The Japanese Diet

The Japanese Diet

Seeing as we pride ourselves on our rich and fascinating Japanese heritage, it’s only fitting that we explore all aspects of Japanese culture and share the abundant principles and philosophies with you. One thing that is integral to Japanese culture is their unique approach to eating. Japanese eating habits are quite different but remain simple, healthy, and nutritious. 

What is the Japanese Diet?

Another name for the world of Japanese cuisine is “washoku” often shows as 和食 with 和食 – 和 meaning ‘Japan’ or ‘harmony, and 食 meaning ‘food’ or ‘to eat.[1] Washoku embraces the blending of ingredients to create a nutritious and delicious meal. Washoku is also characterised by the use of small dishes of fresh, healthy, and seasonal ingredients. 

Essentially a traditional Japanese diet consists of meals that are rich in seafood, plant-based foods, and minimal amounts of animal protein. There is also a minimal integration of foods that are high in sugars and fats. The diet is abundant in steamed rice, fish, tofu, and vegetables to name a few and can also contain some dairy.[2] 

So, how do you start to adopt Washoku into your way of eating? Keep on reading...

Smaller Food Portions

As we mentioned above, Washoku consists of small dishes of fresh ingredients. now you may get scared at the mention of “small”, it’s important to not confuse this with restriction. In the context of Japanese cuisine, these small dishes consist of around 3-7 different small plates of food:

Base food: steamed rice, ramen, or udon noodles. 

Main: Seafood, tofu or small amounts of meat or eggs. 

Soup: Miso soup (try our Sweet and Sour Miso Broth recipe here) or vegetable/noodle soup. 

Sides: Vegetables, seaweed, and/or pickled fruit. 

The use of different plates comes from the idea that eating should be enjoyable and somewhat of an adventure. Think about it, isn’t it annoying when your dry foods blend into your runny foods all on one plate. This style of eating ensures that you can enjoy each food and mix as you please.[3] You can eat in whatever order you feel. Dabble in the rice, then some soup, nibble on the fish, back to soup. Whatever order you like. The use of multiple small plates also ensures you eat in a balanced manner and get all the nutrients and fibres you need.[4]

Healthy Ways of Cooking 

Japanese cuisine also consists of healthy ways/methods of cooking:

Boiling - Boiling has been documented as the best way to preserve nutrients in vegetables in comparison to frying.[5]

Steaming - This allows for all the flavour of what you’re cooking to remain sealed in and reduces the need for added fats during food prep. Steaming cooks and seals in flavour, eliminating the need for added fats during preparation.[6] 

Broiling - Broiling makes sure that less oil which, in turn, reduces the calories in your food. Broiling also melts away some of the fats in meat and fish, making it a healthy cooking option.[7] 

Grilling - Lastly, grilling requires minimal added fats and gives your food a tasty smoky flavour. Alongside this, it keeps meat and vegetables tender and juicy.[8]

This doesn’t mean deep frying is banned and forbidden - just try to make the options above your go-to cooking method. 

A Balanced Diet 

When approaching Japanese cuisine, balance should be at the forefront of your mind. A balanced diet can protect your body against certain non-communicable diseases e.g. obesity and diabetes. Ensuring that you actively try to have a balanced diet and varied diet is an important step towards a healthy and happy lifestyle.[9] A traditional Japanese diet is well balanced with a high intake of fish, vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein. It also involves little sugar and processed foods. Essentially the diet is low calorie and high nutrition. 

Healthy Teas & Desserts

One thing that makes Japanese cuisine so unique is the use of healthy swaps when it comes to dessert. Instead of banning the consumption of sweets (which is what some diets like to do), the Japanese diet encourages the use of healthy swaps. This can be something as simple as opting for a plant-based cake, ice cream or mochi. A typical dessert dish consists of a selection of fruits e.g. strawberries, peaches, and grapes.[10] Another aspect of washoku is tea. We’re not talking about the usual cuppa you have every morning. Tea in this context relates to green tea, jasmine tea, and rooibos tea. It’s important to complement your meal with a healthy tea e.g. Green tea is high in protective polyphenols like flavonoids, catechins and epigallocatechin gallate which are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants have been known to protect your body and play a big part in healthy diets.[11] 

Example Diet Plan

Here is an example of how you can start the Japanese diet today with some delicious ACV recipes. [12]

Breakfast: Sweet & Sour Miso Broth, Rice (steamed), Seaweed Salmon Salad, and Ginger Tea.

Lunch: Onion and Pea Gyoza, Rice (steamed), Vegetables,  Pickled Cucumber Salad, Fruit Selection, and our Pear and Yuzi Tonic.

Dinner: Chicken Udon Noodles with Chicken, Seared Tuna SamishiRoast Shallot Salad, Edamame, Vegetables, Apple & Matcha Sorbet, and Matcha Tea

All our recipes feature our OSU Apple Cider Vinegar which you can find at Amazon. Purchase your own bottle today as the first step to embracing washoku. [13]

Start Eating Healthier

The Japanese approach to eating focuses on minimal process, nutrient-rich, whole foods. It’s heavy on the seafood, vegetables, fruit - and light on the dairy, sugar, and meat. Overall, this way of eating is actually relatively simple to incorporate into your existing diet. Its core embraces healthy swaps, portion management, and flavour enhancement while not being restrictive and redundant. Let us know how this approach eating has helped via our Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.