Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Won't Miss #518 - puny meat portions

A Thai meal "set" in Tokyo. See that little blob of chicken in the middle of my curry? See that enormous mound of rice? Discuss.

My husband and I have been back since the end of March 2012 and, oddly, we bought our first chain-made pizza yesterday. It was from Pizza Hut, and, coincidentally, that was the chain we patronized most in Japan. That means I have copious amounts of experience with pizza from said maker there. We bought a one-topping (pepperoni) pizza and were shocked to lift the lid on it and find that it was wall to wall with slices of said cured meat-stuff. Both of us remarked that we would never see that much meat on a pizza in Japan.

Ironically, that was the second time in as many days that we had an "American meat experience". We also attended a Portuguese cultural festival (because that's what you do when you're one of us) and got a pork dish from them which had half as much rice as pork. We both noted that such proportions would have been reversed in Japan.

I am not an enormous meat eater, but the carb to protein ratios in Japan when you went to restaurants were often insane. Here, there may be too much meat, but for a couple that has a strong inclination to split their entrees when eating out, this just means the whole experience costs that much less. I don't miss the puny meat portions in Japan. 


  1. It's funny but one of the main things that make me doubt the efficacy of the popular low-carb diet is the amount of rice and carbs consumed in Japan and other Asian countries while still having a far lower obesity rate than in the United States and many European countries.

    I know that you said in a post a while back that it's a misconception that the common diet in Japan is very healthy (lots of vegetables, fish, and rice is what typically comes to mind). I remember you said delis consist of pretty much all deep fried food. I'm sure portion sizes are probably smaller there than here, and I'm not sure in the difference in activity level (although I do think that driving and weight gain are correlated), but I suppose my question is what do you think is the cause of the disparity between the obesity rates between the U.S. and Japan?

    1. I've touched on this before, but I certainly don't expect anyone to remember what I said or find what was said scattered among over 1000 posts to date, but I think there are several factors. The primary one is portions. You may get two cups of rice with your meal, but the rest is pretty dainty. What is more, the women are meticulous about calories in many cases. They don't talk about it as much as Western women do, but they do think about it. I've seen petite women chow down like monsters on a binge, but then they may eat nothing much the entire next day.

      One of my students showed me pictures of an enormous meal that she ate, but she had tea and one single rice ball the next day. That sort of behavior balances out. I think Americans eat more habitually or routinely and tend not to listen to their the body's cues for satiety. They eat because its time to do so or they merely want the food, often when they aren't especially hungry. Japanese people seem to be more in tune with their bodies.

      I think another huge factor is that the diets in Japan are higher in fat. High carb/low carb/high protein, etc. aren't where weight control seems to be. It's in fat, which many people tend to avoid in the U.S. because it is high in calories. If you eat a piece of bread, it has a bad effect on glycemic index and you'll be hungry soon thereafter. If you spread butter on it, you change the way the body metabolizes it. The Japanese eat a lot of fried food (certainly more than I do since I hate deep-fried food), but that actually improves satiety and they aren't eating more soon thereafter.

      Finally, I think that the way in which public transportation is often used and the centralization of a lot of the population in urban centers helps. People walk naturally throughout the day in many areas. There is also a culture of not sitting continuously, especially for women. My landlady was a housewife, but she was a dervish. I don't think the woman ever sat down for long as I constantly saw her running around her house doing things. Standing burns something like 40 calories more per hour than sitting so a woman who is hanging laundry out to dry, walking everyday to the market, cleaning her house everyday, etc. is burning more calories naturally. The men are not snacking if they are at work. Indeed, they often eat 3 meals at irregular intervals, when they eat 3 at all.

      I have never felt carbs themselves were an issue, but rather the lack of balance in nutrition in the U.S. I also think the picture is pretty complex on the whole and that the food in the U.S. is far more processed. There was very little in the way of prepared meals in Japan. The freezer sections were tiny when it came to "heat and eat" food and they're huge here. I think that such foods not only mess with blood sugar, but hormone levels.

      This is a huge reply, but I'm still only scratching the surface in many ways, but that's my general sense of it.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. It's funny but I found the small meat portions really helped in transitioning from a vegetarian diet to one where I felt I had no choice but to eat meat! But I did find myself trying to whatever greens were served over the generous amounts of rice, and I always felt bad whenever I couldn't finish the rice which happened fairly frequently.

  3. hm... yummi... delicious food *Q* i want eat


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