Sushi Calories: Oh my! You should avoid some of these rolls

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  October 17, 2021

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There are many sushi varieties, but you can’t tell which ones are low in calories and which ones aren’t.

The problem is that most of us eat the wrong kind of sushi. We don’t know how to order sushi so we end up eating too much rice and not enough fish and vegetables.

I’ll help you find a variety of low-calorie sushis by telling you exactly what ingredients they contain and I’ll even suggest some healthier alternatives you can pick right off the menu!

How many calories are in a 6-piece sushi roll?

Your typical 6-piece sushi roll contains between 200-250 calories. Sushi maki rolls with fish, vegetables and without extra sauces have the lowest calorie count, like the avocado roll. Sushi rolls with fried tempura batter or lots of extra fillings and sauces like the rainbow roll have the highest calorie count. 

Sushi calories

Even a standard sushi roll can be a healthy treat without breaking the calorie bank, as long as it doesn’t contain any fried ingredients. In fact, most sushi is low-fat and low-calorie!

The big problem is hidden calories in many Western versions of sushi, like shrimp tempura rolls and rainbow rolls. These are jam-packed with fatty ingredients and lots of sauces that add to the total calorie count.

So if you want to consume fewer calories, the best option is sashimi, or sushi with vegetables, brown rice (which you won’t often find in restaurants), and healthy fish. Skip anything fried or loaded with sauce.

Calorie counts for the most popular sushi rolls

There’s certainly a lot of difference between a traditional roll and an American invention. This made me wonder: which are the healthier sushi rolls and should I be on the lookout for sushi calories?

I’ve listed the most famous sushi rolls here (from the highest number of calories to the lowest) so you can become an expert in sushi calories too.

The reality hurts when it comes to high-calorie rolls. But sometimes, a nice sushi roll is worth it, so don’t think you should never indulge. I added the % of your daily calorie intake (or Weight Watchers Smart Points if you’re into that) below for each roll so you can actually see what you’re eating.

These calorie counts are for 6-piece sushi rolls, which you’ll mostly get when ordering:

Sushi roll

Calorie count

% of calorie intake

Weight Watchers Smart Points

Shrimp tempura roll

508

25.4%

19

Dragon roll

507

25.3%

19

Rainbow roll

476

23.7%

15

Eel avocado roll

372

18.6%

14

Caterpillar roll

329

16.45%

10

Philadelphia roll

320

16%

11

Spider roll

317

15.8%

12

Salmon avocado roll

304

15.2%

10

Spicy tuna roll

290

14.4%

9

California roll

225

11.25%

8

Tuna roll

184

9.2%

4

Avocado roll

140

7%

6

Cucumber roll

135

7%

6

Salmon sashimi

35 per piece

2%

1

Tuna sashimi

31 per piece

1.5%

0

Did you expect the shrimp tempura roll (one of the most beloved sushi varieties) to be so unhealthy?

How many calories are in sushi

 

Sushi roll calories explained

Shrimp tempura roll (508 calories)

Calories in the shrimp tempura roll

The shrimp tempura roll has the most calories because the shrimp is breaded and fried, providing a crunchy, delicious taste to the shrimp. It contains 508 calories, 21 grams of fat, 64 carbohydrates, and 20 grams of protein.

While this sushi has the most calories, the most adventurous sushi lovers will definitely order it. There’s no doubt it’s one of the tastiest sushi rolls. 

Dragon roll ( 507 calories)

Sushi dragon roll on a plate

The dragon roll is packed with tasty ingredients, but it’s fatty and high in calories. It contains 507 calories, 18 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, and 66 grams of carbohydrates. 

This roll contains delicious tempura shrimp, eel, cucumber, avocado, and tasty roe. But it’s covered in a thick (and unhealthy) sauce. 

Rainbow roll (476 calories)

Calories in the rainbow sushi roll

For those who want a bit of everything, the rainbow roll is the one to look for. It contains 476 calories, 16 grams of fat, 50 grams of carbs, and 33 grams of protein.

This sushi roll is classified as one of the most varied and protein-packed rolls because of the different types of fish on top. And while it’s high in calories, it’s a colorful and flavorful meal.

