Home Family Early Childhood How an American Living in Japan Unlocked the Secrets to Raising Healthy Kids

How an American Living in Japan Unlocked the Secrets to Raising Healthy Kids


Raising healthy kids is not just a matter of luck; it often comes down to how we teach them to relate to food. In a nation that’s seeing a surge in childhood obesity rates, we might have a few things to learn from Japan, a country that boasts some of the world’s healthiest children.

Emily Thompson, a Boston native and mother of two, moved to Tokyo a decade ago. What began as a two-year stint turned into a lifelong journey of learning the Japanese way of raising healthy, adventurous eaters. Unlike conventional diet plans or food philosophies, her approach focuses on a simple principle: teach your kids not just to eat, but also to understand food.

The Importance of Early Awareness

Emily emphasizes starting young. She recalls how, when her first child was born, her Japanese friends introduced her to the balanced meal philosophy. Unlike the Western focus on convenience, Japanese meals prioritize balance: grains, proteins, and a variety of vegetables.

Schools in Japan further this understanding. Emily notes that field trips to farms are a common part of the educational curriculum, encouraging kids to know more about where their food comes from.

Lunchtime as an Educational Platform

Emily points out the importance of the bento box culture in Japan. A bento box is not just a lunchbox; it’s a nutritional lesson packed in a box. Children are encouraged to share their thoughts about what’s inside their bento boxes, which fosters a dialogue about good food habits and allows children to develop a diverse palate.

Moreover, these homemade bento lunches often consist of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Emily explains that this practice highlights the importance of eating what’s in season and teaches children about sustainable living.

Making Smart Choices in Everyday Life

In her own home, Emily has adopted the Japanese practice of batch cooking. She prepares nutrient-rich staples like pickles and freezes fruits and veggies. This approach helps her to maintain a stock of healthful foods, making it easier to put together balanced meals quickly.

One simple yet effective change Emily made was switching her family’s usual drinks to water or herbal teas. In Japan, sodas are less common, and people often opt for healthier alternatives like herbal teas.

This is more than just a nutritional guide; it’s a holistic approach to understanding food and its impact on our lives. The principles are simple yet effective, focusing on education and choice rather than restriction. And perhaps it’s time we take that advice to ensure that our kids, too, grow up to be healthy and mindful eaters.

Written by
Tara Joshi

Tara is a food blogger and a mom committed to sustainable living. She writes about various facets of family life, including plant-based nutrition, ethical consumerism, and eco-friendly practices for households.

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