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Culinista

What do Japanese babies eat?

64 posts in this topic

I don't have kids, but I've noticed that in America pediatricians are telling parents to introduce their babies very slowly to solid foods, starting with the blandest. Kids eat food that is completely different from what their parents eat until they are at least teenagers. They also seem to drink nothing but sugar--apple juice and then Coke. Most parents assume their kids will not eat fish or seafood.

My cousin's 18-month-old in Japan once came with us to an expensive sushi place, and he demanded-and got-all 4 of his parents' raw Hokkaido shrimp.

I've loved umeboshi and other "difficult" flavors as long as I can remember. I don't remember eating food different from my parents.

That got me thinking. How are Japanese babies and children taught to eat? And what do they drink with their meals? At what age do Japanese start eating rice and raw fish and drinking green tea? Are babies today eating differently from their parents? Maybe it's a modern thing.

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I'm a bit hesitant to specify ages, as it's 10 years and more since my boys were babies, and at that time, solids and juices were being introduced rather earlier than in western countries (but progress thereafter was perhaps slower).

I think that dilute barley tea is probably the first non-milk drink.

Most babies start with the watery part of rice congee, then watery rice congee which is gradually made with less and less water. A wide variety of grated or mashed vegetables and tiny amounts of white fish are commonly added to this, and then other fish and meats are added. That's what my elder son was weaned on, and he has certainly grown up to eat almost anything.

My younger son suffered "second child-itis" and soon graduated to things like soft-boiled noodles or cooked rice boiled with water (rather than made from scratch congee) with a smaller variety of veges, fish or meat. He's much fussier than my older son, and I've never been sure if it was the food he was weaned on, or his closer resemblance to his deeply conservative Dad!

I think Japanese parents are perhaps more conservative about raw fruit, and definitely more conservative about unheated whole milk or yogurt, and they don't race to introduce eggs either. On the other hand, natto is a baby favorite that seems to be fed to every generation of older babies and toddlers.

Probably after 1 year, Japanese parents are less conservative than western parents - they seems to think more about how hard the food is to chew, and not so much about whether a certain food should not be fed to toddlers under the age of 3, for example. But I'm sure that ideas have changed, and people with younger kids will have more useful comments for you!

However, I think that media assumptions about child eating habits have great influence. Japanese media seems to regard spinach as a delicacy, and kids obligingly agree. However, green peppers are regarded as unpopular with kids, and sure enough, when my kids saw this on TV, they told me they hated them too, and were surprised to hear that they were the very same things they pulled off the plants in the garden and ate raw while digging in the sandbox! I think that Japanese picture books are much more likely to show vegetables or fish, and kids and adults alike look forward to what each new season will bring.


Edited by helenjp (log)

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I don't have kids, but I've noticed that in America pediatricians are telling parents to introduce their babies very slowly to solid foods, starting with the blandest. Kids eat food that is completely different from what their parents eat until they are at least teenagers. They also seem to drink nothing but sugar--apple juice and then Coke. Most parents assume their kids will not eat fish or seafood.

I think you're making some sweeping generalizations about what American kids eat. Recommendations about how to introduce food are due to concerns about allergies, and usually by 9 months or a year, parents are told they can start feeding their kid anything they want, so long as no allergies are present. And lots of parents who don't have a history of allergies ignore those guidelines anyway - hummus was one of my son's first foods.

Certainly there are lots of kids who eat the way you describe - but their parents probably eat nothing but crap either. Kids of parents who eat a healthy and balanced diet will get those foods. Living in a cohousing community, I see a lot of kids eat dinner every night. Some eat what the rest of us are eating, others opt for plainer options. They all love baby carrots and steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes.

My two-year old son really enjoyed the pad thai he had for dinner on Saturday, and loves raspberries with an unholy passion! Most kids do go through picky eater stages, but I think the vast majority are eating regular dinner food well before their teens.


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I'll agree that Culinista is making some sweeping generalizations.

My older kids don't eat like that at all. I was very conservative introducing solids at first due to a family history of food allergies, but once the initial introductions were over, they were eating table food most of the time.

My kids don't get a lot of juice and soda. Of course they like the stuff, but more often they get milk (or soy milk in my daughters case) or water to drink.

My kids are 8, 6, 3 and 3 months old. The 8 and 3 year olds have food allergies, and the 3 month old isn't on solids yet.