Eel avocado roll (372 calories)

Calories in the eel avocado roll

Eel is chewy and one of sushi’s most fatty fish. The eel avocado roll contains 372 calories, 17 grams of fat, 31 grams of carbohydrates, and 20 grams of protein.

This roll is packed with protein, and although that’s a good thing, it needs a sophisticated sushi palate because its taste isn’t appealing to everyone.

Caterpillar roll (329 calories)

Calories in the caterpillar sushi roll

The caterpillar roll got its name from the avocado slices it’s topped with. It has 329 calories, 5 grams of fat, 60 grams of carbohydrates, and 9 grams of protein.

This roll generally includes eel, tobiko (fish roe), and cucumber in addition to the avocado.

Philadelphia roll (320 calories)

Calories in Philadelphia sushi

You’ll find salmon and cream cheese in the Philadelphia roll, making it one of the more calorie-laden sushi rolls. It has 320 calories, 8 grams of fat, 32 grams of carbohydrates, and 8 grams of protein.

If you like the taste of cream cheese with seafood, it’s a nice comfort roll to order.

Spider roll (317 calories)

Spider sushi roll

The spider roll consists mainly of battered crab, which adds flavor and calories to a roll that’s otherwise pretty basic. It has 317 calories, 12 grams of fat, 38 grams of carbohydrates, and a protein content of 13 grams.

The fried crab adds fat, but it’s still a very famous and delicious roll.

Salmon avocado roll (304 calories)

Calories in salmon avocado sushi

The salmon avocado roll has “health advantages” written all over it. There are 304 calories in this sushi roll, 8.4 grams of fat, 42 grams of carbohydrates, and 13 grams of protein.

Since it’s full of omega 3s and good fats, it’s fantastic!

Also read: these sushi rolls are great to eat if you’re looking for some without avocado

Spicy tuna roll (290 calories)

Calories in the spicy tuna sushi roll

The spicy tuna roll has more pizzazz and spice than the standard tuna roll. It contains 290 calories, 11 grams of fat, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 24 grams of protein.

The delicious “spiciness” comes from the use of mayonnaise (which contributes to the calorie count), hot sauce, and green onions.

California roll (225 calories)

Calories in the california rolls

The California roll is one of those classics everyone loves. It has 225 calories, 7 grams of fat, 28 grams of carbohydrates, and 9 grams of protein.

It’s the ideal roll for beginners making sushi for the first time. It’s also a nice light meal.

Tuna roll (184 calories)

Calories in the spicy tuna sushi

With the added protein, the tuna roll is still pretty simple. It has 184 calories, 2 g of fat, 27 g of carbohydrates, and 24 g of protein.

This roll is an excellent choice with light fish without the “spicy” tuna element.

Avocado roll (140 calories)

Calories in plain avocado sushi

The avocado sushi roll includes the smallest quantity of calories, as it’s one of the most basic ones to order. There are 140 calories in an avocado roll, 5.7 grams of fat, 28 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.1 grams of protein.

This roll is light and perfect for those who don’t enjoy fish. It’s also vegetarian and vegan-friendly, so you can’t go wrong with it! 

Also read: sushi, a beginners guide

Cucumber roll (135 calories)

Sushi cucumber roll

The cucumber roll is the healthiest choice when it comes to watching calories.  Depending on how many pieces the restaurant cuts them into, they’ll be 16 to 22 calories each, which comes down to 135 calories in a roll.

It’s basically just some pieces of cucumber in rice wrapped in seaweed, with just a little sushi vinegar to season the rice.

I think everyone on a diet should at least order a roll of these when going to a restaurant!

Salmon sashimi (35 calories)

Salmon sashimi on a wooden cutboard

Salmon sashimi is healthy and the perfect low-calorie option. It has the lowest calorie count on this list but it’s not maki sushi so there’s no rice.

One ounce of raw salmon has about 25-40 calories. I’m not calculating the calories per roll, but rather calories per piece since it’s served in pieces. So a piece of sashimi usually contains about 40-50 calories and 20 grams of protein.

It’s a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, as well as all the B vitamins!

Tuna sashimi (31 calories)

Tuna sashimi dipping with chopsticks in soy sauce

 

This rice-free raw tuna sashimi also has one of the lowest calorie counts on the sushi menu. It has about 31 calories per serving (per piece).

