Why I skip the rice cakes
When low-fat, high carbohydrate was the latest craze in the 1980's-1990's, rice cakes were a sure fire hit! A staple in all low-fat diets replacing everything from cookies, snacks, and sometimes used as a main meal. Thinking we'd lose weight because they were low calorie and low fat.
They may be low in calories, but if you're snacking solely on rice cakes, they're simply not doing your body any favours. Take a look at the nutrition panel for a name brand original thin brown rice cake:
Notice first up, on their website, they don't actually show you per serve or per rice cake. It's per 100g. Boom, you've been tricked! This makes the product look better because at first glance, it looks like the product has 5g of fibre, and 9g of protein. Two highly desirable nutrients in a food, especially a 'weight loss' food.
Turns out, a thin rice cake weighs about 6g, with a total packet coming in at 150g.
This means, that per rice cake:
You're getting a measly 23 calories (98kJ), 0.5g of protein, and 0.3g of fibre.
So even if you had 4 for a quick lunch with 1/2 a tomato, a few slices of onion and 2 tablespoons of full fat cream cheese spread, you're still only getting:
225 calories (941kJ), 5.8g of protein and 2.9g of fibre.
This equates to:
12.6% of an average woman's recommended daily protein intake (which is much lower than I would suggest for most women) and a sad 9.6% of the recommended dietary intake of fibre to prevent disease.
Aside from this - the vitamin and mineral content of rice is minimal and it has a high GI, meaning it will spike your blood sugar levels. Not something you want in a snack as you'll just be hungry again shortly after! This brand in particular uses brown rice, which is their only saving grace. Despite it being processed and puffed into a cake.
Brown rice is higher in nutrients as the process to make it into white rice (milling and polishing) removes the outer layers filled with most of the good stuff. This includes manganese, selenium, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and niacin (vitamin B3).
The flavoured rice cakes aren't any better. Sour cream and chives for example has a list of processed ingredients and additives:
Wholegrain Brown Rice (82%), Seasoning (Milk Solids (minimum 2%), Rice Flour, Salt, Vegetable Powders, Sugar, Inactive Dried Yeast, Cheese Powder, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein (Soy), Yeast Extracts, Flavours, Food Acid (330), Vegetable Oil, Flavour Enhancer (635), Chives), Sunflower Oil.
The plain ones with added corn, quinoa, and/or seeds really doesn't change much nutritionally either as the majority of the product is still refined rice. This product is advertised as Rice Cakes with Quinoa:
Wholegrain Brown Rice (74%), Corn (17%), Wholegrain Quinoa (5%), Wholegrain Buckwheat (2%), Wholegrain Sorghum (2%), Salt.
Quinoa is only 5% of the total product! Tricked you again.
The take home messages:
- Don't trust the front of the packet - it's all marketing
- Always read the ingredients list, and check the nutrients "per serve" and how many serves are in one packet.
- Compare similar products using the " per 100g" column for fairness as serving sizes are determined by the manufacturer. There is no set serve size by law and companies often use this to their advantage, to make the product look more appealing nutritionally.
- Leave the rice cakes on the shelf. Opt for crackers from companies such as Fine Fettle, Kitz, Dr Karg, or Mary's Gone Crackers. Then be sure to top it or serve them with healthy fats, protein and fibre combo like:
- peanut (or almond) butter and banana
- hummus and veggies
- nut butter and fruit
- egg and avocado