Raw fish can be the best protein to eat when you are dieting. Salmon, for instance, is chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are vital to our health, but which our bodies cannot produce on their own. As with all food, sushi can either be a very healthy choice, or a very poor choice depending on what goes into it and how it is prepared. While your Alaskan roll may have avocado and brown rice, slathering it in soy sauce and a spicy mayo sort of negates all those health benefits. So...
1. Avoid anything tempura. Yes, that means the crunchy fried shrimp rolls, but this isn't the state fair. Historically, sushi has involved raw fish and rice flavored with vinegar. Eating a deep fried roll just means extra calories and sodium.
2. Go brown rice, or no rice. Order your sushi roll with brown rice when available. Brown rice, in comparison to white (a refined product that causes more of an insulin spike), still has the hull and bran of the original grain, making it more rich in fiber, magnesium and calcium. Or, for a low-calorie version of sushi, order sashimi! Sashimi is simply the raw fish with no rice at all. Some prime examples of delicious sashimi are wild-caught salmon and saltwater eel (eel is especially high in omega-3 fatty acids.).
3. Avoid teriyaki sauces and spicy mayos. Although they add a zing to your roll, sauces and spicy, high-fat mayonnaises are super high in sugar. (Try our Honey Sriracha Mayo instead!) The same can be said for cream cheese, which really belongs nowhere near sushi. Instead, stick to wasabi (if you can handle the heat) because consumption of wasabi has been shown to reduce the risk for cancer, boost cardiovascular health and aid in digestion!
4. Dip with caution. Even though you grabbed the bottle labeled "Lower Sodium Soy Sauce," it still has lots of sodium. Don't completely submerge your roll! If anything, the saltiness will overpower the delicate flavors of the fish, which isn't the point at all.
5. Say no to crunch. Yes, those fried onions do add a nice bit of texture, but they're unnecessary calories. If you need something crunchy to balance out the fish and rice, add scallions or cucumbers.
6. Try a vegetable roll. One could argue that there is more leeway to beef up your vegetable roll with tons of ingredients: avocado, pineapple, scallions, red peppers, the list goes on. But remember that the rice could make the calories start to add up, depending on if you choose white or brown.
7. Be aware of the mercury content. Ahi tuna, swordfish and king mackerel are severely overfished and insanely high in mercury. This is especially important to keep in mind if you're pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Check out this list from the National Resources Defense Council to protect yourself from mercury contamination.
>> Try our Skinny Salmon Sushi Bowl recipe!
8. Stick to one roll. There is no denying that after 70 minutes of cardio, you will be famished, but don't let your eyes fool you about how much food you really need. Order an appetizer, such as edamame (high in protein) or a seaweed salad (great source of fiber and vitamins), and then try to stick to just one roll. A roll usually gets cut into six pieces, and although it may look dinky, remember that the rice will easily fill you up and the fish will restore your energy.
It's OK to splurge every now and again, but the point of healthy eating is choosing the healthier option when so many delicious things are available to you. If you're new to eating raw fish, don't be afraid to get your feet wet. Real sushi (and coincidentally, skinny sushi) will expand your palate — but not your waistline!