I have to admit, when I first started eating sushi, I was a bit reckless.
I would eat as much as I could get my hands on and I didn’t care about which types of rolls I ordered; as long as the description sounded good, I wanted it on a boat in front of me.
Until I discovered that sushi wasn’t really the healthy dinner option I thought it was after all. Well, at least not how I was ordering it.
So what I found after tracking my own intake, as well as the choices my clients made, is that we tend to overdo it when it comes to sushi. And we go hard.
Not only do we overeat, but most of us also don’t realize just how many calories are hiding in some of our favorite rolls. Would you ever believe there are as many as 500+ calories in some?!
You can see how an innocent sushi night can quickly spiral into a whole day’s worth of eating, despite how small the portions are.
Since sushi can be a great addition to a healthy diet, I wanted to discuss a few caveats to keep in mind when ordering. These simple changes will guarantee that your favorite sushi night stays a healthy dinner night.
Start with Miso Soup or a Seaweed Salad
Starting your meal with a soup or salad is a great way to prevent overeating. Both options serve as an excellent way to fill your stomach before you tackle your sushi rolls. With less room to eat, you’ll be less inclined to want more.
Additionally, both miso soup and seaweed salad are packed with added health benefits.
Miso is considered a fermented food that’s made with soybeans, water, koji (a fungus used to ferment foods), and salt. We talked about fermented foods in this article. Essentially, they’re one of the best foods for your health and we should all be eating more of them.
In Miso’s case, you’ll enjoy healthy probiotics, a boost to your immune system, and a dose of needed minerals and vitamins.
Dr. Axe mentions the following advantages of eating miso soup:
- Improved digestion through balanced bacteria levels
- Reduced blood pressure levels
- Antioxidant boost that fights cancer cells
Plus, one study mentioned in LiveStrong found that miso “caused a 5 to 10 percent weight loss in animal studies thanks to a compound in the seaweed called fucoxanthin that has an effect on abdominal fat.”
Of course, we still need more research to see how this affects humans, but it’s certainly promising to see.
If the weather is hot or you’re not in the mood for soup, a seaweed salad is your next best alternative. It’s also great for anyone looking to slash calories or avoid the extra salt that’s found in miso soup.
As for the seaweed itself, it’s a cool and vibrant green salad that almost seems to glow it’s so bright with amazing chlorophyll. It’s loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals—not to mention that it’s bursting with unique flavor.
In seaweed salad, you’ll find essential nutrients such as:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin K
According to LiveStrong, this means you’ll enjoy the following benefits thanks to eating seaweed:
- Healthy thyroid function
- Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties
- Improved memory, skin, hair, eyes and teeth
- Boost in immune system
- “Stabilized cholesterol levels”
- Improved digestion
- Healthy blood pressure levels
And all of these perks come in for a mere 106 calories per serving. That’s why seaweed’s one of the healthiest foods we should be eating more of (but don’t).
I’ll warn you, the texture may take some time to get used to since it’s not like a traditional salad, but once you do it’s so worth it.
Choose Your Rolls Wisely
Now that we have your starter taken care of, let’s move on to these six do’s and don’ts when it comes to ordering sushi:
1. Avoid Crunchy & Tempura Styles
The whole point of sushi is to enjoy the fish raw. And while tempura options are great for those who don’t like the taste of raw fish, they’re terrible for you health-wise. The same goes for any rolls labeled “crunchy”.
These rolls are dipped in a high-fat batter and dropped into a fryer.
At that point, you’re adding unnecessary fat and calories to something that’s otherwise healthy. It’s like eating french fries or donuts; you know those are bad for you so it’s important to see tempura styles and crunchy rolls in the same light.
Eat This, Not That tells us that the super popular Shrimp Tempura Roll comes in at 508 calories and 21g of fat—talk about bad food hiding in plain sight.
2. Skip the Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is another addition not worth adding.
In the case of the Philadelphia Roll (salmon and cream cheese), adding this ingredient brings the calorie count to a whopping 320 without offering much more value nutritionally.
If you’re looking for a creamier option, you’re better off enjoying a roll with salmon and smooth avocado instead. While the calorie count is close at 304, you’ll actually have some healthy fats from the omega-3s thanks to the fatty salmon and avocado, plus you’ll still have that creamy goodness you’re craving.
