Japan, South Africa, Australia
The Japanese enjoy the world's longest average life spans, and a big reason for that may be the food they eat starting from a very young age. Rice is the centerpiece of a common toddler meal. All other foods -- fish, meat, vegetables -- are side items intended to enhance the flavor of the rice. A typical toddler lunch is egg-flavored rice with broiled fish or seafood (more popular than meat due to the island's access to water), a side dish of lightly cooked seasonal vegetables, and soup with tofu (commonly known as miso).
Other Favorites: Noodles -- soba (buckwheat) and udon (wheat flour) served in a soy-flavored fish broth with vegetables; tofu with veggies; Bento, a boxed meal of rice, pickled veggies; and other side dishes.
Sweet Tooth Satisfiers: Kimi balls are egg-flavored, rice flour-based sugary treats that literally melt in your mouth.
South Africans -- regardless of age, race, or class -- live on mealie pap, a maize- or cornmeal-based porridge, similar to Cream of Wheat cereal but with a thicker, stickier texture.
Other Favorites: A Marmite sandwich and a cup of milk-and-sugar tea is also common. Only a tiny amount of Marmite, a well-concentrated yeast spread made from a by-product of the beer brewing process, is added to a piece of buttered toast. South Africans like the strong, salty, flavor of it, but it may be an acquired taste for others. One American describes it as tasting like "soy sauce that's been boiled down into a paste and then mixed with tar from the road." Taste aside, it's an excellent source of Vitamin B.
Sweet Tooth Satisfiers: Guava and passion fruit; bread smeared with a melted chocolate spread, such as Nutella.
Take a peek at any parent's shopping list down under, and you are likely to spot Vegemite (similar to South Africa's Marmite), a yeast extract-based sandwich and toast spread. Vegemite is unofficially referred to as one of Australia's national foods (22 million jars of it are sold a year). Peanut butter, jam, butter, and cheese are often added to soften the strong taste for kids.
Other Favorites: Ryvita (crispbread), Jalna (Australian-made yogurt), Cheesymite scrolls (baked Vegemite and cheese bread), spaghetti Bolognese, meat pies (pastry filled with beef), beets and beet sandwiches, Weetabix cereal.
Sweet Tooth Satisfiers: Sultanas are a popular type of raisin, similar to America's golden raisins but slightly sweeter; kids munch on them plain or use them to top cereal. Also, muesli bars (an oat and wheat bar with fruit flavoring) and various types of berries.
Fun Food Facts
- After the United States, the largest market for McDonald's is Japan, with more than 3,000 restaurants. FYI: Ronald is known as Donald there. McSushi, anyone?
- Danes have a term called hygge, meaning good food. It represents the satisfaction and overall feeling of happiness one gets from a great meal.