My kids have fairly adventurous palates. My 8 year old loves sushi (dinner last night for him was an order of maguro nigiri, an order of kappa maki and a bowl of miso shiru), aged cheeses, asparagus, artichokes and brocolli, my 6 year old loves fruit, Vietnamese style BBQ and sausages, and my 3 year old daughter adores spicy food. The 3 of them love fish.

These are kids that don't know what bologna is, who think those Kraft cheese slices aren't worth eating, and who prefer roast chicken over a chicken nugget any day.


Cheryl

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How are Japanese babies and children taught to eat? And what do they drink with their meals?

My kids (7 and 4) typically drink milk or water with their meals. They only get juice on special occasions or when we have guests over, and NEVER soda or pop. I think this is pretty typical of Japanese kids (my wife is Japanese, I'm Japanese-Canadian).

I do agree that a lot of parents give their kids too much juice. Although it might be all-natural, that's still a lot of sugar to be chugging down. To my mind, the taste of juice interferes too much with the flavor of your food, especially certain Japanese foods where the flavors are pretty subtle and unadulterated. Hiyayakko with juice? Grilled fish with juice? Ohitashi with juice? No thanks.


Edited by sanrensho (log)

Baker of "impaired" cakes...

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Kids eat food that is completely different from what their parents eat until they are at least teenagers.

Not sure what you're basing this on, but speaking from experience, my 17 month old daughter eats more or less what my husband and I eat. Last night for dinner, she had the same tandoori chicken that we had. Today for lunch she had tomato soup, and tonight she will have turkey sausage with some pasta. And included at every single meal are either 2 vegetables or 1 vegetable and 1 potato/starch side dish. Plus, she eats fruit at all 3 meals as well. I give her mostly water or milk to drink, with the occasional cup of diluted apple juice just for a change.

Does she eat the occasional chicken nuggets or hot dog? Yes, because I work full time and sometimes it just works out that way.

Recently I was in a Japanese restaurant here in NY with my husband, daughter and in-laws and I requested and appetizer portion of beef negamaki for my daughter. The waiter said to me "are you sure that you just don't want to get her an order of chicken nuggets and fries?". I'm sure he was quite surprised when I declined and, believe me, my daughter ate every bite of the negamaki, mashed potatoes and broccoli.

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I would say in general Japanese children tend to be less picky than American children, food is so ingrained into the culture here. It is hard to explain you just have to be here to see it. :biggrin:

My 3 were all weaned here, over a period or 5 to 10 years ago. I have noticed quite a few changes in the past years. When my oldest was a baby I was pushed to give her diluted teas and juices at 2 months and to start trying solids around 4 months. Things seem to be slowing down quite a bit now and most places suggest weaning closer to 6 months with aditional liquids not needed. You will almost never see babies drinking milk or water here though.

Weaning is divided into 3 general stages: early, middle and later

Here are some samples of foods fed at each stage

early (5 to 6 months)

middle (7 to 8 months)

later (9 to 11 months)

12 to 15 months  is the graduation from weaning and the foods are almost the same as an adults. From this age on most children eat regular table food.


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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Yesterday I was at Baskin Robbins with my kids, when these little 3 year old-ish twin girls came in with their mother. They ran up to the counter one screaming for matcha (green tea) ice cream and the other screaming for coffee flavor.

I was thinking to myself that in the US motst 3 year olds wouldn't even know what these flavors were...


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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And what do they drink with their meals? At what age do Japanese start eating rice and raw fish and drinking green tea? Are babies today eating differently from their parents? Maybe it's a modern thing.

My kids (9 and 6) usually drink milk with their meals, which is something people of my generation didn't do in their childhood. For me, the combination of rice and milk just doesn't sound right. Drinking milk after a meal or with a snack is perfectly alright, though. On other occasions, they have a choice between milk and barley tea. My wife and I seldom buy juice. They can't drink green tea yet because it contains caffine.

When our first child was smaller, we tried to feed him with additive- and MSG-free foods as much as possible, but not any more.

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Very interesting. How does a baby react to the first taste of natto? I can't remember the first time I had it myself.

Pediatric advice really changes a lot across time and cultures. Have there been changes to Japanese kids now that they are drinking more milk than their parents did?

There are picky eaters everywhere, as well as kids who eat anything. One of my Japanese cousins refuses to eat fish or green vegetables.

And Hiroyuki, milk+rice=rice pudding :raz:

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Very interesting. How does a baby react to the first taste of natto? I can't remember the first time I had it myself.

