Japanese Food Nutrition Facts: Menu Choices and Calories

How Healthy Is Sushi and Other Japanese Food?

Sushi Rolls nutrition facts
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Japanese restaurants offer a variety of nutritious items, so it's relatively easy to find healthy Japanese food. But not every choice is good for your diet. Many healthy eaters opt for sushi or sashimi. But is sushi healthy? 

Before you go to your favorite sushi spot or dine in a Japanese restaurant, check these nutrition facts and food tips to make the best healthy choices for your diet plan.

Then consider adding some of the healthier Japanese food options to your meal plan at home with recipes and cooking tips.

Japanese Food Calories and Popular Menu items

You'll find most of these basic items at your favorite Japanese restaurant. You'll notice that many of the most popular Japanese dishes significantly boost your sodium intake. If you're trying to cut back on salt, consider making Japanese food at home so that you can control the ingredients and reduce the sodium if necessary.

Broth-Based or Miso Soups 

Miso is a thick paste made from fermented soybeans and barley or rice malt. Miso soup is a low-calorie, low-glycemic food that is often consumed to start your meal. A typical recipe provides about 20 calories and less than three grams of carbohydrate. But most varieties contain sodium. A typical recipe cooked at home or in a restaurant may provide up to 20 percent of your recommended daily sodium intake.

 

Udon (Japanese Noodle Soup)

This heartier noodle soup might be prepared with vegetables, tempura or steamed shrimp, and vegetables (tempura udon). You may also see Sadako udon which is plain udon soup made with seasoned broth and vegetables. Udon noodles are a starchy noodle made from wheat flour. One cup of the noodles provides about 230 calories, 48 grams of carbohydrate (primarily starch), and about 7 grams of protein.

You'll also get about 623 milligrams of sodium in the noodles alone. The broth will also contribute to your sodium intake. If you enjoy udon, consider making an udon dish at home like Peanut Noodles With Tofu and Vegetables.

Teriyaki Chicken, Beef, or Fish Dishes

Teriyaki is a sauce usually made from soy sauce, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, and honey. It is often used as a marinade to give meat or seafood a savory, salty, slightly sweet flavor. A single tablespoon of the sauce provides 690 milligrams of sodium (or nearly 30 percent of your recommended daily intake) and 3 grams of sugar. So if you are watching your salt or sugar intake, you may want to be cautious with these popular dishes. Calories and fat in teriyaki dishes will ultimately depend on the way that the meat or seafood is cooked. Ask your server if oil is used in the preparation of your dish to get an idea of how fatty your meal might be. You can also make healthier teriyaki dishes at home, such as Asian Sesame Coleslaw With Teriyaki Chicken or Cilantro & Scallion Turkey Meatballs With Teriyaki.

Katsu Chicken, Beef, or Pork

This preparation involves breading and frying. Any time you see "katsu" added to the name of the dish, you can assume that the food is deep fried and covered with a crispy crust.

While delicious, these dishes will be higher in fat, saturated fat, and calories than most other dishes on the Japanese menu. 

You'll also see pickled foods on many Japanese menus. These items are salted, so they are high in sodium but they are often served in very small portions, so that can be a reasonable option if you want a savory, salty food but don't need a lot of it. 

Bento Boxes

Some quick-serve or casual Japanese restaurants provide bento boxes on the menu. For example, restaurants, like Sarku Japan, allow you to choose from a wide variety of these box-style meals that combine fish or meat, with vegetables and rice or noodles.

Whether or not they are healthy completely depends on the combination that you choose.

For example, Sarku's Shrimp Bento Box with steamed rice contains 730 calories, 24 grams of fat, 99 grams of carbohydrate, and 30 grams of protein. You'll also get a whopping 1500 milligrams of sodium. Other bento boxes (chicken and beef) are higher in calories, sodium, and fat. If you're not a fan of the extra sodium or calories, you can make your own bento box at home, but combining lean meats, veggies and a small portion of rice or noodles in divided containers.

