The Lowdown on Sushi: Everything You Need to Know

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Sushi seems like an ideal summer food: it’s cool, it’s delicious, and it won’t ruin your amazing bikini bod. Right? Though sushi is generally thought of as healthy, it’s hard to know exactly what nutrients you’re getting when you order that BBQ eel roll (my personal favorite), and it’s definitely difficult to know how much sushi you should be eating. So to help you navigate that daunting sushi list, we’ve got the nutritional breakdown of some your favorite rolls and sushi side dishes.

But first, here are some sushi basics you should know so you don’t embarrass yourself in front of the cute guy at the sushi bar (or your date!).

Sushi or Sashimi?
We all throw around the term sushi, but what exactly is it? And what’s that other stuff, sashimi, that always appears next to it on the menu? Sushi is fish, seafood and/or vegetables PLUS rice; sashimi is just fish or seafood without rice. Sushi can be served as a roll (sushi rolls are called “maki”) or as fish over rice, but the important thing is that there’s always rice with sushi. Watching carbs? Go for sashimi instead.

Is this stuff really raw?
Yes, a lot of sushi is served raw—but not all of it is, so there are plenty of options if the thought of raw fish freaks you out. Eel is always served cooked, and shrimp and crab are usually served cooked as well. Also, look for anything served “tempura” style; that means the seafood’s been battered and fried. But if none of those appeal to you and you want to avoid anything raw, there are plenty of vegetarian sushi options as well.

Can I really eat raw fish?
Raw fish used in sushi is usually safe to eat because restaurants take special precautions, like freezing the fish, which kills parasites that might otherwise be found on raw fish. Still, eating raw fish carries with it a slightly higher risk of getting bacteria stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting than eating cooked food. Also, note that some raw fish (like tuna) has high mercury levels—but this shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re eating raw sushi for a few meals a week.

Where’s my fork?
Sushi always comes with chopsticks, so you’ll want to know how to use them. Here’s a three-step how-to:

1. Hold one chopstick between your thumb and middle finger. It should lie on your thumb joint and against the bottom of your middle finger, without touching the forefinger.

2. Lay the other chopstick against your forefinger, holding it with the tip of your thumb. It should be parallel to the first chopstick.

3. Keeping the first chopstick stationary, pick up your food by moving the second chopstick towards the stationary one.

Still lost? Check out this video to learn how.

And don’t feel embarrassed if you can’t use them! Just pick up it with your fingers. You can also ask for a fork, but using your fingers is actually the correct etiquette, so why pass up the opportunity to eat with your fingers and be classy?

So now that you know your sushi basics, it’s time to turn to the nutrition info. Of course, the exact numbers can vary a lot by the recipe and size—so these are just averages, assuming there are eight pieces of sushi per roll. Also, know that some places add mayonnaise or cream cheese to some rolls—which can pack on additional calories. If you think your roll has mayo or cream cheese in it, tack on an additional fifty calories to the numbers below.


California Roll (8 pieces)

What’s in it: Rice, imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, seaweed
Calories: 320
Fat: 4 grams
Carbs: 25 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Protein: 4 grams

Philadelphia Roll (8 pieces)

What’s in it: Rice, smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, seaweed
Calories: 300
Fat: 10 grams
Carbs: 30 grams
Fiber: .5 grams
Protein: 10 grams

Spicy Tuna Roll (8 pieces)

What’s in it: Rice, raw tuna, seaweed, sesame seeds, mayonnaise, and something spicy, which depends on the individual recipe
Calories: 290
Fat: 11 grams
Carbs: 10 grams
Fiber: 0 grams
Protein: 24 grams

Shrimp Tempura Roll (8 pieces)

What’s in it: Rice, seaweed, deep-fried shrimp, and some recipes add avocado and green onion
Calories: 530
Fat: 17 grams
Carbs: 64 grams
Protein: 20 grams
Fiber: 4.5 grams

Eel Roll (8 pieces)

What’s in it: Eel (unagi), seaweed, rice
Calories: 400
Fat: 16.5 grams
Carbs: 28 grams
Protein: 20 grams
Fiber: 5.8 grams

Cucumber Roll (eight pieces)

What’s in it: cucumber, seaweed, rice
Calories: 140
Fat: 0 grams
Carbs: 27.5 grams
Protein: 6 grams
Fiber: 2 grams

Avocado Roll (eight pieces)

What’s in it: Avocado, rice, seaweed
Calories: 140
Fat: 5.7 grams
Carbs: 28 grams
Protein: 2.1 grams
Fiber: 5.8 grams


Sake (Wild Salmon)

Serving size: 1 oz.
Calories: 40
Fat: 1.8 grams
Carbs: 0 grams
Protein: 5.6 grams
Fiber: 0 grams

Hirame (Flounder)

Serving size: 1 oz.
Calories: 26
Fat: 1.5 grams
Carbs: 0 grams
Protein: 5.3 grams
Fiber: 0 grams

Buri (Yellowtail)

Serving size: 1 oz.
Calories: 41
Fat: 1.5 grams
Carbs: 0 grams
Protein: 6.6 grams
Fiber: 0 grams

And your favorite sides:

Seaweed Salad

Serving size: 2 oz.
Calories: 70
Fat: 4 grams
Carbs: 26 grams
Protein: 1 gram
Fiber: 1 gram


Serving size: .5 cup
Calories: 100
Fat: 3 grams
Carbs: 9 grams
Protein: 8 grams
Fiber: 5 grams

Miso Soup

Serving size: 1 cup
Calories: 38
Fat: 1.1 grams
Carbs: 5.1 grams
Protein: 1 gram
Fiber: 2.6 grams


By Elana Altman for Her Campus


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