"How do East Asians eat rice all the time and not get fat?"

dantetheexplorer

I have been asked this question more times than I can remember.
There seems to be a belief that people who eat rice all the time should be fat.
Let me briefly explain why this might not necessarily be so.

Proviso 1: Many of the points I mention below also applies to other Asians (Southeast, South, etc) who regularly consume rice in a traditional Asian diet. I only mention East Asian in my title and in my points below because that's who I am and that's what I'm familiar with. I think all the points below apply to all other Asian cultures that consume rice regularly.

Proviso 2: My examples below, of what I normally eat, follows a Traditional Asian diet. Of course, I am well aware that there are many, many food options available in the world. And I do avail myself of them, especially when traveling! But, I can honestly say, that for the vast majority of my days (~ 80 - 90%), I follow a Traditional Asian diet.

Extra details: In case you're wondering whether I'm fat, I will just share my height and weight with you. In my circle of East Asian friends (male), I am considered average in height and weight. My height is 1.83 m (6'0") and I weigh 75 kilograms ( ~ 165 lbs). I exercise every day for at least 30 minutes.

Let's Begin:

Usually, I eat rice three times a day. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
"So, how do East Asians eat rice all the time and not get fat?"
Many people who ask this question think that East Asians eat this amount of rice at every meal:
(I own none of the pictures below)

Do Asians really eat this amount of rice at every meal?
Do Asians really eat this amount of rice at every meal?

In reality, this is the amount of rice I eat at lunch and dinner, and a little less for breakfast:

Purple Rice in a Rice Bowl
Purple Rice in a Rice Bowl

I don't eat noodles as much as I eat rice. I eat rice every day, but I eat noodles, maybe once a week or so. In Northern Chinese cuisine, the reverse is true: they eat more noodles and buns than rice.
Note: Everyday meals are eaten with plain, boiled rice. Fried rice is a snack or standalone meal. There's a reason why East Asians eat meals with plain, boiled rice instead of fried rice - the explanation is too long to fit here and requires its own post.

If I have a bowl of noodles as a meal, it's about yea-big:

Yes. This is a bowl of noodles
Yes. This is a bowl of noodles

So, what else is eaten at these meals, besides rice and noodles?
All three East Asian cultures have their own specialties and dishes and proportions.

I subscribe to a 2+1 Method for basic meals:
2 Vegetables + 1 Fish (or Meat) dish.

First Vegetable Dish (preferable Leafy Green Vegetable) :

Veg Dish #1: Baby Bok Choy with Mushrooms
Veg Dish #1: Baby Bok Choy with Mushrooms

Second Vegetable Dish, usually prepared in a different way compared to First Vegetable Dish:

Veg Dish #2: Spinach
Veg Dish #2: Spinach

Fish (or Meat) Dish:

A Fish
A Fish

If I'm especially hungry, I will usually add a fourth dish.
Usually either a broth, or a very-easy-to-make dish.

Here are is one example of a supremely-easy-to-make dish:

Egg with Tomatoes
Egg with Tomatoes

Okay, what about dessert?
A Traditional Asian meal has NO dessert.
You eat the main meal, and that's it.
Traditionally, growing up, dessert meant Fruits.

A very common dessert was / is Orange Slices.
Or watermelon, especially during summer:

When life throws you oranges...
When life throws you oranges...
I really love snacking on Roasted Sweet Potato:
Here's one of my favorite snacks, Roasted Sweet Potato.

Well, there's always banana and nuts.
But, what if I get hungry between meals?
Roasted Sweet Potato
Roasted Sweet Potato

I don't make this at home, but if there's a good dim sum place nearby, I'll go buy a couple of 叉燒包 (roasted pork buns) and have them as a snack:

Char Siew Bao (Literally Fork-Roasted Bun, but really, it's just Roasted Pork Bun)
Char Siew Bao (Literally Fork-Roasted Bun, but really, it's just Roasted Pork Bun)


But what if I wanted to indulge a little?
What type of food would I eat if I wanted to hang out with my mates a little and have a drink?

One of my absolute favorites is 떡볶이, or romanized as Tteokbokki.
Which is Spicy Rice Cakes, a very popular street food.
I enjoy this maybe once every two weeks or so.
I consider it an indulgence.
This is a great dish for drinking outings.
Perfect with Soju and Maekju (Beer). Combine both those drinks to make Somaek.

