The Dos and Don’ts of Ordering Sushi

by Jenna Birch
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The Dos and Don’ts of Ordering Sushi

The widespread emergence of sushi has been a mini miracle for foodies. Delicious foreign cuisine that’s easy to find and healthy, too? Yes, please.

…But not so fast. “I counsel a lot on sushi,” says Jackie London, M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietician in New York City. “It’s so popular, and people think it’s so healthy!” While sushi restaurants do offer plenty of healthful options, not everything on the menu is waistline-friendly. If you’re not careful, a would-be calorie-conscious meal could easily top 1,000 calories. With that warning in mind, the next time you order this Japanese delicacy, here’s what to do and not do.

DO Choose salmon and tuna These sushi staples give you the best possible boost of vitamin D and omega-3s. While other foods like flax, chia or walnuts can provide some omega-3 support, fatty fish like these two have the highest amounts biologically available for consumption. “The benefits of omega-3s are boundless,” says London. “Cardiovascular function, stabilizing cholesterol levels, and decreasing inflammation, which also decreases your risk for a host of heart diseases as well as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disorders such as arthritis.”

DON’T Go for spicy or tempura “Crispy” and “spicy” are generally sushi code words for unhealthy. “Rolls labeled as ‘spicy’ usually mean spicy mayo, which is a high-fat, high-calorie condiment,” says London. “’Crispy’ or ‘crunchy’ rolls have a deep-fried coating—and yes, this unfortunately includes tempura.” Believe it or not, that crunch will cost you 300 to 400 calories per six-piece serving—so steer clear. If you must have a spicy kick, London suggests to adding wasabi or chili flakes instead of the mayo.

DO Opt for brown rice. Whether on the side or in your roll, brown rice is the way to go. “It’s higher in soluble fiber than white rice, which is particularly heart-healthy due to its cholesterol-lowering properties,” says London. Bonus: brown rice also high in vitamins and minerals, like vitamin B, manganese, copper, selenium and iron.

DO Avocado! “Avocado is a top heart-health choice,” says London. “It’s rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and their benefit on lipid profile is huge, decreasing cardiovascular disease risk. Avocados are also potassium-rich, and a good source of the important antioxidant vitamin E.” But remember, while avocado is a fruit and it is green, it’s also a fat (read: not low-cal). Be smart and stick to one serving, which is about a quarter of an avocado and around 80 calories.

DON’T Get more than one roll It’s tempting to pick a few of the fun rolls on the menu, but keep your order in check. “One roll is six pieces of sushi and can be made with nearly one cup of rice,” says London. “That’s about 200 calories from the rice alone.” One roll that includes options like avocado, brown rice, and salmon or tuna should be the main event. You can round out the meal with other healthy items.

DON’T Go crazy with the sake In the calorie department, this Japanese beverage is more in line with a cocktail than a glass of wine. “Six ounces of sake is about 234 calories—which is quite a bit considering how small that seems when poured in front of you,” says London. If you’re a fan, stick to one glass and make that your indulgence for the night. Otherwise, opt for a glass of traditional wine, which will run you around 100 calories for five ounces.

DO Order soup and salad. These pre-sushi snacks are both healthful and practical. “Filling up on high-water-content foods like miso soup, and mixed greens, seaweed salad, or oshitashi [boiled spinach], is an excellent way to add fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, iron and vitamin K to your meal,” says London. Eat these first, and you’ll also be less tempted to chow down on another high-calorie roll later in the meal.

DON’T Over dress the salad. More on salads: you can have the dressing, just make sure to order it on the side. Salads tend to be small at sushi restaurants, so even a normal-sized serving of salad dressing will contain more flavor and more calories than you need. “Dressing is still dressing: a calorie-rich add-on,” London says.

OK, we’ll admit to overdoing it with the spicy tuna rolls on occasion… What’s your favorite kind of sushi? 

 

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  • Chris

    Don’t get more than one roll? What are you, a bird? This guy needs at least 4 of the larger rolls to be full! This guy needs fuel for the oven!

    • ajs916

      And this girl isn’t skipping the spicy. Not everyone is on a diet or needs to worry about 300 calories. Eye roll.

      • J.r. Dubroy

        Never had an Eye Roll… what is it 😉

        I jest… yeah if I’m planning on sushi I’m all in… although adding edamame and soup has helped me splurge less.

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      • tommy_walker

        That’s my kind of lady. Why skip out on flavor and the enjoyment of eating sushi in the first place? You are a smart girl. 🙂

      • Lori Mcdonell

        Then don’t as this advice is for people who do. Wow good for you!

      • Lori Mcdonell

        Then don’t as this advice is for people who do. Wow good for you!

      • Lori Mcdonell

        Then don’t as this advice is for people who do. Wow good for you!

      • Jan

        Eye roll at snarky responses like this. No not everyone needs to worry about 300 calories but for those of us that do this article is helpful.

