Is Sushi Good For Losing Weight? 6 Helpful Tips

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Sushi is a pretty good option for dieters, but 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

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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 consider it 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:

  • Nigiri (a tiny piece of fish on top of a finger-shaped rice cake)
  • Maki (rice and fillings, fish, veggies, etc. rolled up in nori or seaweed)
  • Sashimi (plain raw fish)

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:

  • Avoid anything with tempura and crunchy textures
    • “Tempura” means fried. Tempura shrimp or spider rolls have more than 500 calories each.
    • Crunchy implies fried batter parts. Anything “crunchy” will substantially increase the roll’s fat and calorie content without any advantage for your health. 
  • Avoid sauces, extras, and anything spicy
    • “Spicy” contains mayo. The beloved spicy tuna roll can have an additional 100 calories over a standard tuna maki roll, just from the spicy mayo!

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!

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:

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

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.

Also read: this is the calorie count for the most popular types of sushi (don’t freak out!)

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

General tips for ordering 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

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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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.