Pediatric advice really changes a lot across time and cultures. Have there been changes to Japanese kids now that they are drinking more milk than their parents did?

There are picky eaters everywhere, as well as kids who eat anything. One of my Japanese cousins refuses to eat fish or green vegetables.

And Hiroyuki, milk+rice=rice pudding  :raz:

Reaction? Natto is just like any other food for one-year olds. I don't recall any particular reaction when I first fed my children with natto.

Believe it not, natto is a favorite of many children throughout Japan, and my children are no exceptions. My son, in particular, used to eat one pack of natto every morning when he was two to three years old.

Milk was recommended as a healthy drink when I was small too. It's just that my two children drinks more milk than I did in my childhood and probably than many other children of their ages. Like someone else said, I'm sometimes surprised to see how readily other parents allow their children to drink sweet drinks.

Well, when a Japanese refers to "purin", he/she almost always means pudding made from milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. :raz:

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Reaction?  Natto is just like any other food for one-year olds.  I don't recall any particular reaction when I first fed my children with natto.

Believe it not, natto is a favorite of many children throughout Japan, and my children are no exceptions.  My son, in particular, used to eat one pack of natto every morning when he was two to three years old.

Ditto here. My kids can eat natto every day. In fact, it's something of a comfort food. If they don't feel like eating what's being served, they'll often ask for natto to eat with their rice.


Baker of "impaired" cakes...

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[Natto is just like any other food for one-year olds.  I don't recall any particular reaction when I first fed my children with natto.

Believe it not, natto is a favorite of many children throughout Japan, and my children are no exceptions.  My son, in particular, used to eat one pack of natto every morning when he was two to three years old.

Slightly off topic... but a Japanese friend of mine recalls with great distaste the natto sandwiches (natto on white bread!) that were served for lunch regularly at her junior high school cafeteria. She is not a natto fan, nor am I, but our husbands (hers, Japanese, mine, American) love it!


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Natto is considered a difficult to acquire taste among non-Japanese. If I have a kid someday, I'll make sure they are introduced to it early :wink:

I'm also surprised at the number of non-Japanese who don't like azuki-based desserts. Are Japanese bean dishes really so much more difficult than raw fish ones??

Hiroyuki, here in England, I've discovered that any dessert is pudding, as in, "What's for pudding?" (Answer: "Ohagi!") It's now one of my favorite English words.

I'm developing the impression that this advice to start kids very slowly on super bland foods, coupled with a culture of cooking less and the almost automatic "dumbing down" of food for kids, might be leading to narrower eating habits as they grow. (Obviously this is a generalization, but I think the reaction of the waiter in Cleo's post shows that chicken nuggets are now largely the norm in the population outside the children of eGulleters. The exception does not make the rule, after all.)

The websites that Kristin posted were far more varied in complex flavors and textures than the Gerber baby food/frozen peas regime I'm seeing my friends use. The older kids (about 10) are generally still eating chicken nuggets and hot dogs while the parents make (or order) a separate meal for themselves. Restaurants might also play a role, since the kid-sized portions are all bland, unchallenging foods.

I think there was a study published early last year showing that babies were very receptive to new flavors early on, but became more cautious as they hit the 2s. If this is true, it would make sense to introduce important flavors earlier rather than later, as long as it isn't dangerous from an allergy perspective. Does anyone know if all of these allergy precautions have paid off?

Obviously, you can't explain taste. I consider myself open to just about anything. Bring on the pickled duck embryos, the worm salsas, the boiled pig's snout. But I've always hated eggs :blink:

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I'm also surprised at the number of non-Japanese who don't like azuki-based desserts. Are Japanese bean dishes really so much more difficult than raw fish ones??

That's what I want to know. Anyone?

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I'm also surprised at the number of non-Japanese who don't like azuki-based desserts. Are Japanese bean dishes really so much more difficult than raw fish ones??

That's what I want to know. Anyone?

Speaking as an American, IMO, most Americans just don't think of beans as ingredients for desserts or sweets (whereas fish is fish, whether raw or cooked). So there's the preconception when first hearing the description of the dish.

In addition, many azuki-based desserts have a mealy texture, which many Americans dislike. One can compare azuki beans to chestnut paste in desserts. Most Americans don't like that, either, though Europeans love it.

I enjoy azuki bean desserts, particularly uji-kintoki and various forms of mochi (daifuku, sakura mochi, etc.), but I'm in the distinct minority!


