COLUMN: A look at the Japanese food guide | News

This month, 4-H members who are participating in Food, Fun, 4-H are learning about Japanese food.

The “rules of five” in traditional Japanese cooking, or washoku, emphasizes variety and balance. This is achieved using five colors: black, white, red, yellow, and green; five cooking techniques: raw food, grilling, steaming, boiling, and frying; and five flavors: sweet, spicy, salty, sour, and bitter.

These principles can be found even in a single meal of one soup and three sides paired with rice. Japanese side dishes often consist of fish, pickled vegetables, and vegetables cooked in broth. Seafood is a common protein, often grilled, but also served raw as sashimi or in today’s popular sushi.

Seafood and vegetables are also deep-fried in a light batter, known as tempura.

Noodles, such as soba and udon are another staple in the Japanese diet. Japanese cuisine, particularly sushi ad ramen, have become popular throughout the world.

4-H members learned information about the country of Japan like major landmarks, holiday celebrations languages spoken in Japan and the dietary guidelines for Japanese food.

The Japanese food guide is illustrated on a spinning top that was designed to resemble the well-known traditional Japanese toy. It is a rotating inverted cone divided from the top down into food group layers that depict foods primarily in cooked form or dishes. The order of the food groups is given by the recommended daily servings. At the top are grain-based dishes like rice, noodles and pasta, followed by vegetable-based foods including salads, cooked vegetables and soups, then fish, eggs and meat dishes. At the bottom are milk and fruit.

A person running on the top of the gyrating spinning top represents the importance of doing physical activity regularly to enjoy good health. The guide also recommends drinking plenty of water or tea, and to moderate consumption of highly processed snacks, confectionary and sugar-sweetened beverages.

The lesson includes how to read a food label, a visual portion/serving size guide and a MyPlate daily checklist. The recipes include: Chicken Teriyaki, Easy Fried Rice, Goma-Ae Green Beans, and for dessert Chocolate Gateau.

This curriculum has only been offered by Oklahoma 4-H for about a year. It is one of the programs that was initiated during the pandemic to be able to reach 4-H members through distance learning. If you would like to schedule a program locally concerning financial management, nutrition, health and wellness, parenting education, or OHCE, contact Heather Winn, at the OSU Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County by phone at 918-456-6163 or e-mail at

Heather Winn is a family and consumer sciences educator for Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County.

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