Is Poke Healthy? (7 Steps For Healthy Poke)
Poke is a dish that has become extremely popular all around the world for its simple and delicious flavors that everybody can’t seem to get enough of. Although Poke is delicious, is it healthy?
Poke is a very healthy dish as it usually contains a large amount of tuna and salmon which are packed with protein and great fats. Poke Bowls are also often easy to customize which means there is more control to add healthier, fresher ingredients to the dish.
In this article we will discuss the health benefits of poke and see what we can do to stay in shape while eating our favorite poke meal. We broke it down to 7 tips that you can take which will guide you to order the healthiest poke bowl and keep you in shape. Here are the 7 steps to eat a healthier poke bowl:
Understand What Goes Into Your Poke Bowl
Customize Your Meal To Be Healthy
60% Tuna 40% Salmon
Make Sure Not To Order Too Much Rice
Understand How Many Calories You Need To Consume In a Day
Make Sure You’re Working Out & Building Muscle
Be Active While Eating Poke Bowls
Now that we know our 7 steps, let’s take a look at each one and dive into how we can stay healthy while eating our favorite Poke bowls.
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1. Understand What Goes Into Your Poke Bowl
Poke is definitely a food that has potential to be unhealthy as there are definitely options you can get there that add a lot of extra fat and carbs to your dish that you might not be aware of.
A typical Poke Bowl will have a protein which comes from either salmon or tuna and a base of carbs which is either sushi rice, white rice, or brown rice.
This acts for the formula for a typical Poke bowl; however, there are many different styles that offer different things so let’s get into each of them to see which ones we should avoid and which ones we should always be eating.
There are many different types of poke out there but I’m here to focus on 3 different styles as these represent the subsections of poke that exist all around the world. These 3 different styles are Ponzu Poke, Hawaiian Ahi Poke, & Spicy Mayo Poke. Let’s get into the list and see which one is the best to eat when staying fit.
3. Spicy Mayo Poke
Spicy Mayo poke is definitely one of the most delicious options you can get when you go to a Poke restaurant. It offers a really creamy and spicy flavor from the mixture of sriracha and mayo which goes really well when paired with sashimi grade tuna and salmon.
I haven’t seen a single Poke restaurant that hasn’t had this option on the menu as this one is definitely one of the classics that became popular all throughout LA. I give Spicy Mayo Poke the credit for making Poke a staple dish in America’s diet; however, is it the best to eat this option while staying fit?
Let’s take a look at its nutrition facts and see what goes inside a typical Spicy Mayo Poke. These macros are based off of this recipe (1).
In one bowl of Poke you get 34 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbs, and 31 grams of protein. Not bad for how delicious Poke is but the issue with this meal is the amount of fat that you get from the mayo.
You should never have more fats than you have protein as fats are the highest macronutrient out of the three. We should always be aiming to have high protein meals that carry a 1:1 ratio with carbs and a 3:1 ratio with fats.
You can easily overeat on your fats while eating this dish so our tip here is to make sure that you minimize the fats by ordering all tuna as there is no fat in tuna. It’s a bit of a sacrifice but you can easily save on 5-7 grams of fat which is much needed in a dish as fatty as this.
Our other tip is to just eat the dish without the mayo and go for the other two options on this list that focuses on traditional ingredients without the added fat from mayo.
2. Ponzu Style Poke
Ponzu is a sauce that comes from Japanese cooking and is made out of a combination of rice wine, citrus, mirin, and dashi. It has an awesome flavor as it has so many components to it. When you add Ponzu into your Poke bowl expect to have some sweet, bitter, and savory flavors added to it.
It really adds a depth to the dish without adding calories which I am always a fan of when I endeavor to eat healthier. Unlike the Spicy Mayo style of Poke, Ponzu focuses on sauces without fat while adding a ton of flavor and delicious aromas to a typical Poke Bowl.
This has to be my favorite style of Poke and is my go to option whenever I go out to get my Poke fix. The issue is not all places serve this style of poke so you’ll have to either make it at home and really search for it when you’re out and about. Here is a recipe you can try that is pretty simple and easy to make (2).
Now, let’s take a look at the nutrition facts and see the calories that are based off of that recipe.
For every 8 grams of fat, there are 53 grams of carbs and 33 grams of protein. This is a major difference when eating Poke as there are 26 less grams of fat in this dish. You should always go for this dish in my opinion as its flavors really just rely on the freshness of the tuna and the amazing flavors of the sauce.
Whether you make this dish at home or find a restaurant that makes it, you have to try this out and transition to making this your go-to order.
1. Hawaiian Ahi Poke
Hawaiian Ahi Poke is the most traditional form of Poke that features soy sauce, sesame oil, and green onions. It’s what all the recipes for Poke are based off of and is the cheese pizza of Poke if you will.
I love this dish and, behind the ponzu style, this comes as a close second. It’s savory and simple which means you get to focus on the awesome flavors you get from the ahi tuna. Typical Hawaiian style poke does not have salmon inside so you’ll need to add that on if you’re a big fan of salmon.
