Japanese Parenting: How To Train Your Child To Eat Healthy Without A Fuss!

Healthy eating is all about discipline and parenting tactics. The expectation with regards to a child’s acceptance of food may vary from country to country, but the downside to picky eating is universal.

Choosy eaters will grow deprived of nutrients that can only be found in certain food groups. If you let your toddler have it his way, he’ll likely grow up not as healthy and disciplined.

You want to give the best for your child and food can sometimes be the reward. But let me tell you that indulging your child is entirely wrong!

Is this something that you are guilty about?


Picky eating is born out of lack of discipline. If done right, you’ll be guaranteed of stress-free mealtimes. If done wrong, there will be lots of threats and temper flare-ups at the dinner table.

Lenient Americans will willingly dole out kiddie meals and macaroni and cheese; French parents serve their kids whatever comes out of the kitchen, without reservations. Western kids may fuss and make a face when served with greens but Korean children will gobble the same without a second thought, all with heaps of spicy kimchi to top it off.

But one culture seems to have mastered the solution to this silent dilemma with regards to kid food acceptance. With their ease of introducing new food choices, we can learn a lot from the Japanese.


These people have a unique take on enforcing effective discipline and mealtimes are not an exception. Only in Japan will you see young kids munching on slimy eels and bitter greens with pleasure.

What Western kids might call yucky, spicy or cringe-worthy is savored with delight by the Japanese children.

They might be served with hairy seaweed, pungent soybeans, live octopus, spicy wasabi and raw fish eggs but Japanese kids eat all of them just the same.

Japanese are also among the least obese people the world over, owing to their excellent diet.

Is it really possible?

Yes, it is.

The said unpalatable dishes are a usual Japanese staple, even for kids.

How did they make these small children do that? What is it about Japanese parenting that we can learn from?

Common Sense Techniques To Help Your Baby Accept Healthy Foods

1. Choose home-cooked food

Rather than buying highly processed and attractively labeled commercial baby foods, opt to prepare your baby’s meals at home.


Beginning at teething stage, introduce your little one to only the freshest home cooked meals. Bland mashed rice meals mixed with milk is a good start.

Making your baby’s first solid food gives him the best nutrition, minus all the preservatives of popular baby food brands. Do not be swayed by “nutritious, all natural” food claims.

These artificial concoctions are heated and processed heavily enough to kill all microorganisms while deactivating all essential nutrients.

Making your baby’s own food is also affordable in the long run, such a win-win choice that will need just a little effort on your part.

2. Begin early

eating baby

An infant’s food preference begins as soon as he got a taste of his first soft solid meal. A child must be introduced to various healthy tastes even before he turns one year old.

During this early age, stay off from giving your child junk, artificial and fast food. Give this type of food only at an age when the child is decisive enough to make a choice. Feed him only what is whole and essential during his first years of life.

A child’s taste preference and mealtime habits are already set for life by the time he turns three years old. Maximize these first three years by pacing and timely introduction of new foods.

3. Right timing: Introduce new tastes in phases

Begin giving various food choices at baby’s crawling stage or even earlier. It is in this development stage that baby is now physically ready to chew and pass food without choking.

The most important thing to remember is to never bombard your baby’s taste buds with differing tastes all at once. Have your baby experience just a single taste every week.


His first meal on his first week may taste umami-sweet akin to mother’s breast milk. Next week, a little salty taste can be introduced by adding a little salt to his cereal or mashed potatoes.

A few weeks after, let him have a taste of fruity flavors such as banana. Come next week; let him eat sour-sweet through mashed apples, papaya or other available seasonal fruits.

Be patient and consistent with this advice. Experts advise that it takes around 15-20 times of feeding before a child totally accepts a different or new flavor. Remember to do it one at a time.

4. Let baby join the family dining table

baby eats with mom

Socialization is important for the baby. A good way to bond with his older siblings is to let baby eat at the family table, snuggly seated at his child seat. To foster healthy food behaviors, let your little one observe and imitate the family. Give him a spoon of his own and at first, let him make a mess. Mealtime interaction will foster independence and discipline early in a child’s life.

Encouraging Toddlers To Sustain Healthy Food Habits


• Variety

The Japanese thrives not on the volume of food served, but on variety. They rarely eat to completely fill up their stomach, even though they tend to eat at least a dozen different foods at lunch or dinner. A good lesson that we can learn from the Japanese is to introduce a child to eating varying types of dishes at one sitting, and to consume everything that is being served.

• Visual

Young kids are naturally apprehensive about trying out new strange foods. By default, a kid will not eat anything that does look out of the context, due to the ingrained fear of being poisoned.

For small kids, food must first look familiar, so that it can be judged as appetizing. With Japanese mothers, serving food and making lunchboxes for kids is not just cooking but also design and presentation.


With Japanese kids, mealtime is a daily battle of the most beautiful lunchbox. Food is molded, arranged and garnished to look like a panda, a toy or a favorite cartoon character. Simple food arrangement won’t do, being crafty and creative is imperative.

The cutest lunchbox will get the most appreciation, which will encourage the child to eat up to the last rice.

This school lunch box contest will persist until high school and will only stop come college time. The key takeaway on this is: if you want your kid to eat his packed lunch, make an effort to make the contents enticing.

• Shame culture

Japanese people take pride in doing the right things. Reputation is like gold, it is of high value.

A Japanese kid has a strong desire to belong and be liked. Eating out, he takes pride in doing what the adults do. Being the odd man out or failure to conform will mean dealing with everyone’s silent scrutiny.

The Japanese may seem lenient on a lot of things but the fear of shame is strong, it is enough of a punishment.

Western kids might choose to rebel at the dinner table but for Japanese kids, other’s opinion of them is more important.

One thing that we can learn from them is to communicate with our little one the sense of shame and personal responsibility. The meal is sacred, a blessing, therefore they must feel shameful with any food waste they generate.


kute baby

Character building is all about mentoring and guidance. Discipline and good mealtime behaviors go hand in hand, plate per plate. It is all about giving the kid the right motivation come mealtime.

Eating well and developing good food choices is part of character building. It goes together to complement other types of discipline.

Children need all the nutrition they can get during their first years of development, and it’s up to the parents to do that.

Once you have already ruled out food intolerance and allergy, begin to integrate healthy food choices on your child’s daily menu. Molding your child to eat properly is never easy, so save up a lot of time and energy.

Children are born as a fresh canvas and it’s up to us to train them during their formative years. This must be done right; because nutrition and discipline are both building blocks that will determine your child’s future that lies ahead.

Sarah Morgan

Chief editor of WellBeingKid.com and striving mom-extraordinaire.Let me share and inspire you with my daily struggles to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.

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