What To Order At Itsu, According To A Nutritionist

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From classic sushi to sashimi and soups, Itsu is always high on our list for a quick and easy lunch. To find out how to make a healthier choice, we asked two nutritionists to evaluate its menu…
Photography MARTIN R LEE / ISTOCK

Korean Chicken Rice Pot

VERDICT: Made with brown rice, which is a good source of energy-boosting vitamin B6, and green vegetables, which are rich in magnesium to counteract fatigue, this is a good all-round lunch option. “This dish offers a good punch of protein and fibre, and brown rice is always a better choice than white as it will keep you full for longer,” says nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr. “Edamame beans are also a low-GI food, meaning they will help to keep blood sugar levels regulated and keep you going until your next meal.”

MAKE IT HEALTHIER: Nutritionist Natasha Evans says this rice pot is the perfect post-gym refuel, but if you haven’t clocked a workout, add in some extra healthy fats and protein to keep you full for longer. “Pair with the salmon sashimi box, which provides extra veg in the form of seaweed and edamame, protein from the salmon and healthy fats from the fish, which will keep you ticking over until dinner.”

Chicken Teriyaki Rice Pot

VERDICT: “This has a better ratio of carbs to fat and protein, and also much less salt and sugar than the Korean pot,” adds Natasha. “It also has more plant diversity, which can support a healthy gut microbiome.” With 31g of protein and 10g of fibre per serving, it’ll keep you full all afternoon, and the addition of brown rice packs more fibre and magnesium than white rice.

MAKE IT HEALTHIER: Add in more colour, says Clarissa. “Green vegetables are fantastic for our health, but diversity is key. Pick up a side salad to go with this, or some carrot sticks for a beta-carotene boost. Swapping the teriyaki sauce for soy will lower the sugar content of the dish, too.” Go one step further and hack your blood sugar response to the meal, says Natasha. “Eat the veg first, then the chicken, then the rice. Eating in this order can reduce a blood sugar spike by 75%, which help with mood, cravings and energy levels later in the day.”

Klean Katsu Rice Pot

VERDICT: A healthier version of the classic katsu curry, this is a surprisingly balanced option, says Clarissa. “It’s nice to see a katsu dish that isn’t fried, and one that features grilled chicken breast instead of breaded chicken. Grilled chicken is a great low-fat protein option, which can enhance feelings of fullness and contribute to lean body mass and weight loss.” Natasha is also a fan of the addition of miso, which contains beneficial bacteria to support the gut microbiome. 

MAKE IT HEALTHIER: With just over 550 calories, this may not fill you up for very long, Natasha continues. “If you work out a lot, add your own pre-cooked chicken or a couple of hard-boiled eggs. Half an avocado could also add a dose of healthy fats, which will keep you full for longer.”

Veggie Gyoza Noodle Pot

VERDICT: If you’re looking for a veg-rich lunch option, this gets the nutritionists’ vote. “Between the fresh vegetables, the veg in the gyoza and in the mushroom broth, there are more than 15 types of plant food in each serving, which is great for your gut,” Natasha continues. The addition of mushrooms is also good for immunity, says Clarissa.  

MAKE IT HEALTHIER: Swapping udon noodles for a complex alternative – such as brown rice or lentil noodles – would make this a more nutritious option, says Clarissa. “As it is, the noodles are plain white noodles, which means it may not fill you up for very long.” For Natasha, other options containing chicken are a more nutritious alternative if it’s protein you’re after.

Coconut Chicken Soup

VERDICT: With 18g of protein, 26g of carbs and 24g of fat, this is a lower-carb, higher-fat option compared to the majority of other Itsu dishes. “The fat comes from coconut milk, which contains medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat that has been linked to energy and weight loss,” says Clarissa. “Brown rice is a good source of complex carbohydrates and fibre, making this dish highly satisfying.” 

