Japanese restaurants are a good choice when trying to follow a healthy diet. Fried items rarely grace the menu and instead there's an emphasis on lean proteins and fresh vegetables. Choosing the wrong foods can still leave you with an unhealthy meal. With smart choices, you can have a healthy meal at a Japanese restaurant.
Order a glass of water, a cup of hot green tea and edamame when you sit down. Hunger peaks as you sit down to eat, smelling the food and reading through all of the options.
Choose a salad as the first course, such as seaweed salad, cucumber salad or a simple house salad. Many meal combinations come with a small salad and miso soup, which is a good low-cal option, too.
Stick to chopsticks and avoid the extras. "Extras" include mayo-based sauces, saki, cocktails, fried appetizers and desserts, which quickly raise the calories of a meal. Eat the entire meal with chopsticks, which slows down your eating and allows the stomach to have time to realize it's full. This reduces the chance of overeating.
Fill the soy sauce dish with low sodium soy sauce. Use just a little soy sauce at a time. Pump up flavor other ways such as with ginger, chili sauce or mustard dip. Regular soy sauce has 900 milligrams sodium in 1 tablespoon, while 1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce has about 500 milligrams of sodium. High sodium with a meal can cause swelling and bloating from water retention. This affects blood pressure, which can be a risk for those struggling with high blood pressure or with other symptoms of heart disease.
Choose entree items with lean proteins and lots of vegetables. Japanese menus usually have lots of fish options, including fresh sushi. Sashimi, a type of sushi or raw fish that does not have any rice,is a high-protein main course. Or, alternate between traditional sushi and sashimi pieces. If you don't like raw sushi, pick grilled fish, shrimp or chicken. Avoid battered and fried items, like tempura. Look for entrees that include several kinds of vegetables or pump up vegetables on the plate by ordering an extra side of them
Avoid eating too much rice by limiting items such as sushi rolls, rice bowls and large sides of rice. White rice is a refined carbohydrate that packs a lot of calories into every bite. A 1/2 cup of rice has about 200 calories. If available, choose brown rice, which is a whole grain, will help reduce the blood sugar spike that happens when eating rice. Sashimi without rice can help break up the rice onslaught. Focus on the meat and vegetables along with spooning small amounts of rice onto the plate.
Decide to choose healthy items before you go into the restaurant. Have an idea of what you will order before sitting at the table and opening the menu. Drink a full glass of water before eating anything.
Think about mercury exposure risk. Limit the tuna options as well as other large fish that will have higher mercury content.