Spicy Rice Cakes
Spicy Rice Cakes

Another favorite is 焼き鳥, or yakitori, which is skewered chicken, food commonly served at an izakaya. I eat and enjoy all parts of the chicken: gizzards, heart, liver, etc.
I always enjoy yakitori with several glasses of umeshu (plum wine) on the rocks:

Mmm...
Mmm...

Okay, all that is good and fine.
But if that's a Traditional Asian diet that I keep to, there must be food items I don't eat, right?
Compare all the above to things I don't eat:

I don't eat cereal and I don't drink milk. (although sometimes, it's hard to avoid milk if I'm eating outside):

Cocopops?
Cocopops?

I don’t eat pancakes, donuts, waffles, or muffins:

Four boxes
Four boxes

I don't eat bread, pastries, or cakes (although, I do eat bread when I'm traveling in countries where rice is difficult to come by):

So that means there's no this:

He's got the whole world, in his hands...
He's got the whole world, in his hands...

And no this:

Let them eat cake!
Let them eat cake!

I also don't eat Potatoes when they come in Mashed Potatoes-form:

Potayto, Potahto Version 1.0
Potayto, Potahto Version 1.0

I also don't eat Potatoes when they come in French Fries-form (I will however, eat Roasted Potatoes. ) :

Potayto, Potahto Version 1.0
Potayto, Potahto Version 1.0

I don't eat America-style pizza (NY, deep dish, stuffed) (I will, however, enjoy eating Italian-style pizza, but that's once in a blue moon):

Stuffed Pizza
Stuffed Pizza

And I don't like eating sugary foods, so I definitely don't eat food like this:

What am I?
What am I?

---------------------------------------------

Conclusion:

All of the above are possible reasons why East Asians are able to eat rice almost every day of the year without necessarily getting fat.

Thank you for making it this far!

"How do East Asians eat rice all the time and not get fat?"
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Most Helpful Girls

  • dancing_in_nebulas

    Our rice maker is constantly being used all day lol. Rice is like our snack, with halmeoni making meauntang or kongnamulguk, kept warm on the stove, to hold us over until dinner.

    She usually keeps fruits like bae, watermelon or apples in stock for sweets, as well as chappsal donuts, or those treats made of rice flour with the honey or fruit syrup fillings. I forgot their name, but omg I love them!

    Asian food I feel is the lightest on the stomach out of all types. My friends actually had stomach aches adjusting to heavy American foods.

    That massive cake would have probably them in the hospital for sure their first week here.

    My nini cooks all day, homemade kimchi always fresh in the fridge, but the portions are always just enough. Well, probably more than average feeding 3 grown men along with the rest of us lol.

    Variety during meals is something both Korean and African American culture share - ours is a lot bigger portions and heavier lol - with as you said, a meat or protein plus 3-4 sides. Sometimes 5-8 for big meals. Likewise, my black side of the family picks a meat like roast, with 3-4 sides.

    Kimchi and rice is always readily available and served with all our meals.

    All the food is just so light and healthy, that you'd have to literally try to get fat off of it!

    Like 2 People
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    • "or those treats made of rice flour with the honey or fruit syrup fillings. "
      I think you might be referring to 송편 (songpyeon).

      I live alone, so I wish I had someone to make me homemade kimchi!
      Sounds awesome!

    • Yes!!! They're soooooo good!

      Awe, I'll have to bring you a jar 😆🥣 lol

    • Haha! Thanks! I mean, I know how to make kimchi (whether it's good or not - well...) but it does take a bit of time, though. It's not like you can do it before going to work!

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  • 11110000bbbb

    That statement is very crazy to hear because yes rice might have a decent amount of calories
    But even there you don't have coffee much or soda that's another reason.
    Here people have the standard coffee and doughnut.
    Looking at the coffee alone for breakfast most people go to Starbucks and a Grande Caramel Frap'
    Blended is 400+ calories.
    Having a doughnut at Krispy Kreme for example, that is 190 calories.
    That's over 500 calories just for breakfast alone.
    12 ounce Cola is 140 calories
    Lets say 1 Big Mac that is 540 calories.
    not including any fries.
    For a heat up meal that people normally eat more than one serving of is like over 1000 calories.
    that's over 2000 calories daily. No wonder.
    (And I'm being very limited with the calories by rounding down)

    Like 3 People
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    • Actually, I do enjoy coffee quite a bit. But I'm a very boring person - I always drink my coffee black, without sugar or milk. My friends call me "Boring Coffee Drinker" :)

    • yes but here we put large tablespoons of it in out coffee i mean coffee that is like made with a ton of sugar and not from home usually.

