat like yogurt, milk, and granola. Fruits are rich in potassium, Vitamin C, B Vitamins, and antioxidants. Eating them for breakfast can make you feel refreshed and energized in the morning.
To recap, greens, corn, and fruit are great replacements for white rice. Here’s another tip: Toss them all together in a bowl, along with a bit of bacon, chicken breasts, or any meat of your choice. Add cucumber, feta cheese, and your favorite dressing to add more flavor. Voila! You’ll have a salad bowl just like the ones sold in salad bars.
Salad is a great alternative to a rice meal. It provides the nourishment and calories you need for the day but doesn’t send your body into siesta mode shortly after. Your body gains fiber, protein, fat, Vitamin C, and other nutrients depending on the ingredients you toss in. A bowl of salad is filling, flavorful, and it’s good for your health.
Eating dietary wheat cornflakes mixed with nuts and a splash of milk is a simple but healthy way to start your mornings. A bowl of wheat cornflakes is lighter than a full rice meal, plus it gives you more fiber and protein.
There are also cereal brands that sell grain products enriched with folic acid (prevents birth defects and is essential for women who want to get pregnant) and B Vitamins (crucial to nerve and blood health and in making DNA). The milk you choose can then complete your recommended daily dietary allowance for calcium and fat. And if you feel like following up your cereal with a mid-morning snack, chow on some fruits instead of carbohydrate-rich pastries and treats.
Whole Grain Rolled Oats
Got a busy day ahead? A quick breakfast of whole grain rolled oats will give you an energy boost that can last the entire morning. Oats have a high caloric count but are low in carbohydrates. They’re rich in fiber and antioxidants and are credited with lowering blood sugar and cholesterol. You can also get more nutrients plus enjoy a kick of flavor if you add some fresh or dried fruits to your oats.
Other fantastic rice alternatives you can also try are potatoes, root crops, cauliflower, broccoli, and quinoa. These have complex carbohydrates that will give your body longer-lasting energy on top of dietary fibers and essential vitamins and minerals. Your body will benefit more, and your work or studies will suffer less because you’ll feel energized throughout the day.
Do you have a favorite rice substitute that’s not on this list? Feel free to share and comment below.