Featured food: grocery store sushi

sushiConvenient, filling and low fat. But how many calories?

Prepared sushi is becoming more common at major grocery store chains.  Of course, in most cases, this isn’t going to be the pricey, made-to-order raw fish sushi you get at a sushi bar.  The fish will be cooked or cured in some way.  Some of the choices may be devoid of any fish.  For people who like the basic sushi concept and want a quick convenient meal or snack, grocery store sushi can be a great choice.

But what about the calories?  You’d think sushi would be low calorie.  It’s not fried or prepared with fat.  It’s mainly rice and some pieces of fish or vegetables, with a paper-thin seaweed wrapper.  Strangely, the sushi at my local grocery store doesn’t have any nutrition facts whatsoever.  Not very helpful if you’re trying to monitor calorie intake.  So in the interest of calorie accuracy, I did my own small research project: I bought two different containers of sushi, took the pieces apart and weighed the individual ingredients on a food scale.   From there, it’s easy to do the math and come up with an approximation of the calories.

My sushi pieces came in a variety of sizes.

  1. Slices of sushi roll, roughly 1-1/2 inches in diameter, with rice on the outside and fish in the middle, as well as small pieces of some vegetables.  Each one weighed just shy of an ounce.  On average, the rice contributes bout 15 calories and the fish about 12 for a total of 27.  Let’s round up to 30 if you include the seaweed and vegetables, with about 2 grams of protein and less than 1/2 gram of fat if the fish is salmon.
  2. Rice with a slice of fish layered on top: these are simple sushi pieces, without vegetables or seaweed.  They weigh slightly more and have more rice by weight.  Depending on which fish is used, these could range from 35 (shrimp) to 40 calories (higher fat fish like tuna or salmon).
  3. Smaller sushi roll slices, about 1 inch in diameter: These were much simpler, just rice and fish wrapped in seaweed.  The calories are roughly 20-25.

The sushi you may find at your local store may be larger or smaller, changing the total calories, but in general we can conclude that sushi pieces range from 20-40 calories.  Calories will increase with higher fat fish, but since the amount of fish used in each piece is so small, the different won’t be dramatic.  Non-fish sushi, such as avocado, will have similar calories, but less protein.

Diet friendly aspects of sushi:

  • The flavor can be intense, killing off any sugar cravings you might have.   Wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger work together nicely with the rather bland flavors in the actual sushi.
  • Filling: a small meal of 6 to 8 pieces can be very satisfying.  And at roughly 30 calories per piece,  that would only be 240 calories of sushi.
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