Rice Cakes - a clever alternative or full of (hot) air

IN MY job all too often I’m the bearer of bad news: 30mins jogging on a treadmill burns less calories than a butter croissant provides; the only reason you think you can do 10 pull-ups is that you are cheating on the depth.

So it’s with a heavy heart that I turn my attention to the omnipresent ‘health snack’ that is the chocolate/yoghurt covered rice cake.

Rice cakes are often the go-to snack for those – typically women - who want to lose weight while still being able to snack on something – that isn’t chocolate or biscuits - during the day.

As far as I can tell their popularity derives from two main sources – and unsurprisingly taste is not one of them.

These sources appear to be: 1. Misguided logic 2. ‘Good by comparison’.

Typically the arguments for rice cakes are as such:

“In comparison to a chocolate bar rice cakes are healthy.”

“They're made out of rice, not caramel or nougat so surely they can’t be that bad for you?

“They are pretty tasteless, which means they must be healthy, right?”

“There’s only 35kcals in them so that’s not bad, right?”

At first glance these arguments seem quite logical.

But closer inspection reveals that rice cakes are extremely high on both the Glycaemic Index, and Glycaemic Load – both indexes look at how much the food rises blood sugar levels in comparison to pure glucose to see what the food does to our insulin levels and in both indexes the higher the reading the less healthy the product is. 

A high reading for rice cakes shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering they are after all processed pieces of rice, stripped of most of their fibre, fluffed and then coated with chocolate.

Thanks to this process there is minimal fat or protein to help slow down the digestion and absorption. Additionally they also offer just as few vitamins and minerals.

Instead what you do have is refined carbohydrates that are quickly broken down into sugars that then rapidly raise your blood sugar levels, much in the same way a chocolate bar would do. You also have about a 1/5th of your daily intake of sodium in each rice cake.

So in essence two rice cakes at roughly 85kcals a cake (the figure Pret a Manger states is in their chocolate covered cakes) is only a few calories less that a packet of Maltesers and, many would argue, a damn sight less tasty.

Now while I’m not suggesting you pig out on Maltesers I’d just prefer you to be aware that rice cakes fall into the 'treat' category and in my opinion if you’re going to have a treat, it might as well taste like a treat.