6 of the healthiest Japanese snacks for your kids and you

By Kirsty Kawano, Savvy Tokyo

Snacking used to have a bad name, but that changed with the emergence a few years ago of the concept of healthy snacking. Under that idea, eating a small portion of food between meals that is high in fiber and protein can boost your energy and overall nutritional intake and help you avoid the overeating that results from hunger attacks. It aims for intentional eating rather than chowing down on empty calories.

Here we fill you in on some particularly Japanese foods that you can try with your kids to add a bit of cultural adventure to your snack time. After all, culinary courage is an important part of teaching your child wise food habits – you just don’t know how good something is until you try it.

We’ve steered well away from processed foods to focus on some traditional ingredients in Japan’s venerable and longevity-boosting diet.

1. Almond fish


Nuts are probably the most popular healthy snack in Western countries, and you can easily find them here too. But for a bit of local flavor, and an extra burst of calcium, try almond fish. It’s a crunchy combination of cut almonds and small, dried – usually slightly sweetened – sardines.

Manufacturer Kyoritsu Foods says a Hiroshima fisheries company created this snack in the mid-1980s to boost children’s calcium intake after some kids were breaking bones when practicing the vaulting horse in school sports classes. Almond fish spread throughout Japan after it was introduced to school kyushoku or catered lunches.

You may also see snack packs of just the little fishies which will contain fewer calories than the almonds.

2. Soybeans


Soybeans are one of the best sources of plant-based protein, are high in fiber but low in carbohydrates. They are used to make tofu, and are a backbone of Japanese cuisine and culture.

Edamame (枝豆): These are immature soybeans, usually still in their pods. Edamame are a quintessential summer snack here – particularly due to their compatibility with beer – but boiled, salted edamame are available all year round in convenience stores and in the frozen section of supermarkets. In supermarkets, you might see them sold as cha-mame or dadacha-mame, which is a tastier variety of edamame.

Having to pop these out of their pods helps slow down fast eaters and will help boost your child’s dexterity. The easiest way to get them into your mouth is to place the pod to your lips and with fingers of each hand push your target bean from behind to shoot it straight down the hatch.

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© Savvy Tokyo

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A fine article, much better than a certain sensationalist Japan blog/news site I could mention.

The roasted soybeans are really good and yes, 100 yen shops like Daiso are the best supply outside setsubun season. I think they are the same stuff as the kinako powder that is great on mochi or ice cream.

Conversely, the article mentions konnyaku as healthy, but those little jellies are full of sugar and little different to jellies made with gelatine. Gelatine is actually about 95% protein, so it is not unhealthy. I cycle a lot and actually like sugary things like gummis as fuel, but they will make you fat when you are inactive, and will rot your teeth (konnyaku jellies too due to the sugar) regardless of how active you are. Athletes who neck loads of glucose gels have to really watch their teeth.

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"those little jellies are full of sugar and little different to jellies made with gelatine"

Konnyaku contains virtually zero calories, no sugar, fat, protein, gluten or carbohydrates. What it does have is high quantities of a fiber that the body cannot easily digest.

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If only those products have also English names, at least the name of the product, then would be lot easier for tourist to buy it from small store. Economy grows by millions smoothly.

Btw, didn't know sweet potato skin is edible because all the veggies under the soil should peel the skin.

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I would argue against soy beans if they are industrially grown in the U.S , Brazil or any other large scale producer. The reason being that they are a GMO crop designed to resist Monsantos Roundup. There is double threat in this product. 1. They are a transgenic modification. 2. They are loaded w glyphosphates. I would encourage you to research the effects these on humans and the resulting lawsuits that Monsanto is facing.

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Btw, didn't know sweet potato skin is edible because all the veggies under the soil should peel the skin.

Nope. Most root vegetables do not have to be peeled, all they need is a good wash. Most of the nutrients are in the skin. Potato skins are delicious and nutritious.

You don't have to peel apples, grapes, peaches etc neither.

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