Rice cakes were a popular snack during the low fat craze of the nineties — but you may wonder whether you should still be eating them as a snack.
Made from puffed rice pressed together into a cake, rice cakes are often eaten as a low calorie substitute for bread and crackers.
While flavored varieties are available, the most basic kind is made from only rice and sometimes salt. As you might expect, they don’t have much flavor on their own.
This article looks at rice cake nutrition, health benefits and downsides, and how to enjoy rice cakes.
Rice cakes are essentially rice and air and thus don’t boast an impressive nutrient profile.
One plain rice cake (9 grams) made from brown rice offers (
- Calories: 35
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Protein: 1 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Niacin: 4% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Pantothenic acid: 2% of the DV
- Manganese: 15% of the DV
- Copper: 4% of the DV
- Selenium: 4% of the DV
- Magnesium: 3% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 3% of the DV
- Zinc: 2% of the DV
They also contain minimal amounts of several other vitamins and minerals (
Their sodium content depends on whether they’re salted. If you’re watching your salt intake, check the sodium on the Nutrition Facts panel of your rice cakes or look at the ingredients for added salt.
Additionally, the process of puffing rice — which is used in making rice cakes — has been shown to decrease the rice’s antioxidant content (
Keep in mind that this nutrition information is for plain rice cakes only. Flavored varieties often contain added sugars and other ingredients.
Rice cakes are low in essential vitamins and minerals. They’re basically fat-free and contain very little protein or fiber.
Some of the benefits of rice cakes are that they’re low in calories, they’re typically gluten-free, and they’re sometimes made with whole grains.
Low in calories
One rice cake (9 grams) has 35 calories, primarily from carbs (
Many people eat rice cakes in place of bread or crackers, both of which can be higher in calories.
It may feel like you’re eating more because the air in the rice cakes helps make you feel full, but the flip side is that in order to save calories, you’ll need to stick to a reasonable portion size of rice cake.
This is because, ounce-for-ounce and gram-for-gram, rice cakes actually contain more calories than white bread and a similar amount of calories as saltine crackers (
Some contain whole grains
Rice cakes can be made using whole grain brown rice.
A diet high in whole grains has been proven to lower the risk of chronic diseases.
A large study in more than 360,000 people found that those who consumed the most whole grains — such as brown rice — had a 17% lower risk of death from all causes than those who ate the fewest whole grains (
However, not all rice cakes on the market use brown rice, so look for “whole grain brown rice” on the label to ensure that you’re buying one with whole grains.
Most are gluten-free
Rice cakes made solely from rice are gluten-free.
Some varieties incorporate barley or other gluten-containing grains, so be sure to read the label carefully if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Additionally, rice cakes are widely available, which makes them a convenient gluten-free option away from home. If you’re in a place where your favorite gluten-free products are unavailable, you will likely be able to find rice cakes in any mainstream grocery store.
Rice cakes are low in calories, made from whole grains (if made with brown rice), and usually gluten-free.
Rice cakes may raise your blood sugar, particularly if you eat multiple servings in one sitting or if you choose sweet-flavored varieties that contain added sugar.
They’re mostly carbs and have very little protein and fiber to slow the effect of these carbs on your blood sugar.
To blunt their effect on your blood sugar, combine them with protein, such as meat, cheese, hummus, or nut butter, and add fiber to your snack in the form of fruits or veggies (
Also, if you’re choosing them only because they’re low in calories and you think they’re healthy, but you don’t actually like them, they may not be the best choice for a snack. There are other nutritious options you can eat.
Rice cakes are likely to raise your blood sugar quickly when eaten by themselves.
Rice cakes are mostly quickly digesting carbs that will increase blood sugar levels, so on their own, they’re not the best choice for people with diabetes.
However, a single plain rice cake contains only about 7 grams of carbs, so it may easily fit into your carb allotment for a meal or snack (
Regardless, try to stick to just one serving as a snack and add healthy protein, fat, and fiber to both reduce the blood sugar effects and make the rice cake more filling and nutritious (
Some good rice cake toppings for people with diabetes are avocado, nut butter, and hummus.
Rice cakes are mostly carbs, which will increase blood sugar levels quickly. If you have diabetes, it’s best to stick to one serving and add healthy protein, fat, and fiber to reduce the effects on your blood sugar.
Rice cakes are low in calories, fiber, and protein. Most of the calories come from carbs (
Combining them with protein and fiber can balance their potential effect on your blood sugar (
You can buy many varieties of rice cakes, so they can be fairly versatile snacks. There are whole grain versions made with brown rice, miniature versions that are bagged like potato chips, and thin varieties.
Rice cakes also come in several flavor options, including savory flavors like sour cream and onion and cheddar and sweet flavors like chocolate and caramel.
Miniature savory-flavored rice cakes are a lower calorie alternative to potato chips, but it’s a good idea to eat them with a yogurt– or hummus-based dip to add some protein and fat.
Try pairing rice cakes with:
- hummus and sliced cucumbers and tomatoes
- cream cheese, smoked salmon, and sliced cucumbers
- peanut butter and sliced bananas
- almond butter and sliced strawberries
- guacamole and sliced cheese
- sliced turkey and tomatoes
- white bean spread and radishes
- tuna salad and celery
- mashed avocado and an egg
- tomato, basil, and mozzarella
A variety of rice cakes are available to purchase. Try pairing them with protein and healthy fat to minimize their impact on your blood sugar levels and build a more satisfying snack.
Rice cakes may be lower in calories than bread but also lower in fiber and other important nutrients.
Plain, whole grain brown rice varieties may be slightly healthier, but this gluten-free food is still likely to spike your blood sugar. To balance this effect, it’s best to pair rice cakes with protein and fiber.
Rice cakes may be a common low calorie snack, but there’s no real benefit to eating them if you don’t like them.
Just one thing
Try this today: For a crunchy snack, try a serving of nuts or seeds, like almonds, pistachios, or sunflower seeds. They provide lots of crunch but also a balanced amount of protein, fiber, and healthy fat.