Is Sushi Keto-Friendly?

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Jennifer Olejarz

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Sushi is one of the most popular foods. 

However, as a rice-based option, many people following a low-carb diet might stay away from it to prevent it from affecting their ketosis levels. 

While sushi is not a keto-friendly option, there are some modifications you can make to include it in your ketogenic diet. 

In this article, you’ll learn everything about sushi and keto. Its main nutrition facts, are you allowed to eat it, how much can you eat, what kind can you eat, and alternatives for you to try. 


What is sushi?

It is a popular Japanese dish made with rice and fish (sometimes seafood). While in most cases, fish is served raw, some variations serve cooked fish. 

While you might think that the raw fish is the main component of sushi, what matters is how the rice is prepared. 

Sushi rice is medium-grain white rice that is prepared with rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. Unlike other rice preparations, this gives the rice a sticky and sweet texture. 

The dish is accompanied by soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. You dip the piece of sushi in the soy sauce (which you can put a pit of wasabi for some spiciness), and the ginger serves to clean the palate between different rolls. 


Sushi nutrition facts

The nutrition facts vary depending on the type of sushi and the ingredients used. In this case, we will analyze the most traditional roll with the California roll made with rice, crab meat, and cucumber.  

  • Serving size: one piece (30 g)
  • Calories: 28
  • Fat: 0.2 g
  • Net carbs: 5.2 g
  • Total carbs: 5.5 g
  • Fiber: 0.3 g
  • Protein: 0.9 g

As you can see, this dish is not exactly low in carbs. Only one piece has 5.2 g of net carbs. This means that if you eat a roll with six pieces would be eating 31.2 g of net carbs. Not exactly keto-friendly, right?

On top of that, it is not a significant source of protein and fats. So, you might need to do some modifications like adding an entre with protein, vegetables, and fats to help balance the dish. 

Finally, make sure to opt for low-sodium soy sauce to avoid overconsuming sodium. This can lead to water retention and an increase in blood pressure. 




Are you allowed to eat sushi on keto?

No, you are not allowed to eat traditional sushi on keto. 

It is high in carbs, low in protein, and very low in fat. On a low-carb diet, you need to consume 70-80% of your calories from fat to provide your body with enough energy. 

However, one of the advantages of this Japanese dish is that you can modify it. For example, add avocado and cream cheese if you want to increase the fat content. 

On the other hand, if you need to increase the protein content, you can add more salmon, tuna, or any other type of fish.
Finally, regarding the carb content, you can always choose to substitute regular rice for cauliflower rice. This can significantly reduce the carbs you get from this dish and make it more keto-friendly. 


How much sushi can you have on a keto diet?

If you are having traditional sushi, one piece might be enough when following a keto diet. But let’s face it. Who is going to be able to only have one piece?

To have more, make sure to replace rice with cauliflower rice (as mentioned before). If you make this substitution, you can have 1-2 rolls since it won’t have a very large carb intake. 


What kind of sushi can you have on keto?

As seen before, traditional sushi is not allowed on a keto diet. However, some types are low in carbs, making them ideal to have on a ketogenic diet. 

Here are some examples of options you can choose that won’t affect your ketosis levels. 

  • Sashimi. It is sliced raw fish and meat. This means you don’t get any carbs, making it an ideal option. 
  • Naruto. Instead of rice, you use thinly sliced cucumber. 
  • Cauliflower sushi. Instead of rice, you replace it with cauliflower rice, making it a better low-carb option. 

As for the types of rolls you can choose, make sure to go with those that are not tempura, don’t have any sweet sauces, and don’t have any carb options (like plantain or mango).
Here are some of the best rolls you can choose while staying low-carb:

  • Tuna roll
  • California roll
  • Salmon roll
  • Spicy tuna roll 
  • Rainbow roll




What can you eat with sushi?

Since it is high in carbs, low in protein, and low in fat, you can add these macros to help balance the dish. 

For example, you can order a salad with some salmon and avocado to increase your protein and fat intake. 

You can also order some sashimi, which is fresh raw fish or meat slices. This can help increase the protein content of the meal. 


Keto-friendly sushi alternatives

If there is no keto-friendly sushi option, you might want to consider other low-carb dishes to prevent affecting your results. Here are some alternatives for you to try whenever you are going to a Japanese restaurant. 

  • Salad with chicken
  • Edamame
  • Sashimi
  • Miso soup 
  • Yakitori

Remember to ask for low-carb options and check with the waiters if any of the sauces they use contain any honey or sugar.


FAQ about sushi on a keto diet

If you still have questions regarding this popular Japanese dish and the ketogenic diet, here are the most frequently asked questions. 

Sashimi is the best option since it is just slices of raw fish or meat. This means that it provides you with zero carbs. You can also have Naruto, which is when they use thin slices of cucumber instead of rice. 

Traditional tempura is not keto-friendly because it uses wheat as one of the products for the batter. However, some restaurants offer keto-friendly tempura batter. This can be a great way of consuming more vegetables for the meal. 

Imitation crab might not be the best to eat. It is highly processed, and sometimes they add sugars to modify the flavor. This means that not only are you getting protein, but you might also be getting some carbs. 

Sushi might not be the best option for weight loss because it’s high in carbs, low in protein, and low in fat. This means that it might not be very filling, but in the end, you might end up consuming a lot of pieces to feel full. 

However, if the roll has a larger piece of protein (shrimp, salmon, tuna) and is lower in carbs (using cauliflower rice), it might be a good option when you are trying to lose weight. 

You can use any seafood on a ketogenic diet. Fish like salmon, tuna, and halibut don’t have any carbs, and they are high in protein, and some of them are high in fats. You can also use seafood like shrimp to provide you with protein in the dish. 

Pickled ginger is high in carbs. So, technically you should avoid it on a ketogenic diet. However, the amount you eat when eating sushi might not provide you with a significant amount. As long as you consume less than 5-10 g of pickled ginger, it’s ok to have it on keto.