Sushi is a godsend for anyone trying to keep within calorie budgets and may be tired of eating boring, unsatisfying foods. While processed foods tend to sacrifice flavor in their low-calorie versions, low calorie sushi options are just as delicious (and some would argue even more delicious) than high calorie options. If you have read “The Difference between authentic Japanese sushi and sushi around the world” you will notice a trend towards simplicity in Japanese sushi, and a good rule of thumb is this: the simpler the sushi roll, the lower the calorie count. Please note that calorie counts will depend on the restaurant and size of the roll.
The sushi experience is great for anyone on a diet. The ambiance of a restaurant, the slow savoring of flavors and the use of chopsticks forces you to enjoy your food, letting your body realize when it is satisfied and helping to prevent overeating. Instead of having your food come out all at once, you can order as you finish rolls and sushi items, leaving with the perfect level of satisfaction without being stuffed.
The lowest calorie sushi rolls are vegetarian. A 6 piece cucumber roll weighs in at a measly 136 calories, and an avocado roll isn’t much more with 140 calories while serving as a great source of healthy fats. While delicious, vegetarian rolls may be less satisfying than their protein heavy fish counterparts. A simple tuna roll comes in at 184 calories, and a salmon roll contains approximately 168.
The simplest sushi is sashimi, or raw fish without any rice. You would think that because sashimi skips the rice, you would end up with fewer calories per piece. However, this is untrue because rice is lower in calories than some kinds of fresh fish, so you are a getting a higher calorie count but also a more filling meal. Sake (salmon) and Maguro (Tuna) sashimi will be from 40-50 calories per piece, and an order of sashimi may include 3 pieces, with some restaurants serving giant pieces that end up well above those calorie estimates. Sashimi tends to be denser in calories, as it is protein heavy fish, but also much more filling than rolls. This means that it is a good choice for a filling addition to a low-calorie meal, but it may not necessarily the best low calorie option in itself.
If you are like me, you aren’t going to be ordering only simple rolls when you go out to sushi. Readers will be pleased to know that the most popular sushi roll, the California roll, contains 255 calories. Not bad! The biggest pitfall of those who view sushi as healthy is tempura. It is easy to think you are eating healthy when in fact tempura is deep fried batter. A shrimp tempura roll comes in at 508 calories – almost as much as a Big Mac! Another western take on sushi is the Philadelphia roll, which includes smoked salmon, cucumber, and, you guessed it, cream cheese. This is another example of taking what was traditionally a healthy, simple fare and turning it into a tasty but high calorie treat. Depending on the amount of cream cheese used, a Philly roll can be anywhere from 400-500 calories.
Calorie conscious sushi eaters don’t need to avoid all of the more complex western rolls. However, like anything, moderation is the key. The 508 calories in a shrimp tempura roll is approximately equivalent to 3 and a half cucumber rolls! When I go for sushi, I aim for a healthy balance of simplicity and flavor. A cucumber roll, Sake roll, California roll and a few pieces of sashimi is enough to satisfy me, meaning I get a full meal that is less than 700 calories. Those with smaller appetites can, if they chose low calorie sushi items, enjoy a full dinner well within the 500 calorie range. If you are active like me, the high protein, low calorie nature of sushi is a great way to keep fit!
If you want more information on calories and sushi to help you plan out your meal, please feel free to view our “calories in sushi” page