Tuna is also a very low-fat fish, so a serving contains only 0.1 grams of fat and 11 mg of cholesterol. 

Where do the calories come from?

Nori, rice, veggies, fish; it seems like this is all relatively healthy. So where do the calories come from? Which ingredients are healthy and which are unhealthy?

White rice

White rice is your number one enemy when it comes to calories in sushi. After all, the main component of sushi is rice!

White rice is a problematic ingredient because it’s low in fiber and is a source of refined carbs. So it’s just a source of refined carbs and no real health benefits. When you consume too many refined carbs, your blood sugar rises and the body experiences inflammation. 

Sushi rice is also low in fiber and combined with vinegar and sugar, it causes the body to break it down quickly. This leads to insulin spikes and is dangerous for diabetics. 

Also, white rice is processed food, which means the nutrients are stripped.

If you choose brown rice sushi, it’s a much better option because it contains more fiber and fewer calories. 

Tempura & sauces

Unfortunately, tempura batter is full of calories. If you’re eating fried shrimp rolls, the fatty batter cancels out any of the shrimp’s health benefits. 

Fillings and toppings are also big sources of calories. Many fillings are low in protein content but high in fat. So when you choose sushi with high-fat sauces, you’re adding calories. 

Takeaway: A lot of popular sushi rolls contain lots of rice, small amounts of seafood and veggies, and instead, are loaded with fatty sauces. So you consume lots of calories, and little fiber and protein, so you don’t feel full and overeat. 

Will sushi fit into my diet?

What sushi can I eat on the keto diet?

No, you can’t have sushi rolls on the keto diet, but you can have sashimi instead. The keto diet entails eating a low-carb and high-fat diet. Instead of consuming carbs, you’re replacing them with fats.

The problem with sushi is that it contains rice and if you’re on the keto diet, then you can’t have rice because it’s a whole grain. So the only keto-friendly food you can have from the sushi menu is sashimi. It’s basically a piece of raw fish and there’s no rice, so you can enjoy it without any guilt.

If you still want to enjoy sushi rolls though, you can make cauliflower rice sushi at home. You can use seaweed because it’s keto-friendly.

Then, you can substitute the rice with cauliflower rice, and add salmon, avocado, and cucumber.

Can you eat sushi on the paleo diet?

No, but you can eat sashimi without soy sauce.

The paleo diet focuses on eating foods that our ancestors used to hunt and gather. So it’s all about eating meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds. Rice, other grains, and dairy are not paleo-friendly, so sushi is off the table.

When you eat sushi while on the paleo diet, you need to be careful about avoiding soy sauce, as it’s not paleo-friendly. Instead, ask for coconut aminos or bring your own (it’s the safest bet).

As well, you must avoid rice at all costs, so you’re limited to sashimi. If you want to make paleo-friendly sushi at home, you need to make the rolls without using rice.

So, you can still use nori sheets and fill them with salmon, avocado, pepper, cucumber, and scallions. Instead of soy sauce, coconut aminos give a similar flavor to your sushi rolls.

Can you eat sushi on the Candida diet?

Yes, if you replace rice with quinoa. The Candida diet is especially vital for people who suffer from Candida overgrowth in the body.

With the candida diet, you can’t eat gluten, sugar, alcohol, and the majority of dairy products. Fish is allowed, but rice, sugar, and sauces aren’t good for this diet.

Since sushi rolls contain sugar and rice, they aren’t recommended if you’re on the Candida diet. Luckily, this doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of this tasty dish.

Instead, you should make sushi with quinoa. The only challenge is making quinoa stick like sticky rice. For this, you need to add psyllium husk powder that holds the quinoa grains together.

Instead of sugar, use a bit of stevia in your sushi “rice” mix. A nori exterior and avocado, cucumber, and carrots are great Candida-friendly filings!

Can you eat sushi on a low-carb diet?

The low-carb diet is all about removing carbs and sugary foods from your diet. Instead, you eat whole and unprocessed foods.

So because sushi isn’t low carb due to the rice, you can’t eat sushi. But you can use cream cheese as a filling. And iff you like raw fish, then you can enjoy sashimi at your local sushi restaurant.

