Counting every carb? Avoiding grains? You may think you have to pass up sushi — but with a few surprising ingredient tweaks, you’ll be chomping with those chopsticks in no time.

Even if you’re a sushi novice, you got this. Sushi is just a fancy burrito cut up in discs — there are no rules, no one to offend if you don’t adhere to the authentic Japanese culinary traditions. And no need to stick to the predictable fish, rice, and veggie combos you find at most sushi joints. Any cuisine can lend its flavors — Mexican, Thai, Indian… the possibilities are deliciously endless!

The 2 basics you need are nori, the sea vegetable sheet that holds the fillings together, and a bamboo sushi mat ($2 to $5), which is the tool you’ll use to roll the sushi up. You can find both at an Asian grocery store, many health food stores, and of course online.

One sheet of nori seaweed, which is predominantly fiber and protein, has five calories (really) and is an awesome source of iodine, which is important for a healthy thyroid as well as optimal metabolism. Nori is also a decent source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. 

Basic Sushi Instructions:

  1. Place 1 sheet of nori on the sushi mat, bamboo spokes going left to right.
  2. Spread the main filling firmly and evenly over the mat, leaving about an inch uncovered at the top (side farthest from you). Traditionally this is the rice layer.
  3. In the middle of the sheet, in a thin line from left to right, place the other fillings, usually fish and/or vegetables, sliced in long thin strips. It’s important to keep the fillings in a neat line so the fillings will all be together in the middle when you slice up the roll.
  4. Starting from the bottom (side closest to you), carefully roll up the nori with its fillings using the mat as a guide.
  5. Brush a bit of water on the exposed part of the nori. Seal the roll and squeeze gently.
  6. Carefully remove the mat and slice the roll into 6 or 8 pieces. 

Now for the fun part — the fillings! Here are just a few ideas to get you started. Remember, sky’s the limit here. Experiment, mix and match, and enjoy. The “dots” are a tiny blob placed on each disc after rolling and slicing. 

All American:

Spread about a cup of cooked, seasoned, cooled off lean ground beef or turkey, on the moist side so it’s pliable. Top with cooked or raw thinly sliced lettuce, tomato, and onions. Dot: garlic aioli or spicy mayo.

Mediterranean:

Smear about a cup of hummus (cold works best, as it’s thicker) and top with cucumber, diced olives (line the cucumber with the olive pieces), and strips of red bell pepper. Dot: feta cheese.

Breakfast anytime:

Find a pan a similar size to the nori. A square pan is a bonus! Fry up a beaten egg (don’t scramble!), flip, and once it’s cooked, allow to cool to room temperature. Place on the nori, and top with thin strips of cooked bacon and/or sausage and strips of cooked onions. Dot: ketchup of course!

Tex Mex:

Mashed up seasoned black beans make up the main layer. Then add strips of ripe avocado or a thin line of guacamole and some salsa or picante. Dot: sour cream or guac.

Magic Sushi:

Using calorie-free shirataki rice (you can find it at some large grocery stores or online), you can follow any sushi recipe you want! Prepare the “rice” according to the package directions, allow to cool, and spread out about a cup or more. Fill with your favorite fish and veggies.

 

by Dina Aronson, MS, RDN

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