Japanese children are considered the healthiest in the world in terms of nutrition

No. 6 Elementary School in Kodaira, a city of 193,000 people in Tokyo Prefecture, shows how this can be achieved.

“The school garden here is a veritable field of green, which is rare in the largest urban agglomeration in the world. The school grows many different crops here, including potatoes and sweet potatoes,” says a report from German television ARD.

“Children should not only know the food from the supermarket,” explains teacher Hideko Magamat, who takes meals at school and regularly accompanies classes in the school garden. For students, each visit is equivalent to a treasure hunt.

Diversity is important

For example, potatoes from one’s own school field are used as a demonstration item in teaching. Then they end up in the pot, because the school, without exception, prepares a fresh lunch every day – for a total of more than 600 children.

“Regularity of meals in itself has a positive effect on children’s health,” says school principal Junichiro Kaito. In addition, working parents will be relieved, they will pay fifty crowns for a meal.

Lunch consists of a combination of different ingredients. It is usually rice. To this they add a separate protein dish – fish or meat – and a vegetarian side dish. A small bottle of milk should not be missing.

The school of Kodaira also emphasizes the balance of individual components. It is always experienced, for example, taro potatoes appear on a plate.

“Tubers are foreign to most children. At school, they get to know foods that they are not used to at home. However, nothing should be exaggerated, they just have to taste it” , explains Hideko Magamatová, adding that the nutritional value is calculated before each meal, in primary school it is 600-700 kilocalories.

“No one should bring food from home – and that’s not even desirable. Because eating from outside, whether from parents or the nearest kiosk, would disrupt school food” , recalls Hideko, another unwritten but essential rule.

Strict rules don’t apply

School lunches have a fixed schedule – children have to serve themselves. It is still eaten in class, primary school students are seated at individual tables, not large, and they are not allowed to talk while eating. This testifies to the strict Japanese notions of order and discipline.

In practice, however, this may not be the case. At Kodaira Sixth Elementary School, it is quite lively to eat, with music playing in the background and the children usually emptying the bowls completely, albeit chatting. Kids help themselves – even first graders.

“Nutrition education also has an impact on families,” says Nahoko Maekda from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture.

What children learn about food also has implications for eating outside of school. “So, for example, the proportion of children having breakfast at home has increased,” he adds.

Not getting enough

Overall, the Japanese have a healthy attitude towards food and consumption. Almost like a sacred honor, the traditional saying: Hara hachi bu, which means to eat eighty percent. And they instill this rule in their children from an early age.

And the way the Japanese serve food also plays a role. Instead of one large plate, they often eat several different dishes from small bowls.

During the day, you have to taste the four flavors – sweet, sour, bitter and salty, eat five different colors and prepare them in five different ways.

One of the great principles of Japanese cuisine is the famous variety on a plate. The food should not only be tasty, but also tempting to wait for, which will be supported by multi-colored ingredients, especially several vegetables.

He tries to follow the rules that during the day you have to taste all four flavors – sweet, sour, bitter and salty, eat flavors of five different colors and prepare them in five different ways.

Unlike in Europe, nutrition entered the school curriculum as a subject in all primary and secondary schools in the island empire. It carries the label of kyusho and its goal is to teach capers to make healthy food choices and positive eating habits throughout life, and to advance high school students in this art.

The school lunch system is said to have originated in the city of Tsuruoka in Yamagata Prefecture in 1889, when an elementary school run by a cleric served rice dumplings, grilled fish and pickled cucumbers to poor students. The movement was recognized and schools across the country began to follow suit.

Food shortages during World War II rendered some schools unable to provide lunches. As poverty began to disappear from the defeated country, school meals provided school children with the nutrition they needed, as they included, among other things, skimmed milk donated by UNICEF’s Children’s Fund and wheat from the United States. Rice dishes did not appear in modern school lunches until 1976.

“Japan thinks school meals are part of education,” Masahiro Oji, the government’s director of school health education, told The Washington Post, “not an interruption.”

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