Shika Kenshin – The Final Menu

Click here for Stage One.

Click here for Stage Two.


The final stage in the shika kenshin was a consultation about food. My daughter was feeling fairly groggy by this point (as was I), but luckily we didn’t have to wait long before being called to the final discussion.

I got an A4 trifold brochure detailing examples of how to keep the daily “rhythm” for feeding my daughter. The consultant had the list of questions I had previously answered prior to the shika kenshin, but she double-checked my answers by asking  me the questions one by one. I won’t repeat them here, because it would simply take too long.

Suffice to say that the consultant was pleased that we gave our daughter three meals a day at roughly the same time each day, in addition to o-yatsu jikan (snack time). She suggested to me that snack time was a very important time of day for young children; the brochure claimed that between 15 to 20% of a child’s nutritionally intake comes from snacks, so we should focus on healthy snacks such as fruit.She directed my attention to the various plastic-looking food samples set up on a table at the front of the room, which I looked at on the way out. From the list of suggested daily food amounts and types, however, I knew before even examining the sample food display that the amount would be simply too much for my daughter.

I’ll reproduce the “example amount of food in one day for a 1 to 2 year old” below:

300 grams 3 bowls of rice (or 3 slices of bread)

40 grams 1/2 a potato (obviously, Japanese potatoes are fairly small)

5 grams 1/2 a tablespoon of sugar

10 grams 1 teaspoon of butter/margarine or 2 tsp of “salad oil”

30 grams 1/3 a “slice” of fish

“as appropriate” 1 tsp of jako (whole little fish about 1 to 2 cm long)

40 grams 2 tablespoons of hikiniku (ground meat) or 1 “piece” of “raw meat” (whatever this is?)

30 grams “1/2” an egg (how does one measure a half an egg?)

30 grams 1/2 a pack of natto (sticky rotten soy beans) or 1/8 a “block” (cho) of tofu

300 grams 1 “bottle” (240 ml baby bottle?) of milk and 1 “tub” of yogurt or 1 slice of cheese

90 grams 1 2-cm cube of pumpkin, 1/5 a carrot, and 3 “leaves” of spinach

120 grams 1 “leaf” of cabbage, 1/6 an onion, 1/4 a cucumber, and 2 cm of daikon (Japanese white radish)

“as appropriate” seaweed (wakame, hijiki, nori, konbu, or others), twice per day

150 grams 1 medium banana or 2 medium mikan (tiny Japanese oranges)

At first glance, this seems like a bit much to ask for a parent to prepare every single day. One leaf of cabbage? Exactly one-sixth an onion? Half a tablespoon of sugar? Huh?

I think the obvious answer is that, first of all, this is meant as an ideal guideline of sorts to let parents know the kinds of food their children should be eating for a balanced diet. Second, the list was obviously created by a nutritionist who was thinking primarily of the proper amounts of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, etc., needed by a growing toddler.

Still , I find it hard to believe that a parent would have put together such a list. With a finicky toddler who changes her food preferences on an almost daily basis (and sometimes even within the same day!), it makes more sense to try to balance out the diet over the course of, say, an entire week or even month.

It also goes without saying that when the kid gets sick (as our daughter did last week, with diarrhea and intestinal cramps), citrus fruit and milk are not a good idea, even if the nutritionist says so.

Of course, it’s difficult to argue that the recommended food items are a bad idea…we do try to give these kinds of food to our daughter, including other kinds of fruit not listed here, as well as other kinds of “meat” (which in Japanese generally means “beef”) such as chicken and pork.

However, I took the liberty of adding up the total grams and compared the total per day to my daughter’s weight.

The daily list was designed to provide 1200 kilocalories per day, which is between 1/2 to 2/3 of that recommended for the average adult (women around 2400 kcal and men around 2700 kcal). Doing some quick math, I found out that the 1145 grams (or about 1.2 kgs / 2.64 lbs) compared to my daughter’s then-weight of some 9.2 kgs, worked out to be nearly 13% of her body weight.

If I were to eat 13% of my own body weight each day (at about 72 kg or so, give or take 1.5 kg), I would have to eat roughly 9.4 kg, or 20 to 21 lbs, of food.

I don’t know about you, but 20 pounds of food each day seems a bit much.

The final advice came in the form of “Let’s” statements. (In Japanese, this form is “~shimashou,” which sounds more polite than saying “do it,” but comes across as a bit odd in English.) Helpful admonitions included:

  • “Let’s wake up a little early as adults in order to have extra time to prepare the child’s meal.”
  • “Let’s put the child to bed no later than 9 p.m.”
  • “Let’s have the adults finish the toothbrushing.”

We always try to do the second one, and we sometimes actually manage to do the third (if our daughter is in a particularly generous mood). It might be ideal to do the first one, but the fact is that our daughter always wakes up before us. If we put the alarm on, she wakes up with us. We sleep in the same room, so this is probably unavoidable. Fortunately, breakfast is simple to prepare: no rice and miso soup at our home. (Of course, my wife did have an instant “cup ramen” a few days ago for some reason.)

With the holidays here at last, we’ll be traveling to southern Kyushu to spend about five days with my wife’s relatives. I guess we’ll finally get a chance to see if the “you should eat 13% of your body weight each day” is really the ideal diet. Stay tuned…

Happy Holidays! Thanks for reading, and see you in the New Year 2011..

About MThomas

Long ago, I gave up my high school dreams of becoming the next Carl Sagan and instead wound up working (in order) at McDonald's, a '60s-themed restaurant, a video rental store, a used bookstore, a computer seller, Kinko's, a Jewish newspaper company, and an HR firm. I eventually became a teacher of intercultural communication in Kyoto, where I vainly attempt to apply quantum mechanics to language teaching, practice martial arts and Zen Buddhism, and always keep one eye on the sky. And yes, I know my profile photo's backward. I just think it looks better this way.
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