The good news is that you can also make a “sushi” dupe at home with some of the delicious ingredients that make up authentic sushi rolls.

Instead of rice, make nori rolls filled with cream cheese, salmon, salmon, and cucumber. You’ll feel as if you’re eating a Philadelphia sushi roll, but it’s low-carb, diet-friendly, and yummy too!

Can you eat sushi on the Mediterranean Diet?

Yes, you can have brown rice sushi rolls! The Mediterranean diet is all about eating healthy, balanced meals with lots of fish, seafood, and vegetables.

So you’d think sushi is a great option, right?

Well, first of all, the Mediterranean diet doesn’t encourage the consumption of white rice. So choose sushi with brown rice.

You’ll also want to avoid sushi rolls that are loaded with calories. So low-calorie options like avocado and salmon rolls are good options. Ask your sushi chef to make them with brown rice so that they’re Mediterranean diet-friendly.

Quinoa sushi rolls are another great choice!

Your rolls can contain seafood but avoid those calorie-laden sauces.

Is sushi bad for a diet?

Many people associate sushi with weight-loss food. The truth is that sushi is healthy if you choose the right rolls. Don’t eat anything that contains fried tempura, mayonnaise, or high-calorie sauces.

Choose the sushi rolls with a small amount of fish and vegetables and try to find brown rice varieties when you can.

The good news is that many sushi rolls don’t have extra added fats, so they’re diet-friendly. However, if you want to lose weight, it’s all about portion control.

Never eat more than 6-8 pieces per meal. Sushi topped with a bit of seafood like a fish fillet only contains about 40-65 calories per piece, so it’s a portion of good low-calorie food. So if you eat a whole roll, you can feel full and avoid packing in too many calories!

Of course, you should skip crispy tempura rolls, dragon rolls, and most “Western” style sushi rolls with tons of sauces and toppings.

Avoid soy sauce too, because it’s full of sodium and sugar.

The bottom line? Sushi is a good food to have if you’re on a diet, as long as you eat the varieties with fresh fish and vegetables.

What is a sushi-only diet?

Have you heard of the sushi-only diet? If you’re a big sushi fan, it might be something you’d like, although you must be careful with eating too much sushi.

With the sushi diet, you’re eating it 5 days a week. It’s best to combine the sushi with lots of vegetable side dishes like edamame.

When you’re on a sushi-only diet, the advantage is that you eat lots of raw fish and other seafood products. These are high in omegas, especially omega 3 fish oils.

These can reduce cholesterol, help the cardiovascular system function optimally, and reduce blood pressure.

The danger though is that if you eat too much raw fish, you can get tapeworm and parasitic infestations in your digestive system. As well, many types of fish are toxic because they contain traces of mercury. So it’s best to have a balanced diet.

Also, keep in mind that pregnant and breastfeeding women are not allowed to follow a sushi diet because raw fish is not healthy or safe during pregnancy.

How to eat sushi when losing weight

How to eat sushi when losing weight

Sushi is a pretty good option for dieters. But as I keep mentioning, it does contain some ingredients that can be a bit fattening.

Sushi mainly consists of 3 ingredients:

  1. Nori seaweed
  2. Seasoned white sticky rice
  3. Fillings

Choosing a healthy sushi filling

Now, the filling can be anything you choose. So as long as you choose a healthy option, you’re pretty much good to go!

You can always just choose cucumbers and maybe a few slices of carrots, and it’d still taste great. But fish with lots of omega 3s might be a great option too!

Best low-calorie sushi fillings

Health benefits of seaweed in sushi

Nori (or seaweed) is high in fiber and protein.

Also, it contains vitamin B12, which is hard to find in other foods and helps make DNA and keeps cells healthy. If you’re anemic, you’ll be glad to know seaweed is a good source of iron. 

But that’s not all! Nori is also a source of minerals, including zinc, tyrosine, and iodine, which promote healthy thyroid function. Now, your thyroid balances out your hormones, and that’s essential because dramatic changes in hormone concentrations can also lead to weight gain. 

Seaweed helps maintain the equilibrium and includes a lot of fiber without calories as an added bonus!

I was really enthusiastic when I discovered this and the calorie-less fiber enables you to feel more full for longer periods of time, and it also delays those irritating hunger pangs. Tell me that doesn’t sound amazing!

