Poke is a Hawaiian dish that consists of raw fish mixed with an umami sauce served over rice. It’s become a popular dish over the years with many restaurants serving build-your-own poke bowls and is often seen as a healthy option for a meal.
While poke is undeniably delicious, is poke healthy?
Poke is a very healthy dish given that it’s predominantly made with protein and generally seasoned with low-fat sauces. On average, a serving of ahi tuna poke is 421 calories with 33 grams of protein, 12 grams of fat, and 44 grams of carbs.
However, there are key tips that must be followed to ensure eating poke helps with your weight loss goals or general fitness goals. This article will show you how you can make your own poke bowl.
💭 What Is Poke
Traditional Hawaiian poke typically consists of ahi tuna poke served as is or over a bed of rice.
In recent years, build-your-own poke shops have spread in popularity, allowing customers to customize their own bowls with their own protein choices, sauces, and mix-ins.
A typical poke bowl consists of small, bite-sized pieces of raw fish, commonly tuna, although other seafood such as salmon or octopus can also be used. The fish is marinated in a savory sauce, which usually includes soy sauce, sesame oil, and various seasonings like onions, green onions, and sesame seeds. Additional fresh ingredients like avocado, seaweed, cucumber, and other crunchy veggies may be added for flavor and texture.
The dish is often served as a bowl or salad, with a base of rice, mixed greens or even zucchini noodles, and the marinated fish placed on top. It has become popular due to its fresh flavors, healthy ingredients, and customizable nature.
🍏 How To Make It Healthy
A serving of tuna poke with a serving of rice is only 421 calories with 33 grams of protein, 12 grams of fat, and 44 grams of carbs.
Given the high protein content from the tuna, mindful topping choices, and a portioned amount of rice, this is a very healthy dish that is well-balanced with macronutrients.
Here’s what I did to make this healthy poke bowl:
- Used 4 oz of raw tuna, a great lean protein option, and the typical fish that is used in traditional poke.
- Portioned 1 serving of rice, which is only 150 calories.
- Portioned the shoyu-sesame dressing to be only 75 calories
- Opted for lower-calorie mix-ins, such as seaweed salad, portioned amounts of avocado, and green onions
For a detailed breakdown of each ingredient, their portioning, and how they make up the nutrition profile of this healthy poke bowl recipe, you may refer to the table below:
🐟 Choose the Right Fish
Poke can be served with a variety of fish options, including tuna, salmon, yellowtail, octopus, and shrimp to name a few.
For purposes of keeping fat content low, I would recommend picking a low-fat protein option. Most of the fish mentioned above would be a great option. The only one I would be cautious with is salmon. While salmon is healthy, it is relatively high in fats due to its fatty acids, which while healthy fats, can make it easy to overconsume calories. A 4 oz serving has 235 calories with 23 grams of protein and 15 grams of fat.
A classic favorite is tuna, which is quite lean and is the classic choice for poke and a great source of protein. A 4-ounce serving contains 124 calories with 28 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat.
I also really enjoy yellowtail, also known as hamachi, as a protein base. A 4-oz serving only consists of 164 calories with 26 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat.
It’s also key to use fresh fish that is “sashimi-grade”, as consuming raw fish also comes with certain risks. To learn more about the different types of raw fish, or sashimi, check out my healthy sashimi guide.
🍲 Use the Right Sauce
Using the right sauce is essential to making poke lower in calories.
Certain sauces, such as spicy mayo or sriracha mayo, have a whopping amount of calories due to their high usage of high-fat ingredients such as mayonnaise. For example, one tablespoon of spicy mayo sauce has a whopping 90 calories with 10 grams of fat.
For the purposes of keeping calorie count low, choose a healthier option such as a soy-based sauce.
Some examples of popular sauces:
- Shoyu sauce – A popular poke sauce that combines soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar.
- Ponzu sauce – A citrus-based soy sauce that combines soy sauce, mirin, and lemon. You can buy pre-made ponzu sauce at most Asian grocery stores.
- Korean Style – A sweet and savory Korean-style sauce that combines soy sauce, bonito flakes, and other aromatics that are often used to marinate raw seafood in Korean cuisine. This is not commonly used at Poke restaurants but is a great sauce option if you’re making poke at home.
Regardless of which sauce you choose, all of these recipes involve combining soy sauce with additional seasonings and aromatics, resulting in a delicious sauce that is minimal in calories.
🍢 Be Mindful of Additional Mix-Ins
Poke bowl restaurants also give you the option of adding many additional mix-ins, including but not limited to imitation crab salad, seaweed salad, avocados, fresh fruit etc. To keep your poke bowl lower calorie and macro-friendly, opt for vegetable toppings and try to stay away from toppings such as crab salad, which are high in fats and carbs. Avocados are also okay, but ideally at a portioned amount given its high-fat content.
🍚 Add a Portioned Amount of Carbs
Rice is commonly eaten with poke to provide a base to soak up the delicious umami flavors of the dish. However, it's important to portion the rice mindfully as carbs can easily add up calorie-wise if not portioned correctly, hindering progress towards your fitness goals.
You can opt to use either brown rice, white rice, or sushi rice. The macronutrient profile for both are relatively similar so it’s really your personal preference.
Here’s it’s key to use a portioned amount of rice to not overeat calories.