    • I can't take sugar in coffee. It feels strange to me :D

Most Helpful Guys

  • genericname85

    just take a look at beverage vending mashines in asia vs US. in the us you'll have 20 flavors of coke. in asia you'll have water, different teas and maybe one flavor of coke. also rice has half the carbs of bread. in asia it's mostly veggies and rice with a side of meat. in the US it's mostly bread (or other high carb shit like pasta, pizza or whatever) and fatty beef with a laughable amount of veggies.

    also look at serving sizes in asia vs the US. in the us you get a shovel full of fries (besides your main dish) and a 5 liter bucket of coke to your meal. in asia it's a small bowl of rice and a big plate of veggies with a little meat of stuff and meaybe half a liter of coke.

    the average Asian diet is way more healthy. carbs meat and sugar is basically like killing yourself slowly.

    Like 1 Person
    Is this still revelant?
    • Unfortunately, with increased disposable income in the region, kids nowadays are consuming more sugar :/ For example, while I think tea-drinking is very healthy, there's something called "Brown Sugar Milk Tea" which is getting really popular in the region now - there's Milk and Sugar added to the tea, which young kids love, but obviously, is not as healthy as drinking your normal, plain brewed tea. Add in the "pearls" - or tapioca starch balls - in them, and you get empty calories aplenty. It's doing booming business and the kids just love it!

      Thankfully, I still see young folk enjoying veggies. The cuisine is set up such that sometimes, an entire "main dish" is just a dish with vegetables in it. This is not strange at all. It contrasts starkly with most US meals eaten outside, where vegetables are often just used as garnishes for a meal.

    • I mean having more money should result in buying more organic stuff without GMOs and antibiotics free meat, cause that would be the smart choice. Green tea is actually besides being just healthy also a natural nootropic, which enhances your brain activity. The American diet (red meat, sugar, carbs) is the most common reason for death and digestive syndrome (being fat and diabetic). In Japan there's even compulsory countermeasures against this.

    • Yes. But young kids, they love the sweet stuff! Especially right now, when it's hot and muggy in the region! It's all about eating what's popular - going to food establishments where you can take nice photos.

      I know what you mean about the meat. Take Japan - there's raw chicken sashimi.
      Would anyone dare eat raw chicken sashimi from chicken sourced from the US?
      I know I wouldn't.

    • Show All
  • Aiko_E_Lara

    Rice is actually healthier than bread. Not saying rice is exactly healthy but just by comparison. Bread itself has starch from the flour and usually has refined sugar added making it have more carbs than rice. Also they add tea to their diet which is a metabolism booster. Now let's talk about their lifestyle. In Asia, facilities are nearby your house that you can just walk to get there since a lot of people there share houses unlike living in suburban areas with a lot of houses with only two to three people in there that you will be force to use cars to travel.

    Like 1 Person
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    • Nice points on rice and tea.
      Another bonus for rice is that: nobody is allergic to rice! (unlike being allergic to wheat, gluten)

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What Girls & Guys Said

2239
  • ClearCyan

    Cause rice makes you full fast with relatively low calories

    Like 1 Person
    Reply
    • Actually, that is a pretty astute observation. One of the purposes of eating rice is that it gives you a feeling of fullness. Without the rice, it would take longer for you to reach a point where you feel full and satiated.

  • OrangeBoy2

    What about wholegrain brown rice?
    Do you like / use it sometimes?

    Like 1 Person
    Reply
    • I eat all sorts of rice, including brown rice. However, some things are better with white rice.
      Have you ever seen sushi with brown rice or wild rice or other varieties of rice?
      There's a reason why folks use white rice to make sushi.

    • OrangeBoy2

      Sushi is a good example. I get your point.
      Do you know the rice name/type used to make it?

    • We only use short-grain white rice to make sushi.
      (Or at least, I have never seen sushi made with any other sort of rice...)
      The rice type is known as japonica rice.
      There are many cultivars of japonica rice: koshihikari and calrose rice come to mind.

    • Show All
  • HereIbe

    Absolutely. Look at the folks of pure Asian ancestry in the USA--if their family has been here for several generations, they're as fat as any Euro-American gets. It's the overall dietary choices, indeed.