Sushi Nutrition and Calories

Spicy Tuna Roll Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 4 pcs (130 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 140 
Calories from Fat 18 
Total Fat 2g3%
Saturated Fat 0.5g2%
Cholesterol 10mg3%
Sodium 105mg4%
Carbohydrates 23g8%
Dietary Fiber 1g4%
Protein 7g 
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Is Sushi Healthy?

Sushi is one of the most popular foods in a Japanese restaurant. In many cases, sushi can be a very healthy menu choice. But sushi nutrition varies greatly depending on what you order when you go to the sushi bar. At a typical sushi restaurant, you can choose between sushi, nigiri, rolls, or sashimi in addition to other menu items.

  • Sushi is raw fish served with vinegar-flavored rice, vegetables or other garnishes. Salmon and tuna are often found on sushi menus and both types of fish provide health benefits because they are good sources of healthy fat.
  • Nigiri sushi is a bite-sized slice of fish served on top of rice, often with wasabi
  • Sushi rolls are often made from tempura or cooked fish, although not always. You'll also find ingredients like avocado, mayonnaise in sushi rolls,  Each roll contains several sliced pieces of sushi
  • Sashimi is raw fish (no rice or other ingredients)

When trying to figure out if your sushi is healthy, you need to consider ingredients and preparation methods. In some restaurants, sushi is deep fried. When you see a sushi roll with the word "tempura" in the name, it is fried. In addition, you may find raw fish combined with other fatty or salty ingredients. 

Also, sushi can be a tricky dinner or lunch choice because it is easy to overeat, especially if you order a roll or two. In general, four pieces of sushi should be enough to satisfy your hunger at meal time. Most rolls provide 5-7 pieces of sushi. 

Since sushi preparation varies from restaurant to restaurant, it's best to ask your server for the healthiest options. Your best bet is usually sashimi or nigiri because these choices are not likely to contain fried foods or fatty ingredients. 

Healthy Japanese Food Choices

There is plenty to choose from if you want to eat healthy at a Japanese restaurant. Stick to raw or steamed vegetables to keep the calories as low as possible. Then choose raw or cooked fish according to your taste. If you don't like sushi, consider sashimi. Sashimi is small bites of raw fish that you eat with wasabi or soy sauce.  

White rice will probably come with your meal, but you can ask for brown rice to boost your fiber intake. And remember to keep portions sizes in control. Some larger sushi rolls are eight pieces or more—enough to serve two people.

Less Healthy Japanese Food Choices

When you're scanning the menu at your favorite spot, be wary of any foods that are breaded or fried. Tempura items are often heavily fried, although some restaurants only flash fry their foods. If you're not sure about a particular item, don't be shy. Ask your server for the best options. And many Japanese chefs are happy to customize and order for you.

As a general rule, try to avoid these foods:

  • donburi (breaded and deep-fried pork
  • fried bean curd
  • tempura-udon soup
  • dishes described as katsu or pan-fried
  • tempura dishes (battered and fried shrimp or vegetables with sauce)
  • yo kan (a type of cake)
  • Philadelphia rolls (Americanized sushi with cream cheese)
  • tempura rolls
  • mayonnaise-based sauces
  • high-fat dressings for salads

Tips for Eating in a Japanese Restaurant

Eating in any restaurant can be tricky. Most restaurant dishes are bigger than they need to be and contain more fat and calories than they should. But dining in a Japanese restaurant can be especially tricky because most of the food looks healthy.

So what's the problem with healthy food? Nothing if you don't overeat it. But when you're dining out you're often with friends and family. And you might even enjoy a Japanese beer or two or even a sake with your meal. These distractions can make it easy to overeat.

So to keep your calorie count in control, consider ordering an appetizer as your main dish. Or select a few pieces of sushi or sashimi as your entree.  Sushi rolls can be delicious as well, but many of them include fried items, and they can provide more food (and calories) than you need.

A Word From Verywell

Remember, eating healthy in any restaurant is about making smart choices. But it's also fun to experiment with new foods and flavors. So calories and nutrition won't always guide your decisions. Use these tips to add variety to your diet and enjoy your next trip to your favorite Japanese restaurant. Consume indulgent foods in moderation and your healthy eating plan will stay in place when you dine out and explore.

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