Low Calorie Rice: A Vegetable Makes Life Lighter

February 26, 2023   53 Comments

This low calorie rice is a win-win substitute for real rice.

Low Calorie Rice: A Vegetable Makes Life Lighter

When I wrote about cooking brown rice, a WW member asked:

Do you have any ideas why brown rice and white rice both have 4 points? I like brown rice just as much as white and the rice cooker makes it easy to make either but I am discouraged by the 4 points per serving for either.

Yeah, it is a steep amount of calories per serving because it is a grain. Just like it is almost impossible to have a low calorie baked good because of the wheat - rice is a staple that is packed with carbohydrates.

One way to reduce calorie consumption is to reduce the amount of pasta, bread, and rice that you eat.

Now, I am not advocating for a low carb diet such as Atkin's or Zone. I am just saying that one cup of rice is 200 calories (without adding anything to it) and ridiculously easy to eat without noticing how much you have consumed.

You ever measure how much rice comes in a Chinese take-out container?

Here is my suggestion:

Cauliflower is a vegetable so it has many fewer calories per serving - only 50 calories for an entire cup. So, you are saving 150 calories by substituting cauliflower for rice.

The lowest calorie rice isn’t rice at all! The win-win is that cauliflower is lower in calories and a vegetable (so you up your servings of veggies when you make this substitute).

Fortunately, making "cauliflower rice" is almost as easy as making regular rice. All you have to do is grate a cauliflower into a bowl and microwave.

I don’t use a box grater because I find it much faster to use my food processor (check out the video).

If you don't own a microwave, you can steam the cauliflower on the stove with a 1/2 cup water in a covered pot. Just drain it when it is done.

I store my cauliflower in container and just substitute it for my favorite rice dishes. For example, this recipe is great with my lighter chili with cocoa powder.

You can find riced cauliflower in the freezer section of your supermarket if you don’t want to get out your grater or food processor.

If you still want rice (who doesn't love it), you can mix the cauliflower in whatever ratio you like. Your family might not even notice the cauliflower.

A couple of readers asked me to make a low-carb version of a pizza crust using rice cauliflower. I attempted it - but it was mixed with cheese and it stuck to the cookie sheet. I got out my chisel to try and unstick it - but it took a jack hammer to get it off.

I'm not sure 1 cup of cheese in a crust is much better than just a regular pizza crust - though it is low in carbohydrates.

Have you tried this low calorie rice?

Low Calorie Rice Recipe

1.8 from 29 reviews

Makes 8 cups
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 6 min

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1 head cauliflower


Grate or chop the cauliflower into very small pieces the size of rice kernels. Heat cauliflower in a microwave proof bowl for 3 minutes and stir. Repeat until tender (6-8 minutes).

To cook on the stove, put the cauliflower in a saucepan with a 1/2 cup water in a covered pot. Heat to high and cook for three minutes (or until your desired consistency). Drain cauliflower when tender. Enjoy! Store in your fridge for up to one week.

Nutrition Facts

One cup: 25 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 5.3 g carbohydrates, 2.4 g sugar, 2.0 g protein, 2.5 g fiber, 30 mg sodium, 0 Green, 0 Blue, 0 Purple WW SmartPts

Points values are calculated by Snack Girl and are provided for information only. See all Snack Girl Recipes

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 53 )

According to the nutritional information, my brown rice is usually 190 calories a cup?

What a great idea! I love love love cauliflower-I can't wait to try this and to make your "rice" and bean bowl which sounds yummy!

I've kept a container of steamed, chopped cauliflower in my fridge most of the time since I started WW a year ago. It's great for bulking up almost anything - chili, soup, stir-fry, etc., a little in an omelette tastes surprisingly like potatoes. And, of course, I could eat a whole cookie sheet of roasted cauliflower!! I still make my brown rice "cakes" in 1/2 cup portions to freeze for when I want the nutrition and taste of brown rice - I find a 1/2 cup portion (2.5 Pts+) enough to add to a stir fry or to hot & sour soup along with 3 oz chicken to make a good healthy meal without too many points as long as all the rest is 0 pts veggies - 6 Pts+ for rice & chicken + 0 Pts+ for mushrooms, peppers & onions makes a really low points meal - even counting the veggies in Recipe Builder, you get a really substantial meal for less than 9 Pts+. Just save your brown rice for mixing with 0 Pts+ veggies and use cauliflower when mixing with higher points foods, and you can use both to your advantage :-)

Great ideas for using less rice JaneG. I will definitely try the cauliflower sub'd for rice since I tend to eat way more rice than I should. Thanks Lisa for the great idea! :)

Is that a cup of cooked or uncooked rice? Mine says 218 per cup cooked.

That is a great idea.

The cauliflower pizza is tricky to get right - I bake it on parchment paper that is liberally sprayed with oil (yeah yeah, olive oil is yum) and it tastes sort of frittata-ish. It was good during Passover!