Here’s Dr. Eric Berg explaining the benefits of roasted seaweed:

Sushi vinegar contains sugar

Rice vinegar is exceptional and perfect for digestion, but it also helps the body absorb nutrients from other foods you consume. It’s great for weight loss and it balances some of the peskier ingredients in sushi, such as soy sauce, which is high in sodium. 

Now, soy sauce is really salty and you might want to skip it if you’re trying to watch the amount of salt you eat since there are other low-sodium options available. You can usually find low-sodium soy sauce.  

Sushi rice is normally seasoned with sushi vinegar, which also contains sugar. But you can just use rice vinegar instead.

Since we’ve identified advantages for some of the most commonly used ingredients, we still need to tackle the white rice problem.

White rice is a no-go if you want to lose weight. But sushi can’t be sushi without rice and I have to say it’s bull, as much as I agree with it. There are plenty of excellent sushi rice options that leave sushi in its purest, most holy form to be sushi.

Or you can just choose nigiri sushi and sashimi with less rice. 

I’ve also got these 5 sushi without rice recipes you can make at home, or read on for more healthy rice tips.

Healthy substitutes for white rice

White rice can be replaced with high fiber cauliflower rice that’s great for digestion. It makes you feel full faster to reduce your calorie consumption.

What’s also fantastic is that a lot of locations are starting to serve sushi rolls made with cauliflower rice. Restaurants and takeout places are realizing that consumers are increasingly interested in vegan sushi, as well as low-calorie and healthy sushi. 

Quinoa can also be a substitute for rice. It’s high in fiber and also gluten-free! In restaurants serving sushi, it’s an up-and-coming star.

You can also make sushi with brown rice, which helps, but you still need to watch how many pieces you eat. And I haven’t seen that many restaurants that serve it, which is a shame since brown rice is healthier. 

Last but not least, arborio rice, which is effectively risotto rice, is a secret for home cooking. But I’m not sure it’s really that tasty in sushi. 

Arborio rice has antioxidants that assist in increasing metabolism, which can greatly help in the weight loss process. 

With everything you do or eat, too much is not useful for you. And you still need to be aware of how much you eat, even with all the added bonuses of weight loss by eating sushi.

Sushi is seductive and you can eat up to 20 sushi pieces or more before you even realize it. I must emphasize that even though it’s nice, you should keep it at 12 pieces max. A sushi roll has 6 pieces so you can choose 2 types of rolls and they’ll keep you full! 

Whether you’re male or female, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve eaten because yes, eating food that’s great for weight loss but overdoing it by eating too much would just negate the impact!

If you’re worried about rice, you can also eat sashimi, which is just freshly cut fish and no rice

How to order sushi when trying to lose weight

How to order sushi when trying to lose weight

I am a huge sushi fan. I’m somewhere between those who only eat cooked fish and those who gladly consume a whole plate of raw and unidentifiable seafood, regardless of what it might be. What I appreciate in my sushi is variety. 

Japanese cooking, and sushi in particular, tends to have a good reputation for healthy foods. Most people regard it as low-calorie and safe, regardless of what you order. But you still have to be careful to avoid the tempting ones. 

Sushi restaurants offer lots of reduced and higher-calorie products on their menus. The secret is to know how to order sushi when attempting to lose weight.

When you get the menu, you’ll notice these terms:

Check the description of ingredients and begin by looking at the raw fish, salmon, crab, whitefish options, and the vegetarian or vegan rolls. 

Look out! If you want to avoid calorie bombs, there are several words to look out for when ordering sushi.

Here’s what to do:

A California roll made of imitation crab, cucumber, avocado, and rice rolled in seaweed seems to be the most common menu item for sushi newbies. It’s a good option, as it’s somewhere in the middle between a low and high-calorie count. 

Depending on who produces it, calories can differ extensively. But it appears to average around 250-300 calories per 6-piece roll.

Pay special attention to California roll combos offering 3 California rolls, soup, and salad. That complete meal can contain more than 1,000 calories!

Sushi rolls with veggies or fish and without extra sauces or mayo, such as tuna or cucumber rolls containing less than 200 calories for 6 parts, are the smallest calorie maki rolls.