    • jenny

      Who orders just one roll, let alone serves just one roll!?

    • Soussen Souweid

      Its impossible to have only one Roll of sushi, and u need to have spicy mayo, yum its the best part! I think if you go to an all you can eat sushi bar once or twice a month it really should hurt! That’s what cheat days are for 🙂

  • katie

    what about mentioning sashimi .. no rice , only fish. great option for high protein, 0 carbs.

    • katie

      also if one maki roll has a cup of rice, I think it’s probably not a good sushi place.. i find the places that are just “so-so” overload the maki rolls with rice.

      • Winter Skylar

        very true. Suchi usually had about 1-1.5 tbsp rice… if you see them put a cup in, run out of that place! ><

        • jahanda

          I tend to agree that a sushi roll with (6- 8) will have 1- 1.5 Tbsp. of rice , not a whole cup.

        • jahanda

          I tend to agree that a sushi roll with (6- 8) will have 1- 1.5 Tbsp. of rice , not a whole cup.

        • jahanda

          I tend to agree that a sushi roll with (6- 8) will have 1- 1.5 Tbsp. of rice , not a whole cup.

        • jahanda

          I tend to agree that a sushi roll with (6- 8) will have 1- 1.5 Tbsp. of rice , not a whole cup.

          • mikes85

            No way it’s only a tablespoon of rice for a whole roll. Just not possible.

      • eastofmain

        I think that the author meant one type of roll (6-8pcs) might have a cup of rice.

    • katie

      and…. now I want sushi for lunch 🙂

  • Steve

    Get one roll and then as much sahimi as you can eat.

  • Peter Badertscher

    I like just the veg rolls like asparagus and cucumber. Cheap and healthy.

  • Luna

    Or just eat whatever the hell you like….

  • Holly Brashear

    If you aren’t calorie conscious, and you aren’t looking for tips on how to cut back on them while having Sushi, why are you reading this, OR posting?

    • quilling

      Healthy food is not synonymous with low calorie food.

      • Holly Brashear

        True, however this information came from Fitness Pal which is a calorie tracking weight loss tool. That’s what these tips are geared for….

        • derp

          FITNESS Pal… not weightloss Pal

          • Lori Mcdonell

            It’s for both if you understand the ap

          • Lori Mcdonell

            It’s for both if you understand the ap

          • Lori Mcdonell

            It’s for both if you understand the ap

        • quilling

          It’s a calorie tracking tool. Not only for weight loss though. #foreverbulk 🙂

        • clg

          That’s how you use Fitness Pal. Some people use it to BUILD calories. Hell, I have a friend who uses it because when she gets busy, she forgets little things like “food” and “energy”, so she tracks to make sure she eats ENOUGH. There’s also whole sections of this website devoted to FITNESS, which plenty of people do for noncaloric reasons (considering everyone should work on fitness even if their body composition is “perfect”)

    • Lori Mcdonell

      I know; don’t get people sometimes. Eye roll lol

  • tommy_walker

    Oh, please. I’ll eat as much sushi as I darn well please and work it off in the gym.

  • Mike

    Seriously, people need to live. Food is fun and enjoyable. Enough with the diets.

    • deb

      seriously, mike some of us have to be careful what we eat….we love food, its an addiction…i would weigh 500 lbs if i didn’t count calories

  • Dani

    If you do soup and salad before, you might as well have the second roll instead. More filling and only 100 calories more than soup and salad.

  • lolapointe28

    Great advice! One roll + sashimi + edamame is a great meal!

  • Mandy

    I love spicy mayo, but it does add calories. I usually get it on the side so I can control how much I eat. Its a win win situation for me 🙂

  • jennifet

    Love spicy.. but not all are spicy mayo… what about sashimi or nice?? Is thst less rice?.. I usually order 2-3 rolls/sashimi/nigri. …(sometimes miso soup too)

  • Vanessa

    Screw this! Give me a Shrimp Tempura with orange sauce avocado cream cheese and white rice Make it 4! NNOMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOM

  • Vanessa

    Screw this! Give me a Shrimp Tempura with orange sauce avocado cream cheese and white rice Make it 4! NNOMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOM

  • Vanessa

    Screw this! Give me a Shrimp Tempura with orange sauce avocado cream cheese and white rice Make it 4! NNOMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOM

  • violetmal

    I had to have sushi for lunch after reading this article! Got miso soup, a salmon & avocado roll, and 3 pieces each of tuna and salmon sashimi. Yum!!

  • Sarah

    Great article! I’ve been wondering about sushi and the best choices. Happy to see that I’m already doing most of these. Thanks!

  • Isabella

    Tuna roll with cucumber

  • Ambahh

    This article is full of inaccuracies. You can have as much mayo as you want. FAT ISNT BAD FOR YOU. Its carbs and sugar. If ANYTHING stay away from the starchy rice if you’re THAT worried about your health!

