3 Eating Rules Japanese Mothers Teach Their Children

Dacy Knight
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Nora J. Tejada/Getty

We're all ears for proven parenting tips picked up from around the globe. French mothers have taught us the importance of speaking to children like adults to bolster maturity. Dutch mothers have demonstrated the utility of a predictable routine. But when it comes to exploring what contributes to the longest lives and healthiest lifestyles, we look to Japan to see what's at work when raising children. British medical journal The Lancet has identified Japanese parents' management of meals and food as one of the key reasons Japanese children have the highest life expectancy. As Inc. highlights, Japanese children "can expect to live to age 73 with no major illnesses or disabilities, and to have an overall life expectancy well into their 80s," a significant leg up on their American counterparts. 

To better understand the parenting strategies practiced by Japanese mothers, Inc. tapped the wisdom of Naomi Moriyama, a writer who grew up in Japan but now lives in New York with her husband William Doyle, with whom she co-authored Secrets of the World's Healthiest Children. Keep scrolling to discover three of the most important eating rules Japanese mothers practice with their children.

Use smaller plates. Portion control is a significant part of mindful eating. Moriyama writes, "Simply give your larger serving plates a break (put them up on the highest shelf) and serve meals on smaller plates, like the side, salad, bread plates, you already have.

Involve your kids in cooking and prep. Making your children a part of the process increases their appreciation of food and instills healthy habits early on. Many American families eat on the go or in front of the television. Make meal time an experience by preparing food together and sitting down as a family. "Eating family meals together is a practice that many families around the world, including in Japan, are finding harder and harder to pull off," Moriyama writes, "but it is a goal worth striving for, because the potential health benefits for children appear to be huge."

Choose healthy, low-density foods. While you don't need to adopt a Japanese diet to get on board with the health benefits, you can take a cue from the types of foods they serve. "Serve more plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and healthy fats," Moriyama writes, "like heart-healthy omega 3-rich fish, and less processed food with added sugars and salt. This food pattern is relatively low in calories, high in nutrients, and more efficiently filling by being lower in calorie density or 'calories per bite.'"

For more parenting inspiration from around the world, check out the three eating rules French mothers teach their children.

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