Choosing the Healthiest Sushi: What to Order and What to Stay Away From


Oftentimes people think of sushi as a “no-brainer” for a healthy meal.  After all, how can one go wrong with lean protein in fish, carbohydrates in rice, vegetables, and a harmless seaweed wrap? It is important to choose wisely, however, since the dish has become more popular, diverse, and creative over the past few years. Some sushi rolls now come packed with mayonnaise, fried fats, and sugary dressings that make it a not so healthy choice.  Here, we will help you learn to decipher the sushi roll menu, allowing you to enjoy the delicious rolls without packing on the unwanted calories. By knowing what to order and what to avoid, sushi rolls can be a healthy meal, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and lean protein.


Basic Tips for Navigating the Menu:


Skip the Spicy


When a roll is described as “spicy”, this generally means that the roll combines hot chili sauce mixed in with calorie dense mayonnaise.


Ask for Brown Rice


Many establishments now offer brown rice instead of white rice.  Brown rice is a complex carbohydrate, meaning it is digested more slowly and contains healthy fiber.  This is a better option than the quickly absorbed, refined starches found in white rice.


Pass on Crispy


This means that a portion of the roll, such as the meat or the onions on top of it, have been fried in fattening oils, giving your roll a huge increase in extra calories.


Choose Seaweed or Cucumber Wraps


Some restaurants will allow you to swap any rice roll for just a seaweed (nori) or cucumber wrap. This drastically reduces the calorie content of the roll and bumps up the vitamins and minerals. If substitutions are not available, simply choose those rolls that are already rice-free.


Use Caution with Specialty Rolls


The increasing popularity of sushi establishments also means fancier and more flamboyant choices for rolls.  The specialty section of the menu usually offers rolls with more cream cheese, tempura coating, and mayonnaise to make them larger and add to the “wow” factor of presentation.  It is best to stick to the basics if you are watching your calorie intake, and only enjoy the “special” rolls on special occasions!


Avoid Anything Tempura 


This, too, means that the shrimp or vegetables have been dipped in batter then deep fried, making that roll much higher in overall fat and calories.


Slow Down on the Soy Sauce


Instead of filling your condiment cup with soy sauce right away, keep in mind that many of the ingredients are pre-seasoned and may only need a touch of soy sauce, rather than a complete soak! Experiment with wasabi and ginger for added heat and flavor, without all the added sodium.


Start with a Sashimi appetizer


Sashimi (slices of raw fish) are your best bet when it comes to low calorie, rich in omega fatty acids, and lean protein.  Split a platter with a friend for an appetizer, or order this as your meal without the rice.


Last, but not Least, Know the Lingo!


  • Futomaki: a thick roll, usually cut into eight pieces. Specialty rolls are usually futomaki.
  • Hosomaki: thin roll with just one type of filling. Single-ingredient rolls such as salmon, tuna, or cucumber rolls are usually hosomaki.
  • Uramaki: a roll with the nori (seaweed) on the inside and rice on the outside. Sometimes called an inside-out roll.
  • TemakiAlso called a hand roll, this is a cone-shaped nori roll with the ingredients and minimal rice inside.


Have these tips in your mental toolbox the next time you hit the local sushi eatery, and feel confident that you are making healthy choices!



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