How healthy are sushi rolls, really? Can I lose weight eating sushi rolls? How healthy are nori rolls? How healthy are California rolls?

Sushi – it’s huge all over the world and if you’re like me, you’ve been led to believe that it’s a healthy option for a light meal or a snack. It’s low fat right? Made with natural, wholesome ingredients – right? It’s low in calories right? With hardly any preservatives?

Wrong, I’m afraid.

Sushi trains started to pop up all over the world in the early 90s to mid-90s. At first, we were fascinated by this new convenience food – “It’s so much healthier than grabbing a sandwich,” we told ourselves. “I can eat this all the time!” we reassured ourselves.

How sad and deluded we truly were.

Salty, often fatty, generally overpriced and full of calories, sushi, California or “nori” rolls can be a weight-loss time bomb. I would honestly recommended steering clear of these if you’re trying to lose weight. As I always say, I am not a nutritionist, but I bloody well should be – so this is where I will add the caveat to do your own research into the matter.

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What are nori/sushi/California rolls?

So, lets’ start at the beginning. What are the nutritional properties of a nori roll? How many calories are in them? For the unaware and uninitiated, nori is the Japanese name for edible seaweed species and is familiar in many parts of the world as an ingredient of sushi. Sushi rolls, California rolls and nori rolls are generally made from sushi rice, nori paper and other ingredients such as prawn, tempura chicken or tuna and vegetables.

How many calories do nori rolls, sushi rolls or California rolls have?

Here’s where we delve into difficult territory, my friend. The main problem with these rolls is that they are generally an inconsistent size. Many websites suggest that about 1 cup of rice is used per roll – that’s about 200 calories. Many sushi roll makers will use more or less, depending on their style.

Once filled, each roll can add up to 250 extra calories. If you choose avocado, mayonnaise and fried tempura chicken (for example) you could be giving yourself a calorie hit of up to 450 calories per serve. There are many McDonalds burgers or Subway sandwiches you could choose that have half the calories of this supposedly “healthy” food.

How to pick the healthiest sushi roll

Here’s a great resource for you to use: Sushi Calories and Nutritional Information as published on Sushi FAQ. As you can see from the list, one single roll can give you as few as 136 calories (cucumber sushi roll) or as many as a whopping 508 calories (shrimp tempura roll). Personally, if I was going to “spend” 500 calories on something it would be half a bottle of Chardonnay and a toasted cheese sandwich (drink responsibly!).

As with all healthy food choices, go for lean meats and veggies, skip the mayo and soy sauce. Which you won’t, because then your sushi roll will taste like cardboard. Watch your portion sizes as well – as we’ve seen, eating only 2 of these sushi rolls will likely leave you hungry and searching for the cookie jar as sushi rice is white and not as satisfying or satiating as brown rice.

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What does Weight Watchers say about sushi rolls and points?

I am not a huge fan of Weight Watchers – in fact, read my blog post 6 problems with the Weight Watchers program and 6 solutions to see why I don’t think the program is good for people in the long run. However, they do have a pretty good resource on sushi rolls, giving you illustrated pictures of what to eat and what to avoid.

However, rather than usefully giving us the calorie, salt and fat content of each food, they give us a summation of its Weight Watchers POINTS value – which is meaningless and frustrating for anyone not familiar with the program and simply frustrating for anyone who is. FYI the 508 calorie prawn tempura roll we talked about before will give you a whopping 13 POINTS – more than half your daily allowance. Eat something else.

How can I make my sushi rolls healthier?

Well one delusional blogger says to skip the rice. A nice idea, in theory, but it’s a bit like saying “have a thickshake but skip the milk and icecream.” You really are missing the point.

“Order ‘naruto’,” Tanya Zuckerbrot, Founder of the F-Factor Diet says on this Fox News website. “Have your roll wrapped in cucumber instead of rice and you’ll save a few hundred calories,” she enthuses, somewhat cruelly.

“If you’re craving rice, don’t worry. Just ask for your roll to be prepared with ‘light rice’ and, if available, request brown rice for a nutritional boost,” she says. Of course we all know that asking for any such thing at our regular sushi joints would lead to nothing but a blank stare and a side serve of hostility.

So, should I eat sushi rolls if I am trying to lose weight?

I would say, no, don’t eat them. Rice in general was not good for me when I was trying to lose weight – you might be different. I find it very easy to overeat and because it expands in your stomach, you really do have to be careful to leave 20 minutes between rolls to make sure you don’t overeat and end up too full. And aint nobody got time for that.

“As a refined grain, white rice offers a low level of satiety. So you’ll eat it, won’t feel very full, and then eat more,” says Ten foods that bloat your belly (For Dummies). Having said that, so long as you count your calories and don’t overeat, they won’t make you any fatter than eating sandwiches or pasta – just don’t be fooled into thinking that sushi rolls are intrinsically healthy.

Do you agree with what I’ve said? Have you ever lost weight eating sushi rolls? What kind? Tell me in the comments below.

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