Many foreigners think a diet of Japanese food will mean the pounds will just sluice off – after all, there are so many slim Japanese! When they arrive, it’s a shock to realise that many Japanese restaurants serve heavy and rich foods such as ramen, tonkatsu cutlets, tempura, karaage, torikawa (grilled chicken skin)… the list of potential heart-busters and gut-padders goes on. So what’s the health-conscious visitor/resident to do? How to get a taste of Japan without carrying it round on your hips forever?
Tanita, a leading manufacturer of precision electronic scales and a household name in Japan, operates a franchise business of cafeteria-style restaurants for those looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. We visited the one in Yakuin, Fukuoka. It’s light, airy and clean – and after a meal there, that’s how you’ll feel! The clientele are varied in age and build, but they all have one thing in common – they want to eat healthy and enjoy doing so.
Tanita Shokudo offers healthy, modern versions of Japanese teishoku (their meals consist of soup, one main dish and two side dishes). The set meals are approximately 500 kcal, each including about 200 g of vegetables. Plus, the meals are low in salt – each contains only 3 g of salt. Choose from the daily special, the weekly special or Japanese-style chicken curry. The food is the whole trifecta: tasty, affordable and healthy, and cooked to be firm with vegetables cut slightly larger than usual – both tricks to encourage you chew more (and therefore feel fuller). We particularly enjoyed the daily special, which was semi-sweet barbecue chicken with, of course, a large portion of crisp veggies.
Use the ticket vending machine at the entrance to make your selection. Then take a pre-warmed bowl (so your rice doesn’t cool down too quickly) and fill it with rice up to the lower line (for 100 g, 160 kcal) or the higher line (for 150 g, 240 kcal) – Tanita recommends filling to the lower line, but don’t worry, you can grab a refill later if you’re still hungry. The rice is sourced from a trusted rice farmer in Saga. Next, add the side dishes and soup to your tray. At the end of the line, a server will hand you your main dish. There’s also an automated machine serving green tea, hojicha and water, all at no additional charge.
It’s not only about the food you eat, but how you eat it: 1) eat slowly, 2) chew your food well. At your table, you’ll find a small timer. The optimum time to consume a meal is 20 minutes or more. When we first sat down, 20 minutes seemed like an eternity. We chewed at a funeral pace. But that proved to be a rookie mistake, and we went over the time limit. The idea is to eat at a consistent pace – doing so will help you feel fuller and improve your digestion. Each table also has a small set of scales which you can use to weigh your remaining rice – it will even tell you how many calories your remaining rice is worth.
A timer to help you pace your 20-minute meal, and scales to help you keep track of how much rice you are consuming.
Either before or after your meal, take advantage of their high-tech body analysis machine. Simply step barefoot onto the scales, grab the hand sensors, and soon you’ll have a print out telling you your BMI, your percentage body fat, how your muscles are distributed, and your mother’s maiden name (well, maybe not the last one – but it’s slightly scary how much the machine knows!). Take home the detailed print out (Japanese only), and use it to jump-start your new healthy-eating regime! Repeat customers can track their health using these psychic scales. And visitors from overseas can just keep the print out as a souvenir – after all, what’s more Japanese than incredibly advanced technology?
Tanita Shokudo is a great place for residents and visitors looking to eat healthily and maintain a balanced diet. Tip the scales in your favor with a healthy, tasty meal at Tanita Shokudo.