Clocking in at about 300 calories per roll are ones such as salmon avocado or spicy tuna. These are rolls that are “traditional”.

Usually, traditional and authentic Japanese sushi is simple and contains far fewer calories than the Americanized versions. The latter are often unique, like the Philadelphia cheese and salmon roll, but that one has more calories because of the cream cheese. 

Also, unique and Westernized sushi pieces are much larger and their calorie count is much greater.

Also read: have you tasted the sushi eel yet? Some say it tastes like raw salmon, others catfish. Find out more

The ultimate secret to cutting calories is to order a rice-free naruto maki roll that’s fish and veggies rolled in thinly sliced cucumber.

Healthiest sushi option: Naruto Maki

For those who are really attempting to stretch out their meals, this is a high protein, low carb option. A tuna, salmon, and avocado naruto maki roll contains about 110 calories and 13 g of protein.

Depending on the sort of fish, nigiri sushi averages about 40-65 calories per single piece. This is a good, healthy, and low-calorie option.

Whitefish, sea bass, and crab tend to be at the lower end of the spectrum. The higher calorie fillings include fatty fish such as eel, mackerel, and salmon. But salmon is not the problem; it’s the other ingredients that are combined with it. 

From a calorie point of view, sashimi is the winner, with every ounce of raw fish having between 25-40 calories. Ideally, with some of my authorized side dishes, you can skip the rice and complete your dinner:

  1. Salad (make sure to ask for any dressings on the side): Don’t use too much dressing; just dip your chopsticks in it and you’ll cut a lot of calories.
  2. Edamame: ½ cup= 100 calories, 3g fat, 9g carbs, 5g fiber, 8g protein
  3. Seaweed salad is surprisingly low in calories. The average restaurant serving contains anywhere from 45-70 calories, depending on the source. Plus, seaweed is healthy and filling.
  4. Miso soup: 1 cup = 40-50 calories, 1.3g fat, 5.3g carbs, 1.1g fiber, 3-4g protein

How many calories are in these different types of sushi

General tips to order healthier options

If you choose rice sushi, ask for brown rice. Although the caloric content is basically the same, you’ll benefit from some additional nutrition and filling fiber.

Despite adding more calories, ingredients such as salmon and avocado provide heart-healthy fat. Don’t be afraid of salmon sushi, but avoid cream cheese and spicy mayo. 

Now for the best tip out of the list: ask for your maki rolls to be cut into 8 pieces instead of 6 whenever possible.

Do you ever feel like every piece of a sushi roll is too large to fit comfortably into your mouth? And there’s no way to gently bite it in half either, right? This solution will, therefore, work perfectly.

I always ask the restaurant to cut my rolls into 8 pieces (some rolls that aren’t typically cut into 6 won’t cut readily into 8 like bigger unique rolls).

You’ll get a perfectly shaped bite and now it looks like you’ve got more food for the same calorie quantity. Win-win!

Note: those who often consume sushi, especially ahi tuna, need to be aware of the mercury content, especially women of childbearing age and children (who shouldn’t eat raw tuna anyway).

Also check out these amazing Japanese steamed bun recipes

How does sushi compare to other takeout?

When you choose sushi for takeout, you may be consuming fewer calories. But you can easily exceed 1,000 calories per meal, depending on how much you eat. 

Sure, compared to a fast-food-type beef burger with tons of mayo and tasty fillings, and a side of french fries, plus soda, sushi seems healthy. It’s healthier and lower in calories than common Chinese takeout foods. It’s also healthier than most microwave meals.

But is it the healthiest takeout food, as many would have you believe? 

There are some really healthy takeaway foods, including vegetable soup, tom-yum soup, meat-free salads, stir-fried meats, grilled meats, fish dishes, veggie dishes, and steamed meats with vegetable sides. 

Sushi is definitely on the healthier side of the takeout spectrum. It’s usually lower in fat and calories than common takeout meals like pizza, sandwiches, subs, Chinese meaty dishes, burgers, chicken strips & wings, curries, etc. 

If you have to choose between the foods listed above, choose sushi. But be conscious about sauces, skip the soy sauce, and choose raw fish or veggies instead of other meats and fried fillings. 

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.