Japanese Food Nutrition Facts: Menu Choices and Calories

Best and Worst Health Choices at Japanese Restaurants

Sushi Rolls nutrition facts
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Japanese restaurants offer a variety of diet-friendly menu items. But is Japanese food healthy? Japanese cuisine features plenty of vegetables, many protein-rich healthy fish choices and most entrees only include a moderate amount of "bad" starchy carbohydrates.

Analyzing a Japanese Food Menu

You'll find most of these basic items at your favorite Japanese restaurant. Keep in mind that some of these foods have a high sodium (salt) content, so if you are watching your salt intake, ask your waiter for the best option.

  • broth-based or miso soups
  • ebisu (a shrimp-based appetizer)
  • yakitori (broiled chicken skewers)
  • salads with veggies and greens
  • teriyaki chicken, beef, or salmon (broiled)
  • sukiyaki (simmered chicken or beef with vegetables and tofu)
  • most varieties of sushi
  • sashimi
  • steamed rice 
  • vinegar, teriyaki and soy sauces (these sauces can be high in salt)

Most of these items can be a full meal in themselves. But you can also mix and match to try new tastes and flavors.

Most Popular Japanese Food

Spicy Tuna Roll Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 4 pcs (130 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 140 
Calories from Fat 18 
Total Fat 2g3%
Saturated Fat 0.5g2%
Cholesterol 10mg3%
Sodium 105mg4%
Carbohydrates 23g8%
Dietary Fiber 1g4%
Protein 7g 
 
 
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Sushi is one of the most popular foods in a Japanese restaurant. In many cases, sushi can be a very healthy menu choice. Sushi is raw fish served with rice, vegetables or other garnishes.

Salmon and tuna are often found on sushi menus and both types of fish provide health benefits. You'll also see healthy avocado included in some sushi rolls.

So is all sushi healthy? Not necessarily. In some restaurants, sushi is deep fried. When you see a sushi roll with the word "tempura" in the name, it is fried.

In addition, you may find raw fish combined with other fatty or salty ingredients. 

Since sushi preparation varies from restaurant to restaurant, it's best to ask your server for the healthiest options. 

Healthiest Options on a Japanese Food Menu

There is plenty to choose from if you want to eat healthy at a Japanese restaurant. Stick to raw or steamed vegetables to keep the calories as low as possible. Then choose raw or cooked fish according to your taste. If you don't like sushi, consider sashimi. Sashimi is small bites of raw fish that you eat with wasabi or soy sauce.  

White rice will probably come with your meal, but you can ask for brown rice to boost your fiber intake. And remember to keep portions sizes in control. Some larger sushi rolls are eight pieces or more—enough to serve two people.

Less Healthy Japanese Food Choices

When you're scanning the menu at your favorite spot, be wary of any foods that are breaded or fried. Tempura items are often heavily fried, although some restaurants only flash fry their foods.

If you're not sure about a particular item, don't be shy. Ask your server for the best options. And many Japanese chefs are happy to customize and order for you.

As a general rule, try to avoid these foods:

  • donburi (breaded and deep-fried pork
  • fried bean curd
  • tempura-udon soup
  • dishes described as katsu or pan-fried
  • tempura dishes (battered and fried shrimp or vegetables with sauce)
  • yo kan (a type of cake)
  • Philadelphia rolls (Americanized sushi with cream cheese)
  • tempura rolls
  • mayonnaise-based sauces
  • high-fat dressings for salads

Tips for Eating in a Japanese Restaurant

Eating in any restaurant can be tricky. Most restaurant dishes are bigger than they need to be and contain more fat and calories than they should. But dining in a Japanese restaurant can be especially tricky because most of the food looks healthy.

So what's the problem with healthy food? Nothing if you don't overeat it. But when you're dining out you're often with friends and family. And you might even enjoy a Japanese beer or two or even a sake with your meal. These distractions can make it easy to overeat.

So to keep your calorie count in control, consider ordering an appetizer as your main dish. Or select a few pieces of sushi or sashimi as your entree.  Sushi rolls can be delicious as well, but many of them include fried items, and they can provide more food (and calories) than you need.

Remember, eating in any restaurant is about making smart choices. Use these tips to enjoy your next trip to your favorite Japanese restaurant.

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