Eating at a Japanese steak house can be a heart-healthy experience. Most dishes in these restaurants are prepared with a minimal amount of oil, which makes them lower in fat and calories. Knowing what to select at Japanese steak houses can help you stay on a nutritious track, even when you eat out.
The majority of Japanese steak houses are designed in the teppanyaki tradition. This means that the food is prepared on a steel griddle (called a hibachi) at the table by a chef who has been specially trained in the art. Some teppanyaki restaurants serve only the grilled dishes that can be prepared on the griddle, while larger restaurants also have a sushi bar and a separate hot food menu. Nutritious choices abound at these spots because the food cooked on the hibachi is generally prepared using little oil and fat.
Japanese steak houses generally offer a wide variety of proteins, including fish, shrimp, scallops, beef and poultry. Beef is the highest in fat, while the other options tend to be leaner. Grilled vegetables are generally also included in these dishes; they are cooked very quickly and therefore have little time to absorb their cooking oil. These vegetables tend to be low in fat and calories, and maintain their nutritional value while cooked because they are served slightly crunchy. If sushi and sashimi are available, they are also healthful options because they contain little sodium and fat. Steer clear of rolls that have creamy sauces, and choose rice-free sashimi if you’re counting carbohydrates.
Most Japanese steak houses begin their meals with a cup of clear-broth miso or vegetable soup. One cup of miso soup has about 40 calories, and a cup of a vegetable-based broth has 10 to 20 calories. However, these soups can be high in sodium. Additionally, entrees at Japanese steak houses are almost always served with stir-fried rice or noodles, which are high-carbohydrate offerings. The oil used to cook the rice and noodles increases their calories and fat, and the soy sauce added to them increases the sodium content. For a healthier alternative, request steamed rice with your meal. Brown rice would be best, as it is a complex carbohydrate that has more heart-healthy fiber, but white rice is also an appropriate choice if brown is not available.
Portion sizes at teppanyaki restaurants are usually very large. If you opt for the traditional hibachi fare, the menu usually includes at least four heaping courses. Even when choosing the more healthful hibachi options, the calories add up quickly. To make the most of the nutritious offerings at Japanese steak houses, share a plate with another person in your group. If that is not possible, ask for a takeout box and pack away at least half of your entree before you begin to eat it. This will keep you from becoming distracted by the chef’s showmanship and consuming more calories than desired.
If the teppanyaki restaurant has a set menu in addition to the hibachi dishes, there will likely be a variety of cooking styles available for meat and vegetables. Tempura, katsu and agemomo dishes are all battered and fried and contain more fat and calories than items cooked on the hibachi. Meat that is prepared in the yaki-mono style is grilled, while yaki-style items are broiled. Nimomo dishes are simmered in water or broth. Yakitori meat is skewered, then grilled, while teriyaki items are marinated in a soy-sauce-based liquid, then grilled. Being aware of cooking styles can help you make more nutritious choices; for example, yaki-mono dishes are generally lower in fat and calories than fried items.
- American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide; Roberta Larson Duyff; 2006