Japan has some of the healthiest children in the world. This speaks profoundly about the culture itself, as healthy children become healthy adults and the cycle continues.
The concept of eating healthy has always been around for the Japanese. It was tied together in 1896, when the innovative physician and pharmacist Sagen Ishizuka introduced a Japanese concept known as “shokuiku,” which combines the words for “eat” and “grow.” Shokuiku promotes the idea that parents and schools should educate children about the origins of their food and its impact on the body and mind. This philosophy has deep roots in Japanese culture and is a key contributor to the country’s remarkable child health.
Japanese doctors frequently advise expectant mothers to adopt a well-balanced dietary style called “ichijū-sansai.” This approach centers around a meal featuring rice and miso soup, accompanied by a protein-rich dish and two vegetable sides (such as seaweed or mushrooms) to ensure a healthy supply of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
As children grow, they receive education on healthy eating habits. In 2005, the government enacted the Basic Act on Shokuiku to promote this concept. Some preschools engage children in vegetable harvesting for their lunches, while elementary schools educate them about the sources of vegetables, fish, and other foods.
Bento Box Conversations
Over 95% of Japanese elementary and junior high schools offer a school lunch program designed by nutritionists. Students actively participate in the lunch service process. Additionally, homemade bento box lunches play a significant role in promoting shokuiku.
This not only makes lunchtime enjoyable but also motivates children to try new foods and express their preferences when they discover them in their friends’ lunches.
Choosing Water or Tea over Soda
Water and Sugar free Bartley tea are popular choices among people of all ages in Japan and serve as an excellent alternative to sugary teas and flavored store-bought beverages. This choice not only supports healthier calorie intake but also aids in instilling shokuiku values at home.