    • deb

      uuuummmm some have to watch sugar/carbs/calories…..diabetes…you know things like that and starchy rice is not bad if like everything else is taken with moderation..

    • deb

      uuuummmm some have to watch sugar/carbs/calories…..diabetes…you know things like that and starchy rice is not bad if like everything else is taken with moderation..

  • Kosta Ki

    How about you just keep the sushi at a minimum, and opt for sashimi instead, which is 0 carb and high in protein and healthy fats. That’s what I do.

  • Rose

    Lucky for me, I love the rolls with salmon or tuna, cucumber, & avocado! Not big on spicy rolls. I rarely get the crispy/tempura ones…and if I do, it’s usually split with my fiance.

  • Craig

    My favourite is sundried tomato and cashews and I always get a few Inari pouches

  • ReaperXIII Sori

    Favorite is Shrimp Nigiri and Shrimp Tempura Nigiri. But here in Northern Japan, they serve it by two servings per plate for $1.05. If I’m out on the town eating, I’m going to enjoy it and plan for it ahead of time

    • Tammy

      All things in moderation. Sushi is so worth planning for!

  • Winter Skylar

    Sushi is yum! I prepare my own though.
    I do find when I get to the 5th-6th pieces I am so full I cannot eat them. I think adding a soup or salad before would take away my apetite >w<
    and spicy and tempura <3

  • Tammy

    What about using pickled ginger? I know it has sugar in it but I can’t eat my sushi without a slice or two on top.

  • robin52077

    typical sushi night for me = Eel avocado roll, rainbow roll, and several pieces of sashimi…and now I REALLY want some….thanks…

  • Michelle Thompson

    Actually, I opt for sashimi. No rice, much more calorie friendly and I can eat much more!

  • Sarah

    My best friend works at a sushi restaurant and they have what’s called the “crazy roll”. It’s salmon and tuna with serrano peppers and hot pepper oil on top. It’s SO good.

    • Pede

      That sounds fabulous!

    • Jahanda

      Now I’m hungry! yummy!

  • Lucy D’Amico

    LOVE MY SUSHI! I like to opt for a mix of Sashimi (Salmon preferably) and Sushi to cut back on the rice intake….it’s one of my favourite things to eat 😀

  • Kia

    I love the California roll with lite soy sauce and wasbi!!!!!

  • Normajean

    Good tips just in time, going for sushi lunch tomorrow

  • Normajean

    Good tips just in time, going for sushi lunch tomorrow

  • Normajean

    Good tips just in time, going for sushi lunch tomorrow

  • Normajean

    Good tips just in time, going for sushi lunch tomorrow

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  • Julie Quinn Colotti

    I find it very interesting that so many folks who use a tool like Myfitnesspal – for whatever reason – tracking food to lose or gain – have soooo many comments about ‘eating whatever I want’. This article was clearly targeted at folks that could use some help figuring out what is and is not a healthy choice at a sushi place. That’s all. Jeez…

  • Julie Quinn Colotti

    I find it very interesting that so many folks who use a tool like Myfitnesspal – for whatever reason – tracking food to lose or gain – have soooo many comments about ‘eating whatever I want’. This article was clearly targeted at folks that could use some help figuring out what is and is not a healthy choice at a sushi place. That’s all. Jeez…

  • SushiFanMmmm

    Surely one of the most unhealthy things about sushi is not the rice or mayo (ok so the mayo isn’t great), but the masses of sugar that is added to sushi rice as a seasoning? It is my favourite thing in the world though!

  • Harlie

    I Love sushi. My favorites are tuna and salmon. Salmon sushi is so so yummy!

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  • Luftblasen999

    A sashimi plate is a good option if you want to avoid eating calorie-dense rice. Pair that with some pickled vegetables (sunomono), miso soup, or garnished cold tofu (hiyayakko) and you’re good to go. Rolls (6-8 pieces) are not too bad as long as they don’t contain anything fried (tempura) in them. I don’t see how spicy tuna would be bad considering it’s not made with mayo – if it is then they’re not making it right!

  • Mattiebelle

    I recently started asking the Sushi Chef at Hy-Vee to make a tuna/avocado roll with rice paper only. She balked at first, now she knows who I am and is ready when I get to the counter. It’s slippery but the rice paper doesn’t have many calories and tastes good. A little wasabi and lite soy sauce help, also. Also at Hy-Vee you can get a tuna steak covered in light and dark sesame seeds. It’s sushi grade tuna and delicious! I just get an avocado and go to town. Yummie!

  • ej01

    If you really want to avoid the carbs, don’t get sushi (rolls or nigiri). I switched to just getting sashimi when I realized that the rice is just filler displacing the reason I was there in the first place. If you must have rice, stick to nigiri since there’s a higher fish:rice ratio.

  • Patti

    My favorite is the Alaskan Hand roll-salmon, avocado and cucumber

  • Alison

    As someone who’s made sushi, I can tell you that a roll definitely cannot contain a whole cup of rice.