Accidentally cook too much rice? We've been there. And all too often, we end up tossing our rice remnants into the fridge only to find a dry, hard heap of inedible grains a week later.
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But there's no need to let your leftover rice go to waste when there are countless ways to repurpose the dinnertime staple.
From rice pilaf to taco salad, these six delicious, dietitian-approved dinner recipes — all under 500 calories — will breathe new life into your leftover rice.
1. Supper Veggie Fried Rice
- Calories: 295
This healthy twist on a takeout favorite — veggie fried rice — swaps out white rice for the brown variety, adding more fiber (7 grams per serving) and B vitamins to every tasty bite. Quick and convenient, using frozen corn, peas and carrots, which are just as nutritious as fresh veggies, saves prep time.
To further boost the nutritional value of this easy recipe, simply add in a few scrambled eggs to bump up the protein and fat content and throw in some non-starchy veggies like bell peppers, spinach or kale, Maxine Yeung, RD, CPT, a registered dietitian, personal trainer and founder of The Wellness Whisk, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
"If you're worried about your sodium intake, consider substituting the lite soy sauce for coconut aminos," Yeung says.
Get the Supper Veggie Fried Rice recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Taco Salad With Brown Rice
- Calories: 390
It only takes five minutes to toss up this tasty taco salad made from simple pantry staples.
"A concern with many salads is that they aren't well-balanced, often lacking in complex carbohydrates, which leads you to get hungry fairly quickly afterwards," Yeung says. "[But] this combination of beans, brown rice, vegetables and avocado is packed with protein [15 grams], fiber [18 grams] and complex carbohydrates, which together will help keep you fuller, longer."
For a bit more vegetable variety, Yeung recommends mixing the romaine lettuce with spinach, kale or chopped cabbage. Pro-tip: Rinse canned beans to reduce the sodium content.
Get the Taco Salad With Brown Rice recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Curry Sweet Potato and Rice Salad
- Calories: 301
Seasoned with spicy curry and sweet mango chutney, this flavorful rice salad is swimming with superfoods like sweet potatoes, which are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, potassium and vitamins A, C and B6, and pistachios, which are jampacked with healthy fats, protein, vitamin B6, thiamine and copper and rank among the top five nuts highest in protein, Yeung says.
Yeung loves that this fragrant rice salad also incorporates Siggi's Icelandic yogurt. "Not only is the texture rich and creamy, it has a higher protein content and lower sugar content than most yogurts," she says.
And if you're watching your sugar intake, Yeung suggests using half the cranberries instead. Chop them into smaller pieces, so you can get a little bit of sweetness with each mouthful.
While this recipe has a great variety of flavors and textures and includes sources of all three macronutrients, Yeung says it serves better as a side dish than as a main entree. To make this a well-balanced meal, just add more fiber and lean protein (aim for at least 10 grams per meal) like tofu or chicken breast.
Get the Curry Sweet Potato and Rice Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Baked Acorn Squash Cups With Rice Pilaf
- Calories: 427
This cheesy brown rice pilaf is well balanced thanks to a font of fiber from various vegetables, healthy fats from olive oil and almonds and protein from mozzarella, Yeung says. Not to mention, this creative rice dish serves up sweet and savory flavors and a variety of textures, from the soft squash to the crunchy almonds, for a total palate pleaser.
"Acorn squash is different from most squashes because you can eat the skin, which is loaded in fiber, carotenoids and phytonutrients that possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits," Yeung says.
Rounding out the nutrient-dense ingredients are heart-healthy leeks. These amazing alliums are a good source of allicin (a compound that may reduce inflammation), plus they contain other powerful antioxidants, carotenoids, vitamin K and manganese, Yeung says.
Concerned about calories? You can always use less mozzarella to curb calories per serving.
Get the Baked Acorn Squash Cups With Rice Pilaf recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Grilled Sweet-n-Spice Salmon With Rice
- Calories: 467
"The combination of honey, coriander and cumin gives this salmon and rice dish a slightly sweet, citrusy flavor without a lot of added sugar," Yeung says.
Full of healthy fats and protein, salmon is a great addition to any eating plan, Yeung says. Not only a wonderful weight loss food, snacking on salmon also supports heart and brain health on account of its overabundant omega-3 fatty acids, and its rich vitamin D content strengthens your bones.
While this mouthwatering meal has all three macronutrients, it lacks non-starchy fiber, says Yeung, who recommends adding a side of vegetables for better balance. "Grilled asparagus or sautéed chard with garlic will go great with this dish," she says.
Get the Grilled Sweet-n-Spice Salmon With Rice recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Tofu and Mixed Rice Grain Salad
- Calories: 473
With a beautiful balance of protein, healthy fats and fiber, you get a heap of nutrition and a burst of flavors with every bite of this light but filling savory tofu salad. Tofu is a great plant-based protein as it contains all the essential amino acids and is high in manganese, calcium, phosphorus and iron, Yeung says.
Adding a nutty, satisfying crunch, sesame seeds also supply protein, fiber and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as many vitamins and minerals including thiamine, niacin, calcium, magnesium, manganese and zinc, Yeung says. Meanwhile black rice boasts even more protein, fiber, iron and antioxidants.
Even the sweet and tangy delicious dressing delivers a variety of health benefits. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to help manage blood sugar levels, especially after meals, while ginger may help with inflammation, nausea and digestion, Yeung says.
Get the Tofu and Mixed Rice Grain Salad recipe and nutrition info here.