How to Lose Weight With Rice Paper

Rice paper wrappers can be found in Southeast Asian cooking, where they may be best known for making fresh spring or summer rolls in Vietnamese cuisine. Rice paper wrappers are purchased dried, so they store well and are easy to use, requiring little preparation. Replacing higher-calorie breads with rice paper wrappers can help you lose weight, as can keeping your fillings for rice paper wrappers healthy.

Rice paper wraps. (Image: yuryRumovsky/iStock/Getty Images)

Substitute for Bread

One of the easiest ways to lose weight with rice paper wrappers is to use them as bread substitutes. A serving of one 8 1/2-inch wrapper has 31.3 calories. Compare this to a large pita, which has 165 calories per serving, or a single slice of white bread, with 80 calories per serving, and it's easy to see how using rice paper can help you lose weight. If you normally eat two slices of bread per day as part of a meal -- say a lunchtime sandwich -- using two pieces of rice paper instead leads to a deficit of roughly 679 calories per week. The same is true when subbing rice paper for pitas. Over time, this can add up.

Fill With Veggies Instead

Traditionally, rice paper wrappers are filled with cooked rice or rice noodles, which help to make the meal more substantial. Instead of using rice noodles, which are higher in calories despite being low-fat, consider filling your wrapper with vegetables, such as leaf lettuce and sliced peppers. Theses vegetables provide fiber and nutrients and are low in calories. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that you eat between 2 and 3 cups of vegetables per day. Using 1 cup of shredded lettuce in place of 1 cup of rice noodles will lead to a calorie reduction of 185 calories each time. Do this regularly, and the calorie difference can add up, helping you lose weight. A diet high in fiber can help you lose weight by making you feel fuller with fewer calories consumed, according to the American Heart Association. It can also help reduce cholesterol and lower your blood sugar levels.

Healthy Proteins

Traditional Vietnamese summer rolls use a mix of pork, shrimp or cooked beef. When making your own, you can choose healthier low-calorie options, such as shrimp, in place of higher-fat ones, such as beef. A 3-ounce serving of shrimp has 71 fewer calories than a serving of lean steak, which can lead to over 2 pounds of lost weight if you substitute shrimp for beef twice a week for a year. While both foods can help you meet the recommended 5 to 6 1/2 ounces of protein per day, shrimp will also help you reach the USDA's recommendation of 8 ounces of seafood per week. In both cases, including protein in your diet can help you feel fuller with less food and fewer calories consumed, reducing your risk of overeating, which can cause weight gain.

Using Rice Paper Wrappers

Take a tip from Vietnamese summer rolls and include fresh herbs in your roll to boost flavor while keeping your rolls low in fat and salt. Rice paper wrappers need to be dipped in hot water to soften before they can be used, but then the paper can be used and rolled up just like a tortilla for a burrito. While traditional Southeast Asian cuisine sometimes uses the wrappers for deep-fried rolls, keep the rice papers fresh to minimize the amount of fat. The wrappers don't need to be cooked before using once they've been softened. Rice paper rolls stay fresh three to five days if they are kept in a sealed container in the fridge. Bring them to room temperature before eating, and if they are a little hard due to air exposure, simply sprinkle a bit of warm water on the rolls. Let them sit, and they will soften quickly.

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