What’s great about this dish is that it is consistently delicious and equally consistent in its calories. Here is the recipe that we based the nutrition facts on (3) so let’s take a look at what goes inside a typical Ahi Poke dish.
For every 15 grams of fat, there are 46 grams of carbs and 31 grams of protein. This is a great meal as there is less calories than the rest and there is a good balance of all three macronutrients.
There is more fat in this dish but it comes from great sources such as sesame oil which has a ton of health benefits when eaten raw. It has the least amount of carbs out of the three and a high protein count which makes this great for your weekday meals.
When we talk about healthy poke, we are really talking about Ponzu based poke or any Hawaiian style poke. Our tip here is to focus on the top 2 Poke styles and ditch the mayo when eating Poke. You don’t need it!
2. Customize Your Meals To Be Healthy
Poke is usually served cafeteria style which means you can choose what goes into the poke and control the amount of each element that makes the Poke what it is. There are three sections that you can choose from which will determine the calorie count of your bowl so let’s go over the three components.
Veggies & Fibers
The rule of thumb that I always like to go for is to get as many greens into my meals as I can. Green vegetables are often the vegetables with the least amount of calories and high amount of fiber. Fiber is great when dieting as it allows us to be satiated without having to consume too many calories. This is such a good trade off when you’re eating at a deficit of calories as you can stay full and sane when hunger strikes. We’ll go over this a little more in section 5 but, for now, let’s just focus on the green veggies.
The only thing to watch out for here is to make sure not to add a ton of avocado or guacamole to your meal. I’ve been to a lot of places where they add some extra avocado and guacamole which are fine to eat as long as you are mindful of how much fat you are eating in your day.
Don’t cut out the avocado, just make sure to eat it in moderation.
There are really three options you can get here which is white rice, brown rice, or no rice (salad). There are so many articles that say brown rice is better than white rice but the macros are virtually the same with the exception that brown rice has fiber while white rice does not.
The trick here is to focus on moderating the rice. Some places can really pile on a big heaping scoop of rice so make sure that you’re getting 1 cup or 1.5 cups maximum. It can be really easy to overeat on carbs which is where it gets its bad reputation.
When carbs are eaten in moderation, however, they are totally fine to eat and, I would actually like to argue, that it is necessary when living a fit and balanced lifestyle. Just don’t overdo it on the carbs!
There are usually 3-4 protein options when you get Poke which are going to be tuna, salmon. Shrimp, or spicy tuna. All of these are honestly great options and, if the restaurant allows, I would actually try my best to get some extra scoops in.
You want to aim for 4-6 oz. of protein minimum when eating as this will ensure that you get 30-50 grams of carbs within your meal. Protein is one of the hardest supplements to consistently get so add extra fish would be a great opportunity to get it and get that balance.
If you want less fat in your meal then you should definitely choose the tuna or spicy tuna as tuna has hardly any fat and is a very lean cut of fish. When I’m deep into my cut and am getting to the low body fat percentages, tuna is always the option for me.
Watch out for these three and make sure to follow our steps if you really want to get the most out of your Poke meal. It’s a great place to get your protein in an opportunity for you to balance out the nutrition towards your favor.
3. 60% Tuna 40% Salmon
This is definitely the ratio I like to follow when I’m out looking for a healthy meal. There’s really nothing wrong with salmon, I just feel I can save on fats as tuna has such a small amount per oz.
When you eat Poke, you get a lot of fats from the sauce as many places put sesame oil and vegetable oil in the mix to get a really bright and deep flavor to the meal. This is totally fine but I want to make sure that I’m staying lean and sticking to my diet.
If we compare Salmon to Tuna then you can see that there is a lot more fat than present in the Salmon. Let’s take a look at the nutrition facts and compare 3 oz. of both cuts of fish.
For every 3 oz. Tuna has 0 (0.4g) of fat for every 20 (19.7g) of protein served. For every 3 oz of Salmon, however, there are 5 (5.4) grams of fat for every 17 (17.4) grams of protein served.
Salmon is definitely the leaner fish and has more protein per serving that protein does. This is the reason why I focus on the 60% tuna rule as I get a bang for my buck in terms of nutrition and healthy eating.
Fats are really the enemy when it comes to Poke so minimizing any chance you can is a great strategy to getting an awesome and nutritious Poke meal. If you’re someone that has an even lower fat count in their diet, then there’s no harm in going 70,80 or even all tuna in your poke.
4. Make Sure Not To Order Too Much Rice
We went over this in section two where we controlled the portions of what we can choose in our meals but I think it deserves a section of its own. This step is the only step in this process where I believe some sacrifice is required.
There’s nothing like the combination of sashimi and rice so I’m always so tempted to keep adding on to the standard portion of rice they serve. Most places give extra rice for free so the option is even more tempting and even pulls you by doing this.
This section is to just remind you to keep that 1 cup of rice rule when eating Poke. A cup of rice contains 54 grams of carbs which is perfect in comparison to the fats and proteins present in the meal. Going any higher than that can make the meal fattening which is not what we want when we eat our Poke.
