Many people think of sushi as a tasty light lunch or dinner choice, however it’s also smart to be careful with your choices. "Sushi is a generally a healthy choice, but it can be deceptive," according to nutritionist New York City dietitian and health coach Allison Tanenbaum. "Certain rolls can have upwards of 500 to 1,000 calories."
So, in order to avoid busting your diet when you dine on sushi, follow these simple rules:
Moderation is the key
"Follow the old adage, 'moderation is key,'" says Jeffery Lunak, vice president of culinary at Blue C Sushi in Seattle. "Sushi is meant to be about a few simple, beautifully harvested ingredients put together in perfect balance, and not hidden behind heavy sauces or gravies like a lot of other cuisines." It's also ideal for sharing, which is why Lunak recommends sampling small amounts of several items, such as a few pieces of different maki rolls, a couple of ounces of rice pristine raw fish, miso soup, grilled protein, and a little bit of vegetable. "Have a few items, but in smaller portions," he says.
Begin With Edamame
According to experts, edamame is a perfect low-calorie, high-protein appetizer to start with, particularly if you request the shelled soybeans to come only lightly salted or skip the salt altogether. "Sushi is going to be a pretty high sodium meal in general," says Tanenbaum, so it's important to look for ways to cut the sodium level down when you can.
Choose a Soup or Salad
It is smart to start your meal on a small fiber-rich veggie-filled green salad (ask for ginger dressing on the side), an antioxidant-packed seaweed salad, or cup of miso soup with broth and tofu and vegetables. Although the soup and even seaweed are high in sodium, they're still lighter options that will help you not to overeat.
Sip Green Tea
Additionally Tanenbaum points to green tea as your best beverage bet at the sushi bar. "A hot green tea goes well with sushi and is filled with antioxidants," she says. As in any dining out situation, if you're going to order alcohol, try to stick to just one drink and skip the list of sugary special cocktails - just one could cost you 400 calories or more - in favor of something lighter - like one glass of white wine.
Go Easy on the Rice
Apparently white rice is one of the sneakiest calorie culprits on sushi menus. "Luckily, the average sushi place is a little more progressive in offering wider array of options," says Lunak, who says that it's pretty standard to find brown rice or even quinoa available as options in your sushi rolls. Or, do as Tanenbaum does, and "Ask for your sushi rolls to be made with half the usual amount of rice," a request any sushi chef should be willing to oblige.
Stick With Sashimi
A few pieces of protein-packed sashimi (raw fish) - about 25 calories a piece - are among your healthiest options at the sushi bar. Tanenbaum suggests you skip having your sashimi served on beds of rice, which she says can cause you to eat an entire cup's worth of rice without noticing. With raw anything, cautions Lunak, you should ask about the quality of your fish to be sure you're getting a safe and tasty product. His tip is simple: "Just ask your chef where the fish is sourced from and if there's a focus on sustainability. If they can answer right away, you're probably in a good place."
Skip the Spicy Mayo
"Be careful with menu items that say 'spicy,' like a spicy tuna roll," says Tanenbaum, because it usually means it contains a heavy spicy mayonnaise sauce. However, in case you want your food to have a kick, she suggests using wasabi instead of the spicy mayo sauce, and ginger to add another level of flavor when you take each bite.
Be Smart About Soy
Soy sauce is generally right in front of you at the sushi counter, and it is ok to dip into it - however, do it sparingly. "Low-sodium soy sauce is a pretty standard offering nowadays," says Lunak. "Some places even do their own 'home brew' by taking a regular or low sodium soy sauce and combining it with kombu, a sea vegetable, and water to thin it even more."
Beware of Fried
With so many delectable options on a sushi menu, it's easy to steer clear of the items you know will be fried in a fattening batter. If you care about calories, try to avoid anything made "tempura," for instance, and you may also want to be on the lookout for "crunchy" sushi rolls as well. "Or if you want to have a few pieces of tempura or a special crunchy roll," says Lunak, "then go ahead, but keep the rest of your meal light."
To order the best sushi and sashimi, visit: hannyarestaurants.com/Directory/Sashimi-and-Sushi, Hannya Restaurants is a great place for an excellent sushi experience.