“I love sushi and eat it a few times a week. How healthy is it?” My clients ask about sushi all the time, as they aren’t sure whether it’s a light meal or a higher calorie option. And it’s no wonder, since options can range from fresh fish with no adornments, to architectural masterpieces requiring more than two bites per piece. I can tell you that if you’re eating sushi a few times a week, you’re probably doing a great job getting the 8 ounces of fish per week recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans! But is your sushi restaurant order in line with a healthy diet?
International Sushi Day is June 18th, but you don’t have to wait all year to enjoy this delicious dish. Sushi can be a healthy meal you can eat often and feel good about – as long as you know what to order.
Disclosure: this blog post is a collaboration with GOED. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.Is #sushi healthy? Here's a #dietitian's tips on what to order! Click To Tweet
Tips to order healthier sushi
Focus on fish
Fish is high in protein and either low in fat or contains healthy fats. Salmon, tuna and mackerel are abundant sources of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Every cell in your body needs omega-3s for healthy cell membranes that can signal and communicate effectively.
These long-chain omega-3s are vital for eye, heart and brain health.
DHA is one of the main structural fats in the retinas of your eyes. This omega-3 plays a key role in the development and function of your vision in all stages of your life.
When it comes to your heart and the rest of your cardiovascular system, omega-3s may help promote healthy blood pressure and triglyceride levels as part of your healthy lifestyle.
DHA is also one of the main fats in your brain and supports brain development and function throughout your life. Learn more about omega-3s and brain health.
Here’s a surprising fact: 95% of Americans don’t get enough EPA and DHA. All it takes is eating 2 servings of fatty fish a week, with a serving being about 3 ounces or the size of a deck of cards. Sushi is such a fun and delicious way to get more oily fish into your diet!Love #sushi? Chances are you're getting enough EPA and DHA! #omega3s Click To Tweet
To get more omega-3s when you’re out for sushi, up the portion size of the fish. Maki rolls that have the seaweed on the outside can contain only small amounts of fish, making it tougher to get enough omega-3s and protein if that’s all you order.
Try some nigiri sushi which has more fish. These are the ones that have a piece of fish layered over a ball of rice.
I love to order a sushi roll and some sashimi so I know I’m getting more fish. Fish that are darker in color versus white fish are the ones that are higher in omega-3s. Ask for salmon and tuna to get your omega-3s and another important nutrient: vitamin D.
Step up the sashimi
One challenge with sushi is because it’s packed so tightly, it can be challenging to estimate portion sizes. Fun fact: a typical sushi roll contains 1 cup of rice, which is two servings of grains or like having two slices of bread. Depending on your goals and what else you order, that could be more than you wanted to get at your meal.
Mix it up and try ordering a combination of sushi rolls as well as sashimi. Sashimi is raw fish without the rice, so mixing and matching your sushi with some sashimi can help you bring up the protein and omega-3 content of your meal while dialing down on calories and carbohydrates. What a delicious way to create a better balance!
Try brown or black rice
Although white rice is the norm at most sushi restaurants, many are now offering the option to have your sushi rolls made with brown rice or black rice. Ask for these whole grain varieties because they’re higher in fiber than white rice and lower on the glycemic index, helping keep your blood sugar and insulin levels more stable. Whole grain rice is also higher in folate, selenium, magnesium and manganese compared to white rice.
If your favorite sushi bar doesn’t yet offer whole grain rice, ask often and be persistent. They’ll likely take the hint and start offering the rice customers are asking for!
Sushi is the main way most people enjoy seaweed, and that’s a beautiful thing. Seaweed is loaded with antioxidants and contains vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium and zinc. It’s an excellent source of iodine, a nutrient that is in so few other foods that it’s the reason iodine is added to table salt (iodized salt). Iodine is important for thyroid function, which regulates your energy levels, metabolic rate, weight, mood and more.
Dynamite rolls and spider rolls contain deep-fried seafood, which means unhealthy fats and excess calories. Read the sushi roll descriptions carefully… anything that says “crunchy” “crispy” or “fried” is likely deep fried.
Tempura might seem like a light and airy choice, but don’t let that texture fool you. It’s vegetables or shrimp that’s breaded with panko bread crumbs and deep-fried.
Order some seaweed salad instead to up your vegetable intake at your meal.
Hold the mayo
Spicy salmon and spicy tuna tend to be mixed with lots of mayonnaise, which can add up to a high calorie option. Other rolls have mayonnaise served on top as a garnish or decoration. Choose rolls that don’t contain mayo and if you aren’t sure, ask!
Go light on soy sauce
Light soy sauce has 30% less sodium than regular soy sauce. This helps reduce overall sodium at your meal, but it’s still a salty addition to your meal. Try using less soy sauce and add ginger to your sushi rolls. Pour a small amount of light soy sauce into your small dish and you can stir in some wasabi if you don’t mind the heat. Adding some spice can help you add the soy sauce more sparingly!
What’s your favorite order at a sushi restaurant? Share in the comments below!