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Speaking as an American, IMO, most Americans just don't think of beans as ingredients for desserts or sweets (whereas fish is fish, whether raw or cooked). So there's the preconception when first hearing the description of the dish.

In addition, many azuki-based desserts have a mealy texture, which many Americans dislike. One can compare azuki beans to chestnut paste in desserts. Most Americans don't like that, either, though Europeans love it.

I enjoy azuki bean desserts, particularly uji-kintoki and various forms of mochi (daifuku, sakura mochi, etc.), but I'm in the distinct minority!

I agree with the issue really being mostly about the fact that they are beans, and beans aren't supposed to be sweet. It would be like making dessert out of corn, which doesn't seem very weird given how sweet and mild corn already is, but we don't do it (unless you count corn muffins, and those aren't really eaten as a sweet).

I really enjoy Japanese sweets of all sorts, but even I must admit that they can be a bit monotonous: how many different combinations of mochi, macha, beans (red, lima, whatever), wheat cake, and chestnut can a person eat?

I'll also point out that a great deal of Japanese food is actually very bland. I prefer to think of the flavors as delicate, but in fact things like rice and sashimi and udon and tofu are very bland and typically don't have very assertive textures. They're paired with condiments and pickles and so forth, but these are not necessarily any stronger than their U.S. counterparts. It's very common for children in the U.S., even non-eG offspring, to like very strongly flavored foods like lemons and dill pickles and ketchup.


Can you pee in the ocean?

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Well, honestly, many Americans aren't even exposed to the idea of beans used in a dessert. If you were to walk up to nearly any non-Asian person in the US, and ask about beans being used in a dessert, they would likely have never heard of such a thing, and give a disgusted look.

For many (but not all) of those that actually try it, it is just too different from what they're used to to enjoy it.

Many people just have such horrendous eating habits. I have known people, much to my disgust, who will put ketchup on nearly everything, or won't even season something while they cook. Some people simply have low standards, or aren't willing to try anything new. I've known some people who are so afraid to try anything new that they would not even think of eating a roast duck. I had once roasted a couple ducks (for a social event) and found a couple people in the party who wouldn't try it, because they had never tried it before :huh:

Of course, I'm not trying to generalize the entire American population. These are just some behaviors one sees at times.

As for therese's question: "how many different combinations of mochi, macha, beans (red, lima, whatever), wheat cake, and chestnut can a person eat?"

My answer, for me, is as many as possible! :biggrin:

This isn't really that big of a deal though. Western sweets often tend to do the same thing, using a rather small group of ingredients or flavors over and over again.

And I really wouldn't say Japanese cuisine is bland either. It has flavor. The issue is that what many Americans have is "condiment taste", in which they have to season/cover things too much with condiments to the point that the flavor of the main ingredients are overpowered, and no longer clear. I know people whose idea of eating fish is dipping it in a heavy batter with seasoned salt, deep frying it, and dipping it in a combination of strongly flavored condiments and lemon. When I see them doing that, I have to ask, "what was the point of having fish if you can't even taste the fish?" These same people will pour tons of shouyu over rice without a thought, and complain when something doesn't have enough spice, even though not everything needs a handful of hot peppers in it! ( :hmmm: I've had to cook for some very annoying people at times)

Japanese cuisine tends to focus on the actual taste of the ingredients used, instead of covering them up.

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And I really wouldn't say Japanese cuisine is bland either. It has flavor. The issue is that what many Americans have is "condiment taste"...Japanese cuisine tends to focus on the actual taste of the ingredients used, instead of covering them up.

I think I may not have communicated my point very well here. I don't mean that Japanese cuisine is bland, I mean that Japanese base ingredients are bland. Every bit as bland as mashed potatoes and pot roast and steamed cabbage. I'd say that Japanese taste is also very condiment-driven, as condiments serve to accentuate and compliment the flavors of the base ingredients.

As for the roast duck, if you'd also never eaten duck, and had not only ever thought of duck as food but rather as pet or cartoon character associated with Easter, then you also might not be immediately receptive to the idea of it as food. Many people in the U.S. won't eat rabbit because they have strong associations with rabbits as pets. Horse and guinea pig are similarly problematic, and insects of any sort are considered bizarre.

We eat what we're taught to eat, which brings us back to Culinista's original query about the diet of Japanese infants and young children. From what I can see it appears to be about as variable as the diets of infants and young children in other affluent areas of the world.


Can you pee in the ocean?

