If you're thinking of sushi as a lighter lunch option, you may want to think again. Turns out that Supermarket sushi is much more like typical fast food than you'd think, with a couple of California rolls packing as many calories and twice as much sugar as a Big Mac and French fries from McDonald's.
The culprit: All that deliciously seasoned white rice wrapped around the minuscule pieces of fish and vegetables.
"A typical sushi roll contains 290 to 350 calories and has the carbohydrate equivalent of two-and-a-half to four slices of bread," dietician Rachel Beller told The Daily Mail. "So a California roll equals two sandwiches filled with crab sticks, a sliver of avocado, and a tiny bit of veg."
Contrary to popular belief, the word "sushi" refers to the rice served with the (usually) raw fish, not the fish itself, which is considered more of a garnish. The rice is seasoned with sugar-and-salt infused vinegar and can make up 75 percent of each bite you take, which means that while you may be eating heart-healthy fish and vegetables, you're not getting much of them in each serving. Brown rice may have more fiber and nutrients but it doesn't contain fewer carbs or less sugar.
Two servings of Genji Sushi California rolls -- one of the easiest to find take-out options at Whole Foods markets around the United States -- has 740 calories and 22 grams of sugar, according to nutritional data posted online. A McDonald's Big Mac and a small order of French fries total 780 calories and 9 grams of sugar, the fast-food chain reports on their website.
Think you'll cut calories by choosing veggie sushi instead? Not so fast: an eight piece serving of Genji Sushi's avocado-and-cucumber roll has 400 calories and 11 grams of sugar -- more than a McDonald's Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Crispy Chicken on top (390 calories, 7 grams of sugar).
Add a little soy sauce to the sushi and you can really do some damage to your sodium levels. Two take-out packets of soy sauce add about 1,000 milligrams of sodium -- nearly as much salt as 5 slices of bacon, according to the experts at Fatsecret.com.
When it comes to fat content, though, sushi is easily the better fast-food choice. Two servings of Genji Sushi California Rolls contain just 10 grams of fat, compared to 29 grams of fat in a Big Mac alone. Even oily fish like salmon and tuna contain far less fat than a serving of ground beef.
To make that supermarket sushi a little better for you, stick to rolls that don't include cream cheese or mayonnaise-based sauces, which can add a lot of fat. Sushi that contains tempura may be delicious, but the fried ingredients add extra calories. If you're indulging at a restaurant, sashimi -- strips of fish with the rice on the side -- will help you cut down on carbs. If you want to lower your sodium levels, avoid smoked fish like mackerel and salmon, and go easy on the soy sauce and pickled ginger. Or you can satisfy your sushi craving at home, and control what goes into each roll.