3. Skip the Sauces & Mayo Drizzles
Sauces and mayo drizzles are another sure-fire way to add unnecessary calories and fat to your healthy sushi night.
The eel and avocado rolls used to be my favorite until I learned that the sauce was nothing more than a combination of sugar and soy sauce. I soon found out that this particular roll comes in at 372 calories. Now I avoid it and you should too.
In the same way that you avoid hidden sugars in your salad dressing, avoid sauces on your sushi.
This tip also applies to the spicy mayo or creamy drizzles. Not only does the sauce mask the delicious raw flavor of the fish, it also adds around 110 calories per tablespoon, which can pile up quickly.
So a simple tuna roll goes from having 184 calories to having 290 when it’s labeled as a spicy tuna roll.
Your best bet is to skip both the mayos and the sauces.
4. Swap the White Rice for Brown Rice
Your next healthy shift should be to swap out the white rice that’s commonly used with a healthy brown variety instead.
See, brown rice still has its hull and bran intact, unlike white rice which has this removed.
Unfortunately, by removing it, you’re losing out on important nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and thiamine. You’ll also miss the protein and fiber that’s found in brown rice, which are excellent at keeping you feeling full and promoting healthy digestion.
According to a study presented in WebMD, this simple change can “reduce your risks of developing type 2 diabetes.”
This is due to the fact that brown rice is considered a low glycemic food. So you won’t experience an insulin spike that leads to unwanted cravings and low moods later on.
Plus, most people don’t even notice a difference in taste making this one of the easiest changes on our list to try.
5. Raw Fish (no rice!) is Best
Another good idea is to start incorporating more sashimi into your sushi order. These are the thin slices of raw fish that don’t have any rice rolled in.
Raw fish is generally low in calories and packed with protein so you won’t feel too stuffed after your meal, yet you’ll still be satisfied.
6. Tuna and Salmon Should Become Your Go-tos
Out of all the fish you can choose from at the sushi bar, salmon and tuna are your best options.
These two fish contain healthy omega-3s that can fight off depression and cognitive decline while also reducing inflammation and the risk of heart disease, as the Dairy Council of California points out.
They’re also full of unsaturated fats that help protect your heart and protein to keep you feeling full and fuel your muscles.
Add Some Veggie Rolls Too
Veggie rolls are another great option for a healthy sushi night.
I like to pair my veggie rolls with a few pieces of sashimi to really maximize my nutritional spend.
Be sure to avoid the tempura veggie rolls and opt for pickled ones if you have the option. Similar to miso, you’ll get the added benefits of fermentation.
Raw veggies also work well here, but can lack some flavor. That’s why I like to add ginger and wasabi (more on these later) to combat this dilemma.
Avocado slices can also be a stellar addition to your sashimi order or as part of the roll itself. Since the pieces are so tiny, you won’t wreck your calorie budget for the day.
Don’t Skip the Ginger & Wasabi
For most of us, the ginger serves as a pretty garnish and the wasabi is only for the bold and the brave. But I’d urge you to give them a second chance and try them if you aren’t already eating them.
Ginger accompanies sushi as a digestive aid. It can help relieve gastrointestinal upsets and combat nausea, as Medical News Today mentions. That article also points out that ginger is a natural pain and inflammation reducer for the body as well.
What are these benefits going to cost you? A mere 15 calories per tablespoon.
As for the wasabi, it will do more for you health-wise than just clearing out your sinuses.
According to Organic Facts, wasabi has the following health perks:
- Reduced risks of cancer and heart disease
- Reduced inflammation in joints
- Anti-bacterial properties
- Reduced seasonal allergies
- Boosted immune system thanks to antioxidants
- Toxin removal
You can think of wasabi like a spicy mustard with a kick of horseradish. It’s a flavor you’ll have fun experimenting with 🙂
While it may be tempting to order a few rolls to try out, you should really only be eating 6–8 pieces of sushi for one serving. You won’t go overboard by keeping an eye on this portion control.
Speaking of which, soy sauce is another area that tends to be overly used. If you must use soy sauce, reach for a reduced sodium variety and go easy on it. Ditto on the sake!
Keeping these easy tips in mind ensures that your sushi night won’t wreck your waistline.
Plus, you may just be surprised to find that you actually prefer your sushi sans all these unnecessary added calories. I know I do now.
Which tips in this article will you incorporate first? I’d love to hear how your next sushi night goes!