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What can we learn from Japan?

Welcome to the first of our regular blogs from Claire Turnbull, HFG nutritionist and managing director of Mission Nutrition.

I recently had the great fortune of heading to Japan for a week for work with Dr Joanna McMillian (an amazing dietitian from Australia) and wow, what an experience!

Other than sampling some amazing local cuisine, drinking sake and soaking up the massive cultural differences, I picked up some really interesting healthy habits which I think we could all learn from here in New Zealand. In the next two blogs I plan to share with you my top 10 tips for what we can learn from the Japanese… so, here is round one!

STOP eating on the run

In the whole time I was in Japan, I seriously don’t think I saw a SINGLE person eating or drinking anything while they were walking, driving, on the train or on the go. The Japanese seem to take the time to sit down and eat their meals, even if it is just five minutes. The great thing about this is that when you take the time to stop and eat, you become more aware of what you are putting in your mouth and get to enjoy it. The other thing is that they inherently end up eating less overall because they aren’t able to shove something into their mouth every second minute.

Keep up your fluids

In Japan I noticed people were really good about drinking lots of water, green tea (hot and cold) and other unsweetened non-alcoholic drinks. It is very common to believe you are hungry when you are actually really thirsty, so keep up your liquids to stop this from happening.

Let’s make more healthy choices available!

Head to a sports stadium here in NZ and what will you find? A pie? Hot chips? Hotdogs? When I was in Tokyo, I went to a baseball game and yes, there were a few unhealthy options there to buy, but there was also sushi, noodles with veges and soups – yum! Let’s get this started, people!!

Fresh greens all round

Green veges are NOTHING but fabulously good for you, packed with vitamins galore and boy, they really know how to make green veges taste amazing in Japan. Stock up on your veges, especially greens, as from today – if you can, get growing them yourself, too. I have kale, spinach, silver beat, sprouts and broad beans on the go at the moment and I am just loving them.

Look after your insides!

The Japanese have a culture which encourages self-responsibility and a need to look after yourself and your health and well-being. One aspect of this is your gut health. In Japan, Dr Shirota discovered that a healthy gut leads to a healthy life and his work lead him to develop a probiotic drink packed with good bacteria which is now well-known all round the world – Yakult. This drink helps achieve a good balance of bacteria in your gut which is super important to make sure you are able to absorb all the goodness from your food, keep your immune system in tip top shape, as well as to keep things moving nicely through your system! From what I have learnt, my advice is to get yourself some probiotics today – there are some fabulous products on the market and the importance of a healthy gut is not to be underestimated!