The Best Healthy Boxed Rice Mixes to Buy
Pictured Recipe: Shrimp Jambalaya
Eating more whole grains is good for your health. They deliver fiber (most of us don't eat enough) and nutrients. But if cooking a pot of brown rice feels intimidating (here's the best way to do it) or you don't have 45 minutes, keep these rice mixes in your pantry. A whole-grain rice mix makes for an easy and healthy side dish. But they're not all created equally. Some are high in sodium or don't deliver that whole-grain goodness we're looking for. Here's how to shop for healthy whole grain sides to add to your next grain bowl or dinner.
Our Top Picks: Boxed Rice Mixes
Minute Ready to Serve Red Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic
Organic, convenient single-serve portions with subtle garlic flavor.
Seeds of Change Seven Whole Grains
More grains, more flavor! This toothsome mix serves up rye, barley, millet, bulgur, wild rice and brown rice.
Near East Quinoa Blend Mediterranean Medley
Some mixes miss the mark when it comes to spice. Not here. The blend of herbs is delightful.
Uncle Ben's Brown Rice & Quinoa Roasted Red Pepper
A bit of serrano pepper gives this 25-minute mix a surprising and tasty kick.
Lundberg Organic Sprouted Risotto Butter and Chive
Brown arborio rice simmers into creamy risotto without constant stirring.
Pereg Quinoa Ginger Sesame
Flavors of ginger and lemongrass make this a delicious accompaniment to Asian dishes.
How to Shop for Healthy Boxed Rice Mixes
1. Watch the Sodium
We found one mix with 1,240 mg of sodium per 1-cup serving-almost half the recommended daily limit. Though we aim for less than 360 mg in EatingWell side dish recipes, it's hard to find a mix that low in sodium with good flavor. After surveying and tasting 36 options, we found that choosing blends with 530 mg of sodium or less gave plenty of great options.
2. Know Your Grain
Look for blends with whole grains-brown and wild rice, quinoa, etc.-they have 2 to 4 more grams of fiber per serving than their more refined counterparts. Some rice is "parboiled," meaning that it has been partially cooked and dried to speed up cook time; it's pretty similar nutritionally. Another term you'll see is "long grain." This describes the shape of the rice. It doesn't impact nutrition, but does affect how it cooks. Most boxed rice use long grain because it doesn't get as sticky.
Yes, you may have heard that rice absorbs arsenic from the soil as it grows. Brown rice and parboiled white rice tend to have higher levels than standard white rice. The advice when it comes to rice is: eat it, but minimize your risk by eating a wide diversity of grains overall.
3. Additive Awareness
Maltodextrin, a thickener used to improve mouthfeel, is generally considered safe, but there's emerging research suggesting that it may contribute to gut bacteria disruptions. Another common additive is hydrolyzed soy protein, aka monosodium glutamate (MSG). But no need to freak: research shows that very few people are sensitive to hydrolyzed soy protein, so the FDA and watchdog groups deem it generally safe.
4. Numbers to Look For
Prepared, per 1-cup serving
Sodium: ≤530 mg
Fiber: ≥2 g