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What can replace rice and potatoes in a diabetes diet?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Rice and potatoes are both carbohydrate foods. Diabetics can eat them if they limit the serving size. If you are looking for substitutions, there are many choices. Whole grains like quinoa, oats, couscous and orzo. Beans and soy products. Look for intact grains which contain fiber and lead to lower blood sugars.

In a diabetes diet, rice and potatoes can be replaced with the following whole grain and higher fiber products:

  • quinoa
  • farro
  • wheat berries
  • barley
  • beans
  • lentils
  • peas
Dee Sandquist
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

You can eat rice and potatoes if you have diabetes. However, you will need to eat smaller portions. One medium potato (3 potatoes/pound) is a serving. Find 3 potatoes at the store and put in the scale until it equals one pound. Rice can be a challenge because a little goes a long way for your carbohydrate count. You'll need to eat a portion smaller than a computer mouse. If you can't do that, you might consider a different carbohydrate.

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Remember that all foods can fit into a diet for people with diabetes. The focus is on how much carbohydrate and saturated fat is in foods. One carbohydrate (carb) serving is equal to 15 grams of carbohydrate. One half cup of potatoes or one third cup of rice is equal to 15 grams or one carb choice. Consult your registered dietitian and/or certified diabetes educator to find out how many carb choices you have at each meal. Then you can decide how many carb servings of potatoes or rice you would like to consume. If you do not want to use up your carb choices from potatoes or rice and are looking for low carb choices you can try mashed cauliflower with low fat tub margarine or spray butter. One half cup serving of cooked cauliflower is only 5 grams of carbohydrate.

Lona Sandon
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

You don't have to give up rice and potatoes just because you have diabetes. But you may have to watch your portion size more closely (keep it to about a 1/2 cup). If you choose to have rice, make sure it is brown rice. Brown rice has more protein and fiber and takes longer to digest which means less impact on your blood sugars. If you choose to eat potatoes, keep the skin on, and let them cool before eating. As potatoes cool they develop something called resistant starch. Resistant starch is a type of fiber that is non-digestible and will slow digestion and rise in blood sugar. 

Another tip is to be sure to include lean protein and some healthy fats along with your rice or potato (avoid eating both in the same meal). This also helps slow digestion of carbohydrate and lowers the rise in blood glucose. 

Fill most of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and think of your rice or potato as a small side dish. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.