    Like 2 People
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  • Drooogie4

    Excess calories make you fat, not any given food specifically.

    Like 3 People
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  • Erykahbear20

    Most Asians I have met told me about they drink teas and that teas are natural fat burners I'm black and I used to wonder why Asians dont have too much of obese problem as much as other races
    Also does anybody find Asians to be very cute😍

    LikeDisagree 4 People
    Reply
  • Beanie10

    I’m South Asian and eat white rice 2 times a day almost daily. I’m slim 54 Kg at 172 cms. Genetics plays a role as well.

    Like 1 Person
    Reply
    • What are some popular rice varieties in South Asian cuisine?
      I know Basmati is popular.

    • Beanie10

      Yes. Basmati is popular but there’s also local Indian grown rice. Annapurna, bhut moori etc Most East Asians eat sticky rice, is that right?

    • I believe that Indians tend to eat the long-grain subspecies of rice called Indica rice (which gives rise to all the varieties you mentioned) while East Asian tends to focus more on short-grain rice belonging to the subspecies of rice called Japonica rice. Similar to India, there are a lot of what we call "native rice" varieties, and one of the most popular would be koshihikari rice.

      I like to try different varieties of rice - it's very fascinating as each rice has its own special taste!

  • Silver158

    because carbs don't make you fat. Sustained caloric surplus makes you fat

    Like 2 People
    Reply
    • Yes. Proportions matter. A guy who eats half a bucket of rice is going to gain weight - unless he has the metabolism of The Flash.

  • tenukitanuki

    Haha, such a geek out of Orientalism. Making me want some spicy rice cakes bro, so chewy. Firstly, it is almost forbidden for an Asian to become fat in public. You will get poked. By strangers. Old women. You are a target unless you're white, then it's your birthright to be a huge stinking savage.

    So much to unpack here but if I do then I'll just end up really hungry and in the kitchen, or worse, shopping. Of Asian culture, generally, they're less cynically motivated and don't need to trick themselves into bettering their own condition. White man is a self destructive ball of fire and smoke that comes screaming down from the mountains in search of a direction to explode. At least the white men that paved the road to modern day, cutting paths of blood all the way. We killed each other so fucking much we just had to take the show on tour.

    Like 1 Person
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  • RobLovesDemi1234

    Because they dont eat the garbage americans eat and dont drink the crap soda or juices americans drink

    Like 2 People
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  • shephardjhon

    I lost several pounds after switching to a mostly sherwama (plate or pita sandwich) diet.
    My theory is most flavor of traditional American dishes comes from butter, cheese, oil, sugar or fried texture. On the other hand, most flavor of those dishes and the rice ones from Asia comes from very heavy use of spices. There is even a reason for the difference, European foods came from winter climate where fats were important, ours came from tropical climate where we need less fat but using less fat meant our food would be bland so we used spices in ways the west did not.

    Like 2 People
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  • Prof_Don

    The rice vinegar y’all use when you cook the rice... also probably has an effect as well.

    Like 1 Person
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  • iFarted

    I eat anything and everything, yet still not fat 😅 genetics, construction and long daily walks with doggys help.

    Like 1 Person
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  • ericclayton

    It's more about the portion sizes than the type of food.

    Like 2 People
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  • Massageman

    Great take. Proteins are more of a "flavoring" than the "star ingredient" of many Asian dishes.

    Like 1 Person
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  • hellacray

    Well in Asia they do move a lot more. Cause most people take public transportation. And I think very few people order delivery.

    And then I think the big game changer is fast food restaurants. My friend went to pretty much all parts of Asia and tried their fast food like McDonald's and KFC.

    They have healthier options there and people don't eat a bunch of junk. Makes me wonder why the USA has such crappy options. But then again it makes sense since the healthier stuff probably won't sell that well here.

    Well I mean in general it's kinda true that you are what you eat. I think a lot of Americans can be healthier, but just choose not too cause we're lazy like that.

    Like 1 Person
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  • Loveherbut

    Thank you so much for saying East Asian, Americans need to learn their geography

    Like 1 Person
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  • Dolemite510

    They eat healthy for the most part and r very physically active that’s why they’re usually skinny

    Like 1 Person
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  • ChocoLada

    They don't eat too much, and they work out a lot :P

    Reply
  • buttcrackjoe

    You MFer warn us before posting all of that food porn my mouth is wet for it

    Reply
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