When I go for dinner with friends sushi is one of our all-time favorite options - but is sushi a healthy dine out option? The answer is...it depends! If going for sushi for you, means eating 2-3 rolls with a tempura appetizer then, not so much. You’d be eating almost 3 cups of white rice, and a high calorie, deep fried appetizer. On the other hand, is going for sushi, means going for a low carbohydrate, high protein meal of sashimi, edamame, and some miso soup then we are talking about a different nutritional profile all together!
Usually, when people think of sushi, they think of “maki” or rolls and not actual sushi which is a piece of meat/fish/etc over a small mound of rice.
Follow this nifty guide for the healthiest sushi options and learn how to choose the best sushi rolls for your health — on any sushi menu.
The Best and Worst Sushi Choices
Here’s a guide for the best and worst choice you can make for your next outing to make the healthiest shushi choices!
Healthy Sushi: Protein
Salmon, mackerel, or tuna for high protein and a healthy dose of omega 3’s
You can’t guarantee that the fish served at each restaurant is wild caught; however, some restaurants do have eco-conscious fish options which are the best choice. If they aren't, just remember sushi, in general, should be eaten in moderation.
Eel or unagi usually served in a sugary brown sauce
Imitation crab is highly processed with lots of additives and artificial coloring
Healthy Sushi: Sauces
Low sodium soy sauce in moderation
Tamari is another great gluten-free option, but watch for the sodium content
Wasabi is a combination of horseradish, Chinese mustard and green food colouring with almost no actual wasabi present. Use in moderation or avoid if you are looking to avoid all artificial colouring
Tempura dipping sauce: You'd get this option if you ordered any tempura battered appetizers. While it's not terrible in moderation, 1 tsp can have roughly 340mg of sodium.
Regular Soy Sauce: With almost 1000 mg of sodium per tablespoon, go with the low sodium option if available. Most soy sauces also contain gluten
Teriyaki sauce:This tasty sauce is typically high in sugar
Healthy Sushi: Rice
Did you know that each sushi roll contains about one cup of white rice in it? That’s two full cups of rice for two rolls!
Brown rice is a much better choice if it is an option, but watch out - sometimes they will add sugar to make it sticky for rolling, taking away some of its healthy appeal.
White short grain rice is high in refined carbohydrates, this sticky rice, will send your blood sugar levels up and turn into fat quickly
Healthy Sushi: Best and Worst Menu Choices
Healthy Sushi: The Best Meal Options
Miso Soup: Starting with miso soup is a very good idea. It will help you to start to feel full sooner and provides a nice dose of nutrients from the fermented soy.
Sashimi: Salmon (Sake), skipjack tuna (Katsuo), or mackerel (Saba) are all great options for protein and healthy fats.
Salad: wakame or green salad with dressing on the side is a good way to sneak some iodine, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin C
If you have to satisfy your maki craving these are the best sushi rolls (and you can ask for light rice and/or brown rice if it's an option):
Salmon avocado roll (sans mayo)
Tuna roll, salmon roll, or shitake mushroom roll
Or: Ask if they can make your roll without rice! Depending on the restaurant this may or may not be an option.
My current favourite sushi meal is ordering a miso soup to start, then a wakame salad (seaweed salad) with 1-2 orders of salmon sashimi or katsuo and put it on top. Delish!
Healthy Sushi: The Worst Meal Options
Dynamite rolls or any tempura rolls.
Most “spicy rolls” or spicy tuna or spicy salmon are mixed with spicy mayo which adds extra empty calories.
Eel and avocado roll tends to be a high-calorie option due to the sweet teriyaki sauce they use for the eel.
“Fancy rolls” or house specialty rolls - these tend to pack on the extra toppings and fillings like tempura, spicy mayo, cream cheese, etc.
Tempura (veggie or protein) - avoid this fattening deep-fried appetizer
So, Is Sushi Healthy?
As you can see, sushi can be a very healthy meal, if you choose the healthiest sushi ingredients and avoid some of the worst health offenders on the menu. Keep this guide in mind the next time you go out for sushi to curb your cravings while still having a healthy, delicious meal.
PS. Looking for healthy meal ideas that are deeeeelicious and good for you? Check out our fav detox recipe cookbook.