There’s a good chance that your valiant pursuit of a healthy lifestyle does not include regular trips through the golden arches for a Big Mac. Yet you probably wouldn’t turn down a lunch of two California rolls and an appetizer at your favorite sushi restaurant. Well, unfortunately, if you do the meal math, you will be surprised—and not pleasantly. Though it’s hard to believe, the reality is that burger is the lower calorie choice. Talk about a diet delusion!
Japan has the highest number of centenarians in the world and many are convinced their diet is the key to their longevity. Here in America we love our sushi, but even though our version of it may taste light and delicious, it can be loaded with hidden diet disasters. Case in point: that 500+ calorie, double order of California roll.
Fortunately, there is no need to throw in the chopsticks. In fact, the Japanese menu is filled with heart healthy, smart options. All it takes is a little attention to the small print to create healthy sushi rolls that are as diet friendly as they are delicious.
Below are a few simple sushi secrets to help navigate this potentially diet busting minefield without tipping the scales. Add these to your general list of healthy eating tips!
Start your sushi adventure with a low calorie, high protein appetizer like edamame. Sushi is generally a high sodium meal, so request the shelled soybean be only lightly salted or pass on the salt altogether to try to keep sodium levels in check.
A small veggie-filled green salad with dressing on the side, antioxidant-rich seaweed salad, or cup of miso soup with tofu and veggies will help fill you up and keep you from over indulging on your healthy sushi rolls. Though there is plenty of sodium in these courses, they are still lighter options that will help pace the meal. Remember to drink plenty of water to flush out the excess salt.
White Rice is a Diet Don’t
As a sushi diet don’t, rice is in a class by itself. The average sushi roll contains about a cup of white rice. If you are eating multiple rolls, those calories can really add up. Today’s sushi restaurants will make rolls with healthier options like brown rice, which is high in fiber, and a great source of manganese, selenium and magnesium. To cut calories even more, you can ask the chef to use half the usual amount of rice. Or take it a step further and instead of a standard sushi roll, order a Naruto style roll which wraps the fish in thin cucumber slices and is completely rice free.
If you’re ordering a teriyaki or hibachi meal, lose the rice on the side and request soba noodles instead. Made from whole grain buckwheat, soba is a higher fiber, higher protein side dish alternative.
Sashimi It Is
Your best bet at the sushi bar is a few pieces of sashimi, raw fish minus the rice and seaweed that come with the maki sushi option. Packed with protein, sashimi is free from the dietary pitfalls of the rice laden choices. Try salmon and tuna, both of which are low in calories, but high in protein, omega 3s and vitamin D. Of course, it is important to make sure you only consume the highest quality raw fish from a reputable establishment.
Easy on the Sauce
That tasty spicy mayo, cream cheese and sweet eel sauce that makes your favorite sushi roll irresistible is also sending the calorie count and fat content through the pagoda roof. Steer clear of rolls with creamy or mayo filling. Be aware that the “spicy” in that spicy tuna roll refers to that huge dollop of mayo. If it’s a kick you want, wasabi is the perfect substitute. But remember, a little wasabi goes a long way.
Soy is No Joy
Speaking of sauce, let’s talk soy. Traditional soy sauce is basically liquid sodium. A tablespoon contains about half the adult daily sodium recommendation. Limit your use to lightly dipping and even then, choose the low-sodium sauce whenever it’s available.
Beware of the Crunch
Tempura is code for deep fried and loaded with saturated fat. So, pass on those battered dumplings, fish, and the deep fried soft-shelled crabs in the spider roll. Culprits that are a little less obvious are rolls labeled “crispy” or “crunchy”. They contain either some fried element or fried tempura flakes. These are about as healthy as French fries and should be crossed off your sushi list.
Say Yes to Veggie Rolls
When choosing healthy sushi rolls, don’t overlook vegetarian choices. Veggie rolls with ingredients like fresh cucumber, avocados, and sea vegetables are both delicious and nutritious. A powerful healing food, sea vegetables are full of nutrients like vitamin K, magnesium, and folate.
Not Just a Garnish
Ginger is like sushi’s poor relation. It’s always there and mostly ignored. Next time you see that ginger piled on the plate, eat it! Ginger is an effective antimicrobial and antiviral agent that helps to boost the immune system. It is also a good source of potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese.
It’s Green. It’s filled with Antioxidants. It’s Tea.
Green tea wins as best beverage choice for sushi night. Filled with the antioxidants that fight free radicals, green tea is the perfect complement to your sushi meal. If you can’t imagine girl’s night out without a cocktail, instead of reaching for the sugary specialty cocktails, stick to lighter fare like one glass of white wine.
With a little thought and some moderation, you can enjoy healthy sushi as often as the spirit moves—without fear of going up a dress size. Watch what you order, keep portions reasonable, and enjoy!