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[...]In addition, many azuki-based desserts have a mealy texture, which many Americans dislike. One can compare azuki beans to chestnut paste in desserts. Most Americans don't like that, either, though Europeans love it.[...]

Most Americans don't like chestnut paste in desserts? How do you figure? I suppose most haven't had a chance to try chestnut paste in desserts, but once they do, how could they dislike it? I really don't understand that.

As for red beans in desserts, I like them, but when you bring up chestnut puree, red bean paste doesn't stand a chance. :raz::laugh:

Seriously, though, I figure that almost any kind of bean can be good in a dessert if the dessert is well made. Yes, I could even imagine a good string bean dessert. Why not, when there's a wonderful traditional Nicois dessert, tourte aux blettes, which features savoy cabbage.

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Uh Pan,

tourte aux blettes is made with Swiss chard (blettes are Swiss chard). I recently came across a couple of other desserts using Swiss chard, and have now forgotten where they were cooked (Romanian cuisine??). I agree that tourte aux blettes does taste good.

However, there is a type of strudel filling I've read of that is made with sweetened cabbage, and an Indian milk-based dessert (the idea of which, I must admit, I find somewhat less attractive) featuring reduced milk, sugar, and boiled cabbage.

And green peas turn up in both Japanese and Indian sweets.

On the topic of azuki beans in sweet foods - I think it is the idea rather than the taste that upsets people. I know some people who will happily eat Chinese sweet sticky rice dumplings filled with bean paste, but won't touch Japanese desserts featuring beans. Perhaps because the latter is visible and the former not?

And, as was stated upthread, if you think about it, most Western baking centers around flour, eggs, milk, sugar, just recombined in umpteen different combinations, and with a few different flavorings added here and there. So, IMO, this doesn't really differ in principle from centering sweets around sticky rice flour, beans, chestnuts, and green tea.

But this is all quite a different subject from the original question. I'm very grateful to Kris for the links she gave earlier. I've bookmarked them for my own future reference!

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I'm going to chime in here like Cleo. I'm in the US. My 18 month old eats whatever we eat. As we were introducing solids, I made my own baby food using a kit from Fresh Baby - www.freshbaby.com. Until she was about a year old, she only had organic, either home made or I found the Gerber Tender Harvest stuff to be incredibly yummy and more convenient while traveling. She's never had juice which I consider to be wine for children - all calories, no nutrition (Note: I'm a big wino, but she can chug on junk food when she's old enough to pay for it herself). She loves home made pizza, bread, and her favorite treat is peas.

I'm not psycho, organic Mom, but not everyone is feeding their 10 month olds Happy Meals. Considering the growth of the organic baby foods segment in the US, I don't think I'm alone.

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To get back to actual Japanese baby food.... :biggrin:

In the US most of the prepared baby foodds came in jars, though it has been years since I have even looked at it so it may be completely different now. In Japan jars make up a very small part of the baby food market.

For younger babies just starting on weaning many of the foods are in powder form to be mixed with the liquid of choice. These are often sold in small packs of about 1 tablespoon and are perfect for testing that first taste or for mixing into other foods. Many of the teas and juices also come in powder form to be mixed with hot water (and then cooled a bit).

Some examples of the powders.

As the babies get a bit bigger the prepared foods consist mostly of retort packed foods, freeze dried (to be mixed with hot water) and jars.

Some examples of the retort pack foods.

here are some examples of freeze dried food, I know there are some more meal type like products but I am blanking on the baby food manufacturer's names.... :hmmm:

Japanese baby food definitely uses a lot more fish than the American ones do, they also add liver to quite a few of the products.


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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Uh Pan,

tourte aux blettes is made with Swiss chard (blettes are Swiss chard).[...]

Ah well, Swiss, Savoy, what's the difference? :laugh:

Now, how did we get on that tangent in the first place? Never mind...

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We feed our 7 month old son pureed rice, mashed veg like broccoli, carrot, spinach and daikon (horseradish) along with steamed ot boiled white fish like haddock or cod once a day. Then maybe a bit of stewed apple and banana if he's still hungry. I wouldn't wish Natto on the little fella just yet !

My wife (who's Japanese BTW) and I wont let him near any pots of shop-bought baby food, a recipe for hyperactivity if you ask me as they're all around 25% sugar & salt.

Our health visitor has insisted he eats what we eat but we will keep going with the Japanese way.

There's a reason the Japanese are one of the healthiest people in the world. !!!


11..11

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