MAKE IT HEALTHIER: “There’s very little veg in this dish,” says Natasha. “Pick up an edamame pot or a salmon sashimi, or bring your own proteins and veg to accompany the pot. If you choose sushi, eat the soup first, so you get some fat and protein in before the carbs from the sushi for more balanced energy levels.”

Detox Noodle Soup

VERDICT: “I’m not sure why they’ve used the word ‘detox’ in the name here – perhaps because it’s very light on calories at just 185 calories per serving. This won’t fill you up – it’s more of a side dish,” says Natasha. For Clarissa, it’s a fairly well-balanced option. “This dish contains a higher volume of carbs (31g) in comparison to the 7g of protein and just 2.8g of fat, which could result in spike blood sugar levels. At the same time, tofu is a great source of plant protein and calcium. Wakame – a type of seaweed – is also rich in folate, which is good to keep energy levels topped up.”

MAKE IT HEALTHIER: “Increasing the protein content of this dish will help to slow down digestion and prevent a post-lunch blood sugar spike,” advises Clarissa. “You could also add some healthy fats, such as seeds, nuts or coconut milk to increase feelings of satiety.” For Natasha, the Chicken Noodle Soup is a healthier and more filling alternative.

Spicy Tuna Rolls

VERDICT: This may look like a healthy sushi option, but it contains less than 8g of protein alongside 43g of carbs, a combination that will send your sugar levels into a spin, says Natasha. “The sushi is also topped with crispy onions that are probably deep fried, so should be an occasional food. At the same time, tuna tends to be a fish that is high in mercury, so don’t eat this dish regularly – switch things up with salmon sushi, too.”

MAKE IT HEALTHIER: If you fancy sushi, Natasha recommends swapping this dish for the Health & Happiness box, which contains 26g of protein.

Super Salmon Light

VERDICT: Rich in omega-3 fats and protein, this is a nutritious option. “Omega-3 fats have been linked to reduced inflammation and lowered blood pressure,” Clarissa adds. “This dish packs a decent amount of protein at 17g but is lacking in fibre and veggies. Unfortunately, 2.7g of fibre isn’t enough for one meal – we should be aiming for 30g per day.” And don’t worry too much about the white sushi rice, says Natasha. “Wholegrain rice is slightly more nutrient dense and is higher in fibre, although the two have similar blood sugar responses. Plus, the addition of the salmon, which is rich in fats and protein, will even things out.”

MAKE IT HEALTHIER: Top up your fibre intake with a side salad or edamame beans, which will also increase the vitamin and mineral content.

Salmon Full House

VERDICT: With 620 calories and 31g of protein and 86g of carbs, this is the perfect post-workout meal. “This is one of Itsu’s more energy-dense options,” says Clarissa. “Again, salmon is a great option as it’s rich in both protein and healthy fats but, as with many sushi options, this dish lacks in vegetables as it’s made with just rice, salmon and avocado. Avocado provides antioxidants and omega-3 fats and they can help us to stay full between meals, but diversity is also important.”

MAKE IT HEALTHIER: “In an ideal world, this sushi roll would be made with vegetables like red pepper, carrot and cucumber,” says Clarissa. “As you can’t make to order at Itsu, pick up a side salad on your way back to the office.”

Sesame Chicken Salad

VERDICT: With chicken, broccoli, spinach, carrot, avocado, red pepper, sushi rice and a fresh sesame dressing, this colourful salad is a top pick for both nutritionists. “This contains at least 11 different plant foods and the ratio of rice to veg and chicken is good,” says Natasha. “The salad dressing is likely to be sugary (most are), but it will add some healthy fats to balance out the dish.” The salad is topped with sesame seeds, which also support cell function, help the body absorb some nutrients and produce key hormones.

MAKE IT HEALTHIER: “A miso soup or one of the chicken broths on the side will make this salad more satiating,” advises Natasha. “A drizzle of olive oil or some added seeds would also boost the nutrient content.”

For more information visit Itsu.com, NENutrition.co.uk and ClarissaLenherr.com

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