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When most of us think of sushi, we do tend to think of a ‘healthy’ food. And it’s true – many fish and seafood including salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna and crab are an excellent source of protein and Omega-3s. The seaweed used in the sushi rolls, seaweed salad and miso soup is rich in magnesium, calcium, folic acid, iron, iodine and various antioxidants.
However, there are a variety of ways that some of our sushi favorites can pack a whole lot of extra calories that we might not be aware of.
In seeking out calorie counts online, different sources seem to disagree heavily on the caloric values of most sushi dishes. While some websites call sushi a healthy ‘diet food’, others warn of high calorie and sodium intake that we might not suspect. This is because some of our favorite treats at the Japanese restaurant do really add up in extra calories.
With a little pre-planning, however, your visit to the sushi restaurant can be healthy and low in calories. Let’s have a look at some of the best and worst choices at your favorite sushi spot, and what high calorie culprits to watch out for!
WORST CHOICES AT YOUR FAVORITE SUSHI RESTAURANT
As you may have suspected, some of the highest calorie sushi dishes are the rolls. While super tasty, these are often packed with mayonnaise or cream cheese, topped with sugary sweet sauce or battered and fried in tempura. They also may contain more rice than you’d think! Let’s have a look at the breakdown:
- Mayonnaise – Adds up to 90 calories per tablespoon
- Cream Cheese – Adds up to 51 calories per tablespoon
- Soy Sauce – Adds up to 70 calories per 3.75 oz and a TON of sodium
- Eel Sauce – Is basically soy sauce and sugar
- Sushi Rice – Most sushi rolls will contain a whopping cup of rice per roll or more! If you’ve ever seen one made, you’ll witness how this particular type of rice can be packed and smooshed down unlike any other, allowing the chef to really pack it in. One cup of sushi rice contains about 422 calories. And that’s just the rice! Brown rice is an option at some restaurants, and while healthier because of the additional fiber, has a similar calorie count to white rice.
Philadelphia Roll – Salmon with cream cheese and avocado – 300 calories
Spicy Tuna Roll – Tuna, avocado and spicy mayonnaise – 300 calories
Eel and Avocado Roll – 372 calories
Shrimp Tempura Roll – Shrimp inside and then battered and deep fried – 508 calories
Rainbow Roll – Avocado and/or crab inside with avocado and large pieces of fish on top – 476 calories. But here the additional calories come from avocado and fish.
When choosing rolls, it can be helpful to keep the following in mind:
- “Spicy” generally means mayonnaise with spicy pepper
- “Crispy” indicates that something has been fried or that there are tempura flakes on top
- “Tempura,” “Spider,” and “Dragon” are code for breaded and fried – these are about as healthy as a French fry
OTHER SUSHI HEALTH CONCERNS
Apart from being deceptively high in calories, there are a few other concerns when eating sushi that are important to note. It can also boost sodium intake because of the soy sauce, so it’s important to choose reduced sodium soy sauce. It’s important also to be mindful that tuna, salmon and mackerel can contain high mercury levels. Health Magazine states that you’d have to be eating sushi more than 6 times per week to get enough mercury in your diet to make you sick. But, if you are pregnant, these fish must be avoided since it takes a lot less mercury to be harmful to an unborn fetus.
BEST LOW CALORIE SUSHI OPTIONS
If you wish to escape the sushi place without eating too many calories, sad as it is, it’s best to avoid the rolls altogether. Below are some rice and rice-free options to help you keep calorie intake under control:
If you just can’t palate your sushi without at least a little rice, here are two options that allow you to keep your rice consumption under control.
Nigiri – These are small balls of rice with fish on top. Each piece has about 60 calories. However, if you can’t feel full on about 6 pieces or less, you may be in for more calories than you planned. To cut back on the rice somewhat, you can choose to eat only about half of the rice in each piece of nigiri.
Chirashi – This is a bed of sushi fish (sashimi) on top of a bed of rice. Sometimes chirashi also includes egg and sweet sauce, so do beware of those additives. If you choose this option, it may allow you to be more in control of the amount of rice you intake.
Sashimi – This is raw fish without any rice, often served on a bed of carrot, cucumber, seaweed or daikon radish, all of which are very low calorie and will help you fill up. Per ounce, sashimi ranges from about 25 calories (for white fishes, sea bass, etc.) to around 60 calories (for mackeral, tuna, eel and fattier fishes). To give your fish some flavor, dip it in reduced sodium soy sauce and wasabi (spicy paste).
Miso Soup – This is a small bowl of soup made of tofu, green onion and seaweed. At only 70 to 80 calories, it’s a great accompaniment to your sashimi as it will help fill you up!
Seaweed Salad – Another great accompaniment to your sashimi order, this is a tasty and nutritious salad at only 130 calories per cup.
With a little careful planning and advanced knowledge your trip to the sushi restaurant can be a great time to get those healthy omega-3s into the diet. On our Athlean-XX for Women Nutrition Plan, fish and lean protein are integral parts of our balanced diet. We recommend you eat 5 – 6 times per day and include lean protein at every meal. This will not only help you speed up your metabolism to burn fat faster, but will also give your muscles the energy they need to work their hardest during our challenging 30 minute workouts. If you want an exercise and nutrition plan that will help you see incredible changes in just 90 days without needing to restrict calories or spend long hours at the gym, we invite you to join us and give Athlean-XX for Women a try!
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