If anyone (you, Snack Girl?) has a Vitamix, I recommend wet-chopping the cauliflower so you get it perfectly grated in about 2 seconds. You do have to dry it/drain it, but it sure beats actual grating to me! ;)

Eating rice/carbs isn't a bad thing though -- your body needs carbs to recover after work outs, and for energy. Perhaps the goal should be to cut your rice intake in half, and substitute cauliflower for the other half of the rice portion?

When I saw the latest photo I thought, "Hey, what is snack girl doing eating all that white rice?!" What a great idea! That cauliflower that's been staring at me in my fridge is toast...well, "rice". What a great idea - thanks!

Wonderful dish! If you go to Trader Joe's and get the forzen organic Brown Rice it's only 160 calories for one cup! It's fantastic! My brown rice hating family even loves this rice. 3 minutes in the microwave and it's done!

I like it. I like it A LOT!!! Thanks for providing yet another genious idea for cauliflower.

This blog today is quite a coincidence since just 5 minutes ago I read another article about chopping cauliflower as a sub for rice too. (The article was about veggies that you can eat raw that aren't typically eaten that way). I'm definitely going to have to try this now. It's like an sign from, well, Weight Watchers I guess. Either that or cauliflower got the same marketing group as kale. :)

My math was a bit off today - I have fixed it in the post. A cup of brown rice cooked ranges a bit - and I got it wrong on my own brown rice post (which I have now fixed).

A cup of brown rice cooked via Calorie Count is 218 calories - see here:…

I think we can all agree that a cup of cauliflower for 50 is still a good choice if you are trying cut calories. But, if you need calories - brown rice is packed with nutrients - and a great way to get energy.

Misinformation here: " all protein diet such as Atkin's or Zone." Look out, your bias is showing. Neither is an all-protein diet, they are carbohydrate-controlled diets. Atkins is based on protein, vegetables, fruit (in limited quantities during initial weight loss phase), and seeds/nuts, with even more carbs allowed in maintenance. Zone Diet is even more inclusive. People who watch their carb intake have been subbing cauliflower (and other veggies) for rice for years. At long last, other dieters are coming to understand that reducing overall carb consumption is important for many people, especially those looking to control their weight. The new WW Points system takes carbs into account rather than just fat (finally!) and people are having more success with it. It's frustrating to see people take the handy carb-cutting tips from the low-carb world while still finding it necessary to bash the healthy low-carb plans they're cribbing from.

@Jas - you are right - they are not "all protein" - that was an exaggeration and I have changed the line to say "low carb". I am not bashing those diets - I am just not advocating FOR them. I think that they are too restrictive and unrealistic for many. As for cribbing them - I didn't even know this was a feature of those diets - a reader sent me an e-mail suggesting it.

Here's a thought about your pizza crust. You could try baking it on a sheet of Reynolds No-Stick aluminum foil. I have yet to find ANYTHING that sticks to that stuff. I bet you could bake it on a Silpat-type of pan liner, as well.

The idea of substituting cauliflower for rice is very interesting, and I'm looking forward to giving it a try.

I've bit my tounge quite a bit lately, but I really can't take it anymore. I understand swapping out treats with healthier alternatives (I loved the chocolate dipped figs, for instance) but this is a grain. Points or not, grain is something your body needs. Saving your points by eating veggies is great, but not if you're so obsessed with counting points/calories that you can't eat a whole grain that your body actually needs.

What is the point of losing weight if you don't feel really good later? Cutting out grains is going to cause nothing but fatigue and nutritional deficiencies. And what are you saving that whole four points for, anyway, that a grain isn't going to satisfy?

Lately it feels like the only thing you're giving us is weight loss tips. Health tips benefit us so much more than "skinny recipes" and as someone trying to bring about healthy eating, the fact that you're teaching us to swap out brown rice, an unprocessed whole food, for a vegetable that, while good for you, is not a substitute for rice is going to hurt a lot more people than it will help.

You explicitly say you don't believe in low carb diets, so why cater to low carb dieters? I really respect you, Snack Girl, but I miss the focus on health over weight loss.

@Courtney - It is difficult to know how one is being interpreted and I hear your point. What I was trying to do here is add vegetables to a diet. I was specifically talking to people who have trouble keeping carbs in check - so this is a weight loss tip - but I also think that eating a bowl of cauliflower is a healthy choice. Do I think you should give up a whole grain such as brown rice? No! I featured brown rice last week! I just wanted to help the person who is having trouble with losing weight and I believe this is a healthy tip in moderation. I am not suggesting she never eat rice again - just a swap for sometimes. I do very much believe in health over weight loss.

I love this idea! Our family LOVES rice and my children are fairly healthy eaters but I would love to sneak in a few more vegatables at times. I think it's a great idea and can't wait to try it out! Thanks!

I like the idea of substituting cauliflower for at least part of the rice in a dish because I'm a Type 2 diabetic who is controlling it through diet and exercise. Since I count carbs at every meal, I, for one, think the cauliflower is a wonderful suggestion. I still eat rice, but it doesn't take very much rice to fulfill carb requirements for a meal.

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