Tokyo-born Naomi Moriyama, whose family owns a farm in rural Japan, and William Doyle explain the “Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Children” in a tone that is more conversational than scientific. For someone acquainted with Japanese food culture, the book feels a tad repetitive, but there is no doubt that worldwide eating habits are on a downward slide. And, as Moriyama points out in the introduction, Japan is worth looking at for advice after it ranked first for the highest healthy life expectancy at birth in a major worldwide health study published in prestigious medical journal the Lancet. (Canada ranked 11th, the U.K. was 23rd and America was 32nd).
The book is divided into three sections. The introduction justifies the need for a change in food lifestyles using the latest global research on child obesity; part 2 is separated into seven chapters organized around the “secrets,” ranging from eating smaller portions to making active lifestyle choices. Her inclusion of Japanese culture as the backdrop to her commonsensical advice softens the feeling that she is preaching to the choir.
The cultural tidbits add extra seasoning to the advice, and I found myself ultimately craving to know all her secrets. The book ends with more details on a typical Japanese meal, including popular Japanese ingredients and recipes easily adapted for those cooking outside of Japan.
All in all, this one is best digested by parents outside of Japan, who are struggling to find alternatives to a Western diet and car-dominated society.