Smarter Sushi Choices

Choosing sushi for a meal is considered a healthy choice by most athletes I’ve met through the past few years.


It actually IS healthy when you order most sushi or sashimi (sushi means a piece of fish sitting on a rice pillow; sashimi is just the fish, totally naked) or even a sushi roll.
{Beware of lots of sauces}


As a general rule, the combination of rice (carbohydrate), seaweed (veggie), seafood (protein), and avocado (healthy fat) makes for a low-calorie, high-protein meal that will fill you up and hopefully provide a healthy dose of heart-helpful omega-3 fatty acids.

However, sushi can be nutritionally tricky with all of the choices on the menu. Many sushi rolls labeled with the words “spicy”, “crunchy”, or “special” tend to be covered in sauces, mayo or contain cream cheese.While fish is a healthy lean protein, not all the meat in sushi is actually “real” food. Imitation crab comes with only 40% of the protein of the real deal and offers almost no omega-3s (healthy fats).

For anyone who is looking to lean out or is having a low-intensity training day, naruto rolls are an excellent choice.  Ordering a sushi roll “naruto style” means the roll is wrapped in thin slices of cucumber instead of rice.

A typical sushi roll is prepared with one cup of rice, which means three servings of carbohydrates (~45g carbohydrates) and 240 calories.  Just FYI – this amount of carbohydrates  in a meal (or more!) is completely normal and recommended for active athletes. While naruto rolls are not always listed on the menu, most restaurants will accommodate the request.

Below are some of the most popular sushi rolls & how they can fit into your daily meals depending on training & body composition goals:

Cucumber Roll
136 calories
0 g fat
6 g protein
3.5 g fiber
30 g carbohydrates
It’s hard to go wrong with cucumbers and seaweed. Though not a nutritional powerhouse, cucumbers are a low-calorie delivery system for vitamins A and C, fiber, and silica, a compound that has been shown to foster healthy skin.

Good Snack for Easy Training: (1) Cucumber roll + 10-15 almonds
Good Snack for Moderate/Hard Training: (2) Cucumber rolls + ¼ avocado

Tuna Roll
184 calories
2 g fat
24 g protein
3.5 g fiber
27 g carbohydrates
More than half of the calories in this simple, classic roll come from protein, making it a great light meal, small post-workout meal or a snack with substance.

Meal for Off Day/Easy Training: (1) Tuna Rolls + (1) Cucumber Roll
Meal for Moderate Training: (1) Tuna Rolls + (1) Cucumber Roll + Fruit or extra rice

California Roll
255 calories
7 g fat
9 g protein (low if imitation crab)
6 g fiber
38 g carbohydrates
There is no raw fish in this roll which makes it good for first-time sushi eaters. There are also no real healthy fats either (aside from the avocado), since the fake crab (made from a variety of processed and compressed fish) has 1/15 the amount of omega-3s as the real stuff. Many places now serve real crab in their rolls so watch for this!

Meal for Off Day/Easy Training: (1) California Roll + Edamame OR Miso Soup
Post Workout Meal for Moderate/Hard Training: (2) California Rolls

Spicy Tuna
290 calories
11 g fat
24 g protein
3.5 g fiber
26 g carbohydrates
In the world of sushi, “spicy” means a spoonful of mayo spiked with an Asian chili sauce. The calorie counts can climb higher than this, depending on how heavy a hand the sushi chef has with the spicy stuff. For a healthier dose of spice, add extra wasabi to your soy sauce or on top of the roll.

Meal for Off Day/Easy Training: (1) Spicy Tuna Roll + Edamame OR Miso Soup
Meal for Hard Training: (2) Spicy Tuna Rolls + Fruit or extra rice

Salmon & Avocado Roll
304 calories
8.5 g fat
13 g protein
6 g fiber
42 g carbohydrates
High in calories, but nearly all of those calories come from the combo of healthy fats & protein found in the salmon and the avocado. This is a great balance for nutrients for a post-workout lunch.

Meal for Off Day/Easy Training: (1) Salmon/Avocado Roll + Avocado Salad Roll (appetizer)
Meal for Moderate/Hard Training: (2) Salmon/Avocado Rolls

Shrimp Tempura Roll
508 calories
21 g fat
20 g protein
4.5 g fiber
64 g carbohydrates
The crunch is usually blocked by the moist rice, so this one doesn’t make much sense from either a flavor or a nutritional perspective… although I know it’s a favorite for many.

Rainbow Roll (Personal favorite!)
476 calories
16 g fat
33 g protein
6 g fiber
50 g carbohydrates
This roll contains substantial portions of numerous raw fish, avocado & rice so most of the calories are the good kind. The balance of fat, carbohydrate and protein grams are portioned well for an active person.

Meal for Off Day/Easy Training: (1) Rainbow Roll
Meal for Moderate/Hard Training: (1) Rainbow Roll + (1) California Roll (or other small roll or appetizer)

Try sushi for a quick lunch or light dinner this week! If you eat it regularly, do you ever have it post-workout? What’s your favorite combo?


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