The thing I look forward to most when coming home from college is eating lots and lots of sushi. While away at school, my college budget doesn’t allow for eating out frequently; therefore, I’m “deprived” of one of my favorite foods! Since being home for the summer, I’ve already lost count of how many sushi rolls I’ve consumed. Who cares? It’s healthy, right? Hold up… Although the Japanese diet is amongst the healthiest cuisines, sushi isn’t necessarily always the slimmest selection.
Whether you’re dining out at your favorite Japanese restaurant or picking up a roll at your nearest gourmet grocer, remember these tips for slimming up your sushi supper:
Start light. When I dine out at a sushi restaurant, I like to start with an appetizer before diving into my rolls. Instead of ordering a plate piled high with greasy tempura, I go for a cold and refreshing sunomono salad (cucumbers & vinegar), or a warm bowl of miso soup. Both options are low in calories and fat, making them kind to your waistline.
Go Green. Another popular accompaniment for a sushi meal is edamame (a.k.a. soy beans). In just a half-cup serving of shelled beans, you’ll benefit from 11 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, and 10% of the daily value for iron.
Skip the Salt. Without a doubt, soy sauce is one of sushi’s closest friends. Yet, with sodium levels off the charts, it isn’t so sweet to your stomach as it can cause unwanted bloating. If you can’t enjoy your roll without it, ask your server for light soy. Also, ordering your edamame sans-salt will allow you to control the amount of sodium as you sprinkle it on yourself.
Brown > White. Sushi rolls may be stuffed with anything from veggies to shrimp, and my favorite includes fruit and nuts! However, a roll of sushi isn’t itself with the signature ingredient: rice. For a skinnier dinner, order your rolls with “light rice”, or trade in the weighty white for nutty brown rice. With more fiber (plus additional minerals & vitamins), brown rice is ought to fill you up faster.
The Dish on Fish. Most people associate sushi with raw fish. I am a pescatarian (meaning I do eat fish), but I have never liked the idea of raw fish. I tend to stick to vegetarian rolls, and occasionally enjoy cooked prawns or salmon. If you are a fishy sushi lover, watch your intake as some fish have unsafe levels of mercury — the bigger the fish, the higher the mercury content. If you’re a fan of the big guy (a.k.a tuna), opt for Yellowtail.
“One reason yellowtail has lower mercury levels is the species is usually harvested at a younger age… Bigger tuna like bluefin and bigeye are warm-blooded. They need to eat more to keep up their energy, so the level of toxins in their systems tend to build up over time” (source).
However, you must not fear all fish. Fish, salmon in particular, is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Health benefits of Omega-3’s include everything from help with anxiety and depression to cancer prevention.
After you’ve stuffed yourself silly with sushi, enjoy a piece or two of pickled ginger. Its most touted health benefit is its ability to aid digestion: it can help digest fatty foods (too much tempura?) and break down proteins.
When enjoying sushi this summer, I hope you’ll remember a few things: start simple, skip the salt, and save room for salmon.
Needing a post-sushi snack? Check out Kelsey’s ideas for smart summer late-night snacking.
Hillary is an intern at College Lifestyles and student of Food & Nutrition Communication at California State University, Chico. Her favorite sushi selection is a Dragonfly Roll: prawn, avocado, cucumber, carrot, cilantro, chopped macadamia nuts and a sweet chili sauce (with brown rice, of course).