When you’re in the mood for a quick and delicious takeout or sit-down dining option, sushi may come to mind.
Sushi is available almost anywhere, and most sushi restaurants have menu options to suit just about every dietary need.
Even though sushi can be a healthy choice, some menu choices may be high in sugar, sodium, and overall calories, which some people may want to avoid or reduce in their diet.
This article covers some of the healthiest types of sushi and related menu items, and also lists some sushi ingredients you may want to limit.
Sushi restaurants typically have large menus filled with many healthy options.
At most sushi restaurants, you have the option to choose brown or white rice. Although you can enjoy white rice as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, brown rice is higher in protein, fiber, antioxidants, and certain vitamins and minerals than white rice (
Brown rice also makes blood sugar levels rise less than white rice and tends to be more filling (
So, even though it’s perfectly healthy to order white rice sushi once in a while, choosing brown rice more often is likely better for your overall health.
Here are a few healthy types of sushi to consider.
Sashimi is fresh, thinly sliced raw fish. Some of the most popular types of sashimi include salmon, tuna, squid, octopus, and flounder.
Sashimi is a simple, nutrient-dense sushi menu choice that is high in protein.
Protein is the most filling macronutrient, and choosing protein-rich foods when you’re out to eat is a smart way to ensure your meal will be satisfying (
A 4-ounce (113-gram) serving of raw salmon contains (
- Calories: 144
- Protein: 23 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
It’s also rich in many vitamins and minerals, like selenium, potassium, and B vitamins.
Try enjoying a protein-packed appetizer of sashimi before your main course, or combining a few pieces of sashimi with other nutritious menu options for a filling meal.
Keep in mind that there are some safety risks involved with eating raw fish, so only consume sashimi from reputable sushi restaurants.
2. Rainbow roll
True to its name, a rainbow roll consists of brightly colored ingredients. Rainbow roll recipes can vary, but they typically contain cucumber, avocado, crab, and various types of fish, like tuna and salmon.
Rainbow rolls also contain a layer of nori seaweed and a layer of rice. You can ask for brown rice if you want to make your meal a bit higher in nutrients.
Rainbow rolls are high in protein and healthy fats from the multiple sources of seafood they contain. They’re also a good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
3. Vegetable rolls with brown rice
If you’re not a big seafood fan, vegetable rolls can become your new go-to sushi order. Most sushi restaurants offer a few types of plant-based sushi rolls, like avocado and cucumber rolls, avocado rolls, and mixed vegetable rolls.
A mixed vegetable roll might contain a number of vegetables, like carrots, cucumber, radish, and asparagus. They also commonly contain avocado to add a creamy texture.
Vegetable rolls are packed with fiber from the different vegetables, avocado, and brown rice. Plus, they tend to be lower in calories than other types of sushi.
Even if you don’t see a vegetable roll on the menu, if you request one, most sushi restaurants will whip up a plant-based roll for you using any vegetables they have on hand.
If you follow a plant-based or vegan diet, you can add in tofu or pair vegetable rolls with a side of steamed edamame beans for some protein. You can also enjoy vegetable rolls alongside sashimi or cooked seafood for a complete meal.
4. Salmon avocado roll
Salmon and avocado are both linked to some health benefits.
Salmon is a rich source of many nutrients, including protein, healthy fats, selenium, and vitamin B12, while avocado provides fiber, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate (
Eating salmon regularly may help reduce triglyceride levels and increase levels of protective HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood. Meanwhile, adding avocados to your diet may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and improve overall nutrient intake (
Most sushi restaurants offer simple salmon and avocado rolls made with nori and rice, which make a healthy choice.
Sashimi, vegetable rolls, salmon and avocado rolls, and rainbow rolls are just a few examples of healthy sushi options.
If you don’t like sushi, there are usually plenty of other non-sushi menu options to choose from at most sushi restaurants.
Here are a few healthy non-sushi menu options.
Edamame is a popular appetizer at sushi restaurants. Edamame are immature soybeans that are served boiled or steamed and often sprinkled with salt.
They’re an excellent source of plant-based protein and many other nutrients.
One cup (155 grams) of edamame contains (
- Calories: 188
- Protein: 18.4 grams
- Carbs: 13.8
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Fat: 8 grams
Edamame are also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin K1, and manganese (
Manage your sodium intake by sprinkling your edamame with a bit of salt rather than dunking them in soy sauce (
6. Cooked fish
Although most sushi rolls contain raw fish, you can order cooked fish if you prefer. Most sushi restaurants offer cooked seafood options, like seared salmon, blackened tuna, and steamed cod.
You can order cooked fish and pair it with other healthy menu options, like seaweed salad, avocado salad, or a vegetable roll, for a satisfying meal.
If you don’t see a cooked fish option, ask your server if the chef would be willing to prepare a cooked dish for you.
7. Seaweed salads and avocado salads
Sushi restaurants usually offer a few different kinds of salads, including seaweed salads and avocado salads.
Avocado salads usually consist of sliced avocado drizzled with a flavorful ginger or miso-based dressing.
Seaweed salads are made with a type of seaweed called wakame, which is a good source of nutrients, like folate, manganese, and magnesium. The wakame is usually tossed with a blend of sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and other flavorful additions (
Most sushi restaurants offer a few non-sushi options, including salads, edamame, and cooked seafood dishes.
