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The healthiest options at Japanese and Sushi restaurants

Tamara Willner
Written by

Tamara Willner

Medically reviewed by

Fiona Moncrieff

4 min read
Last updated June 2024

Eating out at restaurants is an enjoyable social experience that you shouldn’t have to miss out on for the sake of your health journey. Many people worry that going to restaurants or cafes always means overindulging, however, it is possible to eat healthily when eating out.

Whether you’re looking for a fresh takeaway option or a delicious dine-in experience, Japanese is a popular choice. Japanese restaurants offer a range of dishes which are generally considered to be healthy, however, some items on the menu can be high in carbohydrates. 

But why choose lower carb?

Science suggests that a reduced carbohydrate diet is the most effective diet for weight loss. Lower-carb diets are particularly effective for those who struggle with blood glucose control (for e.g. people with type 2 diabetes). On top of this, eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables (e.g. cucumber or edamame), protein (e.g. meat or fish), and healthy fats (e.g. avocado) has many health benefits.

It is also completely ok to enjoy a treat, or a higher carbohydrate option, when you really want one. The important thing is that this isn’t a frequent indulgence, and you focus on finding the motivation to get back to your healthy habits afterwards. 

To save you time and stress, our accredited dietitians at Second Nature have gone through the menu of several Japanese restaurants and picked out some healthier options. Not all the options are strictly low-carb, but provide the most balanced meals on offer. Vegetarian options are marked with a (v). 

Please note that as options have been selected across several restaurants, some may not be available at your specific locality. 

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Lower-carb meals

These options can be included as part of a lower-carb eating plan. However, they need to be enjoyed alongside additional food items to ensure they are a balanced meal (see key below)

  • Miso soup*^ 
  • Sashimi^
  • Edamame^ 
  • Agedashi tofu^ 
  • Wakame salad* 

*Add protein to create a balanced meal
^ Add vegetables to create a balanced meal

Higher-carb meals

These options are slightly higher in carbohydrate content. Consider enjoying alongside vegetable side dishes like edamame beans and wakame salad to create a balanced meal. 

  • Sushi – 3 pieces of sushi contains ~15g of carbohydrate (around 1 SN carbohydrate serving). We recommend choosing fresh fillings, rather than fried, such as: 
    • Salmon 
    • Tuna
    • Avocado
    • Prawn
  • Nigiri sushi – 2 pieces contains ~15g of carbohydrate (1 SN carbohydrate serving) 
  • Gyoza – 3 pieces contain ~15g carbohydrate (1 SN carbohydrate serving)

Enjoy less frequently

These options are higher in carbohydrates, and lower in vegetables and protein. They may also be deep fried in oil. As such, we recommend choosing these in moderation.

  • Donburi including; teriyaki chicken, tofu, tempura vegetables or chicken katsu, served on steamed rice. 
    • TIP: ask for less rice and extra vegetables to reduce the carbohydrate content and make the meal more balanced 
  • Noodle dishes, including yakisoba stir-fried noodles, and soba or udon noodle soup. 
    • TIP: request that the noodles are served on the side so you can control your portion
  • Fried options, including tempura vegetables and chicken karaage
    • TIP: Teriyaki sauce dishes often contain added sugar, so we recommend being mindful of this. Where possible, choose a dish with soy sauce/no sauce instead.


Once you have chosen a balanced meal, it’s important to focus on your drink option. The drinks on offer at Japanese restaurants include soft drinks, iced tea and bubble tea, which are high in added sugars. To keep your meal lower in carbohydrates, we recommend opting for water. However, if you’d like to enjoy a sweetened drink, it’s okay to do so on occasion.

Second Nature recipe swaps

Another great alternative to takeaways or dining out is cooking your own Second Nature ‘fakeaway’ at home! The great thing about a fakeaway is the recipe can be adapted to make it more balanced, and you know exactly what goes into the meal. There’s a number of recipes on our app that could make a delicious Japanese restaurant fakeaway, including: 

  • Miso soup
  • Naked tofu katsu curry
  • Pork mince ramen
  • Tofu ramen
  • Poke bowl 
  • Asian style chicken soup

Take home message

  • Reduced carb diets seem to be the most effective for weight loss.
  • If you don’t want to indulge, Japanese restaurants offer a number of healthier, lower-carb options.
  • Enjoy sushi, rice or noodle dishes when you really want them, then focus on staying motivated to return to healthy habits afterwards.
  • Be mindful of drinks that contain hidden sugars.
  • Cooking a Second Nature ‘fakeaway’ at home is another great alternative to ordering takeaway.
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