Poke is meant to be healthy and is such a good meal for any fitness goal you have. Unless you’re trying to gain weight and bulk up, you should try to refrain from adding too much rice as this will take away from your other meals and makes for high potential to overeat on your daily carb intake.
Section 4 is here to just tell you to be strong. It’s funny and dramatic but it’s not as easy as it looks.
5. Understand How Many Calories You Need To Consume In a Day
When you understand how many calories you need to consume in a day, you get a larger variety of foods that are available to you as you just need to fit the food into your day. If you take Poke, for example, we know that a typical bowl ranges from 400-600 calories.
For example, If you need to eat 1800 calories a day to lose weight, then all you have to do is fit those calories into your day and make sure not to go over your calorie range. Putting a number on your day allows you to translate your food into a goal so this is definitely something that I recommend everyone do.
Now the question remains, how do you know how many calories you should eat in a day? The answer is through trial and error and seeing which calorie range results in a 1-2 lb. weight loss per week. Anymore than that and you’ll be starving yourself which is not healthy at all.
A good place to start, however, is to multiply your bodyweight by 12 or to use an online calculator (4) to get a rough estimate. These are both very inaccurate but they provide a good place for you to start tracking your calories!
Whatever number you get from that calorie range will need some adjustments which you have to figure out on your own. If your weight does not drop, then just drop your calories by 100 per week until it does. You will eventually find the number and, once you do, you have to stick with it for a long time.
After you get this number, the process is simple as you just have to just fit in your favorite foods while making sure that they’re whole foods with a balanced macronutrient ratio (protein, carbs, and fats).
Now, when you need to know how many calories are in a typical Poke meal, then you can just come back to this article and take a glance at what you can fit in your day. If you want a more in-depth article on how you can figure out your Daily Calorie Range then make sure to check this one out!
Now that we know about how many calories we need to consume in a day, let’s take a look at the importance of working out and building muscle.
Tip 6: Make Sure You’re Working Out & Building Muscle
Muscle is crucial when you want to stay lean and get in shape. The reason for this is because muscle burns calories at rest which means you burn more energy throughout your day. This allows us to consume more calories while still losing weight which is an awesome reason for you to start lifting some weights.
When you eat a meal like Poke that is high in protein and packed with nutrition, you want to make sure that it goes to building and retaining muscle.
Fitness and wellbeing means to actively look to workout which is something that is hard to do if you haven’t ever been to the gym. If you are someone that works out and is reading this article, then power to you and I encourage you to get stronger!
However, if you are new to working out, then here is an article that you can look at which outlines a simple workout plan that you can follow with ease.
There are so many benefits to building muscle as it not only helps you look great but keeps you nice and lean while fighting the potential to gain fat. Let’s make sure to get your workouts in for the week and keep building that muscle.
Tip 7: Be Active While Eating Poke Bowls
This is a tip that sounds obvious but can be really hard to accomplish if you live a working life. So many of the people I work with have jobs out in LA where they commute and have work to do at a desk or computer.
Many of us live very sedentary lifestyles here in Socal so we have to seek out some extra movement in the day and utilize the food we ate. I know that we got off on a bit of a tangent but staying fit requires more than just your diet.
Our tip here is to make sure you have at least an hour a day where you can get some movement in. Whether that’s a brisk walk, a workout, a yoga session, or your favorite aerobics class, we’re all for it!
Eating something like Poke is great but you can get a lot of carbs and fats from the meal. When you move less in your day there is a high chance of storing those carbs and fats as excess energy. You can combat that by making sure that your day is full of movement and activity.
Our recommendation is to try and burn 1,000 kcals every week through means of cardio along with the workouts that we’ve mentioned in the section above.
There are two types of cardio we can do which come in the form of LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). There is a time and place for either of these but you want to make sure that you have a 80/20 split in regards to LISS/HIIT respectively.
The reason why the split favors LISS is due to the fact that it is trackable and consistent while HIIT is taxing on the body and requires rest throughout each day. HIIT is great but a consistent effort to burn calories is much more valuable in the long run.
So, in conclusion, let’s get moving and fill your days with workouts and exercises. This way we can combat a sedentary lifestyle and get our bodies to utilize all those great calories we get from our favorite foods.
There It Is!
In this article we went over the healthiest Poke options and what you can do to stay fit while eating all of your favorite foods. Poke is a great option when you are dieting as long as you avoid the higher fat options filled with Mayo. Focus on getting the 60/40 Tuna and Salmon split and make sure to eat your greens.
You also want to be working out and moving throughout your day so you can utilize those calories you get from your Poke meal.
If you like this article and want to read more about healthy Asian foods, then make sure to check out our other blog posts where we discuss more diet tips and healthy habits.
Phillip Pak is a fitness expert who has been training clients for 5 years. Throughout his fitness journey, Phill has done it all when it comes to diet and nutrition. He is now the owner of Aspire Fitness Walnut where his main goal is to help those who are seeking to find the best version of themselves. He’s been through the struggle of obtaining an good physique and knows how to share it with others.