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Scenes from a Japanese Restaurant

It is impossible to ignore the fact that Japanese men and women, according to the World Health Organization, live longer than any race on earth and even more impossible to notice their 3% obesity rate (Americans have a 32%obesity rate!) With a diet high in fish, vegetable, legumes and rice and with most cooking preparations involving steaming or simply raw, there is much we can borrow from the Japanese approach.

Best Choices:

  • Start with Edamame- steamed soy beans in pods that are packed with fiber and protein.
  • Miso Soup is also very low in calories and the tofu adds more protein.
  • Sashimi- raw fish is your highest protein, lowest fat option. Choose salmon, tuna, yellow tail, shrimp or whatever fresh fish of the day (omakase) the chef is preparing. I prefer white rice on the side with sashimi but brown rice is often an option- the calories are the same with brown rice carrying slightly more whole grains.
  • Sushi- raw fish served on a small bundle of rice- is a good low-fat choice as well but be mindful that each little bundle packs approximately 25 calories each which can add up quickly.
  • Stick with the simpler rolls: cucumber or raw tuna, shrimp and yellow tail rolls are best.
  • If you are not a fan of raw fish, check out the soup entrée options, often called Sukiyaki or Ramen. These are usually very large steamy bowls of vegetable, beef, fish, or chicken broth filled with steamed veggies, chicken or fish, and some noodles. Low in fat, big in flavor and portion size.

Worst Choices:

  • Tempura- no matter how light it looks and tastes, tempura means deep-fat fried. Do not fool yourself- only tempura can turn a plate of raw innocent vegetables into a dangerous high-fat plate of food.
  • Complex Rolls that are made with cream cheese, anything crunchy (read fried) or mayonnaise. The spicy rolls are all made with mayonnaise, so avoid or limit the quantity to 1 roll. Pass on the avocado which can also jack up the calories and fat in any roll.
  • Eel Rolls or Sushi (Unagi) is one fish that is usually not served raw. It is very high in fat and is broiled with a sweet sugary sauce, so best to avoid or limit the quantity. Inari as well is sweetened rice served in a fried tofu skin and therefore high in sugar and calories.
  • Think of the light, ultra smooth Sake as liquid rice. Made from fermented rice and high in sugar, Sake carries 230 calories per 5oz portion. (Wine or light beer at 120 calories for the same portion is a better option).
  • Japanese food, after you have incorporated soy sauce, can make for a high-sodium meal. Unless sodium is a health concern due to high blood pressure, balance the excess sodium with a lot of extra water to reduce any potential bloating.

While moving to Japan to take advantage of their longer life spans might not be realistic, there is much to learn a lot from their style of preparation and food choices, not only to enjoy while eating in a Japanese restaurant, but also to incorporate in our own home-cooked meals and choices.

Bon Appetit!    ボナペティ

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