Is a summer roll healthy?

What is a Summer Roll?

A summer roll, also known as a fresh spring roll or rice paper roll, is a Vietnamese dish consisting of various ingredients wrapped in rice paper. The most common ingredients in summer rolls are fresh herbs, rice vermicelli noodles, sliced vegetables, and protein such as shrimp or chicken. The ingredients are rolled up in moistened rice paper into cylinder shapes. Summer rolls are served at room temperature and are meant to be eaten right away, as the rice paper can become soggy if left out too long. They are a refreshing appetizer or light meal, especially popular in summer.

Nutritional Benefits of Summer Rolls

Summer rolls are generally considered a healthy food option for several reasons:

Low in Calories

The rice paper wraps used for summer rolls are made from rice flour and water. Two standard 9-inch rice paper wraps contain about 120 calories. Since fresh herbs and vegetables make up most of the filling, the calories from the wraps form a major part of the total calorie count. Overall, a serving of summer rolls can range from 100-300 calories depending on the specific ingredients used. This is considered relatively low, especially compared to deep-fried spring rolls.

High in Nutrients

Summer rolls are packed with nutrients from all the fresh produce that goes into them. Herbs like mint, basil, and cilantro contain antioxidants like vitamin A and C. Vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and lettuce provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Rice vermicelli noodles add some carbohydrates. Proteins like shrimp, chicken, or tofu can also be added. Overall, summer rolls deliver a nutritious punch of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and fiber.

Contains Healthy Fats

Though low in overall fat content, the small amount of fat in summer rolls comes from healthy unsaturated fats. The rice paper gets its fat from rice bran oil, which contains omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. Peanuts or cashews are also sometimes used, contributing heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. The edible oils used for dressing the rice paper or rolls also supply beneficial fats.


The rice paper used for summer rolls is made of rice flour and water, so it is naturally gluten-free. This makes summer rolls a good option for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance who need to follow a gluten-free diet. Going gluten-free cuts out many processed foods and encourages more fresh produce.

Potential Drawbacks of Summer Rolls

While summer rolls are generally healthy, there are a few things to keep in mind:

High in Sodium

If using a salty sauce like fish sauce or soy sauce, it’s easy to go overboard with sodium. Too much sodium can negatively impact blood pressure and heart health. Opt for lower sodium sauces or use them sparingly.

Contains Additives

Store-bought or pre-made rice paper may contain additives like sulfites to preserve freshness. Those with sensitivities may want to stick to fresh rice paper.


Making summer rolls requires gathering a lot of ingredients and spending time assembling them. The time commitment could deter people from making them regularly at home.

Difficult to Make Vegan

Many traditional summer roll recipes call for shrimp. While tofu can substitute, making completely vegan summer rolls requires more creativity and effort.

High in Carbs

The rice paper and noodles provide a good amount of carbohydrates. People monitoring their carb intake will want to watch their portions.

Tips for Making Healthy Summer Rolls

There are several ways to tweak summer rolls to make them as nutritious as possible:

Use Raw Vegetables

Cooking vegetables can deplete some of their vitamin and antioxidant content. Using raw vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, and cabbage provides maximum nutrients.

Load Up on Herbs

Fresh herbs like cilantro, mint, basil, and chives give summer rolls flavor and pack in vitamins A, C, and K. Use them liberally.

Choose Whole Grains

If using vermicelli noodles, choose brown rice noodles instead of refined white noodles to get more nutrients.

Add Spicy Sauce

Spicy chile sauces can boost metabolism. Sriracha, chili garlic sauce, or sambal oelek lend heat without many added calories.

Use Lean Protein

Chicken breast, pork tenderloin, shrimp, or extra-firm tofu add filling protein without excess saturated fat.

Swap Peanut Sauce

Peanut sauce is high in fat and calories. Opt for low-fat ginger, lime, or soy sauce-based dressings.

Cut Added Sugars

Skip sweet chili sauce, hoisin sauce, and other dressings with added sugars. Stick with savory sauces to avoid spikes in blood sugar.

Watch Portions

Stick to 1-2 summer rolls as an appetizer, or 3 for a light meal, to keep calories reasonable. Large servings quickly add up in calories.

