Living in New York provides endless opportunities to order in food and dine out. Many of my patients frequently take advantage of these conveniences, and in turn, they're the same patients coming to me with weight concerns. Is it possible to eat out or order takeout and keep your waistline in check? If you ask me, the answer is "yes" – hands down. Obviously, though, this depends on where you eat and what you order.
These days, it seems that Japanese food is very popular with my patients, especially maki sushi (rolls), but they're never sure what to order. The funny thing is that sushi can either be a very poor choice or a very, very smart choice in terms of nutrition. To choose the latter, here's what I suggest:
If ordering maki, stick with no more than two rolls. Ask for brown rice if it's available – not necessarily for the extra fiber (since there's minimal), but for the whole grains, which can be heart protective.
Avoid anything tempura, aka extra calories and fat. This battered and deep-fried version, usually prepared with shrimp or soft shell crabs, is not for the health conscious. And personally, I never understand why we'd fry something that is so delicious on it's own.
Unless you're sharing, steer clear of the "fancier" rolls, such as rainbow, dynamite or spider. These rolls are larger and have more ingredients and therefore are higher in calories.
Stick to just one spicy tuna roll, which typically has mayonnaise added to it. One roll isn't a big deal, but more than that is waste of calories.
Pass on the Philadelphia roll. In my opinion, cream cheese belongs on a bagel with salmon – not wrapped in brown rice and seaweed.
Limit yourself to one eel roll. Yes, eel can be delicious, and it's especially high in omega-3 fatty acids. But it can also be served in a sugary brown sauce that provides nothing nutritious – just calories.
For the lowest calorie options, choose tuna, yellow tail, shrimp (not tempura) or salmon rolls.
Even though I'm a huge fan of its heart-healthy goodness, add avocado it to only one of your rolls to keep the calories from climbing upward.
Add scallions or cucumbers to any or all rolls for extra flavor and minimal calories.
Order veggie rolls, like those with spinach, avocado, shiitake mushrooms or even peanuts. I often encourage my patients to choose only one seafood roll in addition to a veggie roll.
My patients sometimes complain that one of two rolls isn't enough food. Feel the same way? To make sushi more satisfying, start your meal with either miso soup or a mixed green salad with the ginger dressing on the side. The only other appetizers I usually recommend are spinach gomae (cold spinach with sesame) and steamed vegetable gyoza. And lastly, I love the Japenese drink sake, especially sake martinis, but as always with alcohol: Less is better, especially when it comes to your health.
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Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.