Some ingredients used in sushi restaurant menu items aren’t the best choice for overall health, especially if you consume them regularly.
Eating them once in a while isn’t harmful, but they should be limited in any well-balanced diet.
These ingredients can bump up the sodium, fat, sugar, and overall calorie content of your sushi dish.
Here are some ingredients and cooking styles to look out for when ordering sushi.
Tempura is a style of cooking that involves battering and deep-frying food.
Tempura-style vegetables, seafood, and meat are high in unhealthy fats and overall calories, so it’s best to avoid them. It’s important to read the ingredients on sushi menus, as many sushi rolls contain tempura-battered seafood or vegetables.
Plus, sushi restaurants often offer tempura meals consisting of tempura-battered chicken or fish served with tempura vegetables. These dishes can be very high in calories and fat.
Teriyaki and other sweetened sauces
Teriyaki and other sweet sauces used in sushi restaurants can be high in added sugar, which isn’t good for overall health. For this reason, it’s best to limit your intake of sugary sauces, including those served at sushi restaurants.
If you want to order a teriyaki dish, or any other dish made with a sugary sauce, ask for the sauce on the side and use it as needed to reduce your added sugar intake.
Cream cheese, mayo, and other high calorie additions
Some sushi rolls contain creamy ingredients like cream cheese and mayo.
Although these ingredients are tasty, they can bump up the overall calorie content of sushi rolls dramatically. This is because fats are much denser in calories than are carbs or protein.
If you want to enjoy a roll that contains some mayo or cream cheese, ask your server if the chef can reduce the amount of cream cheese or mayo in the recipe.
Large amounts of rice
Although rice can be a part of a healthy diet, it’s very easy to eat large amounts of rice when dining at a sushi restaurant.
If you’re eating a few sushi rolls, you may consume two or more servings of rice, depending on how the sushi is made. Plus, non-sushi dishes like chicken teriyaki can come with large servings of rice, often enough for several people.
What’s more, sushi rice is often made with sugar to increase its stickiness. This bumps up the carbohydrate and calorie content even higher.
Eating large amounts of rice, especially white rice, can negatively affect blood sugar levels and cause you to consume too many overall calories in a sitting (
To manage your carbohydrate intake, you could ask for your sushi to be made with less rice. You can also choose to pair a rice-containing sushi roll with lower carb options, like sashimi, cooked fish, or vegetable-based dishes.
Plus, some restaurants offer low carb sushi wraps, like cucumber, which is a good choice for people wanting to limit their carb intake.
In addition to savory appetizers and entrees, most sushi restaurants offer desserts, like green tea ice cream, fried ice cream, and mochi.
Like most desserts, these items can be high in added sugar, fat, refined carbs, and overall calories, which can contribute to health issues if eaten too frequently (
Desserts are delicious and enjoyable to eat on occasion, but it’s best to limit them in your diet.
High sodium sauces
Sushi restaurants serve their dishes with many high sodium sauces, including soy sauce, eel sauce, and more.
Eating too many salty foods may increase the risk of certain health conditions, including high blood pressure (
To reduce your salt intake, swap regular soy sauce for low sodium soy sauce and limit your overall intake of salty condiments.
When ordering sushi, look out for ingredients like tempura, sweet sauces, and high calorie additions, like cream cheese.
In addition to looking out for certain ingredients and cooking methods, sushi lovers should be aware of the quality and type of sushi they’re eating.
This is because eating raw seafood comes with a higher risk of bacterial contamination than eating cooked seafood (
Make sure to choose reputable sushi restaurants that practice safe handling and preparation methods, and ask the server where the restaurant sources their fish if you have concerns.
Also, some types of fish used in sushi, like shark and certain types of tuna, can be high in mercury. If you eat high mercury seafood often, it could increase mercury levels in your body, which can contribute to health issues (
A 2014 study that included 285 people found that those who consumed tuna steak or sushi weekly were more likely to have elevated mercury levels (
For this reason, it’s best to limit your intake of sushi that contains fish known to be higher in mercury, like albacore, yellowfin, or bigeye tuna. Choose low mercury options, like salmon, shrimp, and crab, or choose a plant-based option instead (
It’s important to note that light tuna and skipjack tuna, which are commonly used in canned tuna, tend to be lower in mercury and are safe to eat two to three times per week, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (
Because raw fish used in sushi comes with a risk of bacterial contamination, only dine at reputable sushi restaurants that take quality and food safety seriously. Consider avoiding fish known to be higher in mercury.
Sushi can be a healthy choice, as long as you know what ingredients to look out for.
For a nutritious meal, consider sticking to sushi and menu items made with ingredients like seafood, brown rice, and vegetables, while avoiding ingredients like fried foods, high sugar sauces, and seafood high in mercury.
Keep these helpful tips in mind the next time you visit your favorite sushi restaurant.
Just one thing
Try this today: Edamame is a tasty, protein-packed option for snacking at home. You can find it in the frozen section at many grocery stores.
Simply steam the edamame bean pods and sprinkle them with salt, or blanch them in salt water. The pod exterior is inedible, so as you’re eating them one by one, peel these off and enjoy the plump beans inside.