Balance with Veggies

Fill up half your plate with non-starchy vegetables like salad greens, broccoli, or asparagus to balance carbs and add nutrients.

Healthy Summer Roll Recipes

Here are some nutritious summer roll filling ideas and recipes to try:

Shrimp Summer Rolls

– Shrimp
– Rice vermicelli noodles
– Red bell pepper, julienned
– Carrots, shredded
– Cilantro
– Lettuce
– Mint
– Rice paper
– Lime juice
– Low-sodium soy sauce

Tofu Veggie Summer Rolls

– Firm tofu, cubed
– Carrots, shredded
– Cucumber, julienned
– Cabbage, shredded
– Cilantro
– Thai basil
– Rice paper
– Peanut sauce

Chicken Summer Rolls

– Chicken breast, cooked and shredded
– Rice vermicelli noodles
– Bell pepper, sliced
– Carrots, shredded
– Lettuce
– Cilantro
– Basil
– Rice paper
– Fish sauce
– Lime juice

Spicy Tuna Summer Rolls

– Tuna, flaked
– Rice noodles
– Cucumber, sliced
– Carrots, shredded
– Cilantro
– Sriracha
– Rice paper
– Lime juice

Should You Eat Summer Rolls on a Diet?

Summer rolls can be part of a healthy diet for weight loss, but portion control is key. Some guidelines:

– Stick to 1-2 rolls as an appetizer or snack
– For a meal, have 3 rolls plus non-starchy vegetables
– Load up on fresh herbs and veggies in the filling
– Avoid fatty, sugary sauces
– Measure sauces and limit to 1-2 tablespoons
– Choose brown rice noodles over refined noodles
– Fill half your plate with greens or other non-starchy veggies
– Avoid deep-fried spring rolls and opt for fresh summer rolls

Summer rolls are very low in calories on their own. Where you can run into trouble is with high-calorie dipping sauces, oversized portions, refined carbs from white noodles, and fried spring rolls. As long as you minimize these pitfalls, fresh summer rolls are a smart choice for weight loss.

Should You Eat Summer Rolls on a Low-Carb Diet?

Strict low-carb diets like keto limit carbs to 50 grams or less per day. For low-carb diets with a less extreme carb restriction of around 100 grams per day, summer rolls can potentially fit into your meal plan in moderation. Some tips:

– Use lettuce leaves or cucumber slices instead of rice paper
– Skip the rice noodles entirely
– Load up on non-starchy veggies for the filling
– Stick to just 1 roll and pair with a low-carb protein like grilled chicken
– Avoid sugary dipping sauces; opt for lime juice or hot sauce instead

The rice paper and noodles do contribute a significant amount of carbs, so summer rolls don’t work well for stricter low-carb and keto diets. But with some modifications, they can be an occasional lower-carb option.

Are Summer Rolls Suitable for Diabetics?

Summer rolls can be part of a diabetic diet, but portion control is important. Here are some tips:

– Stick to 1-2 rolls max per meal
– Avoid sugary sauces
– Fill with non-starchy vegetables which won’t spike blood sugar
– Pair with lean protein and healthy fats
– Choose whole grain brown rice noodles
– Look for low-carb rice paper options
– Spread carbs throughout the day
– Monitor blood sugar before and after eating
– Avoid deep fried spring rolls

The combination of rice paper and noodles provides a good amount of carbohydrates, so reasonable portions are key. Focusing on non-starchy fillings can help balance out the carbs. Overall, fresh summer rolls are a better option than deep fried spring rolls for diabetics.


Summer rolls are generally a nutritious option, as they are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from fresh produce. They do contain a fair amount of carbohydrates, so portion control is important, especially for weight loss, low-carb, and diabetic diets. With mindful preparation and reasonable serving sizes, summer rolls can be part of an overall healthy diet. Emphasize fresh vegetables, herbs, and lean proteins in the fillings, and go easy on the higher calorie sauces and fried options. Homemade summer rolls are ideal for maximizing nutrition. In moderation, fresh summer rolls are a light, refreshing, and nutritious choice any time of year.

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