If you are feeling a bit nostalgic for the school lunch experience, you don’t have to pass yourself off as a grade schooler and sneak into your local elementary school. You can find healthy, hearty school lunch recipes in a recently published book by nutrition specialist Katsuko Fujiwara called “School Lunches at Home“.

And these recipes aren’t just any old standby. They’re the kind of meals that make everyone happy. Kids want school meals to be delicious, parents want them to be nutritious, and schools just want them to be reasonably priced and easy to prepare. That’s a high bar to clear, but with over 20,000 schools in Japan offering a school lunch program, there were sure to be a few offerings that hit the trifecta, and Fujiwara has compiled some of the best for you.

Fujiwara looked at 500 schools chosen by the School Dietician Conference of Japan as having exemplary school lunches and requested each of them to submit their most popular recipes. From the hundred or so that responded, she and the SDCJ narrowed it down to 39 schools by looking at indices such as flavor balance, presentation, local sourcing of ingredients, and ease of preparation.

According to Fujiwara, “When it comes to school lunches, one must consider the budget, the appearance and nutritional content. But you also have to think about what kids like. It’s hard to find a menu that meets all those requirements, but schools do it.”

School lunches are also limited to 650-700 calories,” she says, “so they are also ideal for dieting adults who want a good nutritional balance.”

She wanted to book to inspire moms to try out the recipes, so she relied heavily on the expertise of the photographer and chefs in choosing attractive dishes and layouts. That and the promotion efforts of the publisher seem to have paid off, as the initial print run of 10,000 has sold out and a second printing is in the works.

Fujiwara says she has long heard from mothers who want to adapt school lunches for the home, and this book is in response to their request. “In this day and age, the importance of bonds is being emphasized across Japan. I hope that this book will help even a little to get people to recognize the importance of eating in maintaining bonds.”

Source: Funabashi Keizai Shimbun