Kid-Friendly Japanese Food
Healthy Baby Treats
Renowned for its sophisticated presentation, taste and rich nutrients (that we believe are linked to longevity), there's much about Japanese cuisine that fascinates the foreign community. But kids are hard to impress — until you give them these ten special treats...
When traveling with children, food is always a stress factor. What can my kids eat? Will my kids be willing to try new things? Will I have to eat at McDonald’s every day? I am a firm believer in traveling to eat and during one of our recent visits back to Japan, I hoped that my toddler would be able to experience the country with a happy belly. The result: I found that food in Japan is extremely kid-friendly and my 22-month-old son still considers miso and natto (fermented soybeans) to be his favorite.
The thick noodles have a winning texture that my son can’t get enough of. Usually it’s too hot in the broth, so I pull the noodles out into a separate bowl, use a handheld noodle-cutter (from the ¥100 store) and spoon the pieces into his mouth. With the prime ingredients being wheat, water and salt; udon noodles don’t offer a nutritional goldmine and are not a significant source of vitamins or minerals, but they can fill your little one easily and make them enjoy their lunch.
What’s not for kids to like? Egg… good. Rice… good. Easy for toddlers to eat with their hands… good for mommy! Ranks high in all nutrition factors, too, so it really is the golden lunch for toddlers.
Curry & Rice
If your kid is a picky eater like mine, getting him to eat vegetables is usually a pain. Fortunately, he likes the taste of curry, so this dish is the easiest way for me to sneak in some nutrition.
The direct translation of this dish is “parent and child rice bowl” because it features both chicken and eggs. A bit of a morbid name, but provides great protein for kids. The egg is soft and blends in well with the rice. When I make this dish at home, I try to sneak in some veggies as well.
At a restaurant, I ordered some edamame (green soybeans) for myself while waiting for the food. My son whined that he wanted some, so I let him try it. What ensued was getting two more orders, and I hadn’t eaten any of it myself.
I am not a fan of natto. I can’t get past its stickiness and the smell. My husband and son love it. But despite the dreaded smell, natto is a golden health booster — it’s rich in calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin C and magnesium among other minerals and vitamins. So I’m happy that my son likes it. But it is my husband’s job to feed it to him.
Miso Soup (with Tofu, Wakame and Rice)
This is the easiest dinner I can make for my son, and it’s a healthy favorite with good protein and nutritious seaweed. This is also the most widely available dish found in restaurants.
In Japan, I love how I never have to worry about carrying around snacks for my son. If he’s hungry, I pop into a convenience store and pick up onigiri (rice ball), nikuman (steamed bun with meat filling), or senbei (rice crackers). Mommy can pick up a treat, too!
Anpan (Sweet Red Bean Bread)
I try to avoid sweets for my son, but occasionally I’d like some myself. I try to get desserts with red bean because I don’t feel as bad sharing it with my kid (red bean cakes are not as sweet as other desserts, and I figure it has some protein from the beans). Plus, it’s pretty cute the way he eats and enjoys it.
Tabeko Animal Biscuits
My son is obsessed with these buttery Japanese animal crackers. Each cracker has the shape and name, in English, of a wide variety of animals. If you want your little ones to learn Japanese, you can look on the back of the box for translations. Other flavors include nori (edible seaweed, which tastes great but is very messy), and coconut (which is pretty sweet).
All of the above foods are convenient to have at home, find at stores and order at restaurants. As my son grows up, I can’t wait for him to try more Japanese foods to love and appreciate.
Have we missed anything? What is your kid’s favorite Japanese treat?