Aug 24, 2017
How to find healthy conbini food in Japan
Food? From the convenience store? In my homeland, this brings to mind images of liquid nacho cheese and massive sugary drinks, but in Japan it is a completely different story. Or at least it can be.
When I'm out and about, I know I can find pre-cut apple slices and a peanut butter lunch-pack for my daughter at any 7-11, along with a rice ball and a coffee or a bottle of water and a salad. You just have to know where to look.
Fresh fruit, salad, sandwiches, yogurt and more can be found if you know where to look for them. Most of these would be cheaper when purchased at the grocery store or made at home, but any long-term expat knows that sometimes that isn't an option.
At the front of the store, nikuman (meat-filled buns) and similar products may be found in a glass cases alongside some fried foods and other not-entirely healthy products. These are inexpensive and good for a quick bite if you just need sustenance, but are not really diet friendly.
Generally, pre-made meal options (spaghetti with meat sauce, omrice, bento options, etc) can be found along the refrigerated wall-space opposite the main entrance. Anything that needs to be warmed up can be done in the microwaves behind the counter and this service will likely be offered by the staff when you check out. Some of these are healthier than others and can be fine for those who need more of a meal if they have time or a place to sit and eat. Some conbini (Japanese convenience stores) even have a sitting area with a counter space where customers on their lunch breaks can enjoy their selections before leaving the store.
Near the other pre-made food, you can also usually find a variety of sandwich options, sometimes with toast and hot dogs as well. These seem to expire more quickly than the tortilla-wrapped sausages that can be sometimes found closer to the one liter sized cartons of tea and juice further back in the store, which leads me to believe that they may be slightly healthier as they may have fewer preservatives.
The back wall, opposite the checkout counters, usually holds all the beverages. If you're looking to loose some weight, it is probably best to stick with water and green tea. Sodas, beer, juice and other beverages are available as well.
Some stores, especially in 7-11 locations, usually have a small dessert end-cap near the check out counter. Most people trying to watch their weight would avoid these spaces at all cost for fear of being lured into a sugar-coma by an especially decadent cup of coffee-jelly, but wait! Yogurt and fruit slices can be found here, though sometimes you have to look for them.
Do you see the packets of apple slices in the picture above? Hint: They are on the middle shelf, in the corner by the glass divider, behind the dessert waffles.
Finding the fresh and healthy options can also be tricky if the store you visit is in the middle of restocking. The bananas in the picture (individually wrapped and priced accordingly) are in the tray under the little black floor-shelf where they would usually reside.
Anyone on a low-carb diet would avoid the bread area for good reason, but if you have ti be parenting a little person who loves peanut butter sandwiches and pancakes, a short trip down this aisle can help keep a tiny tummy happy until you get home.
Check out that Caesar salad! Yum!
Selection can vary somewhat with location, catering to the average consumer. Conbini in historical districts may offer more upscale options than those along the highway or next to the train station, but generally most offer some similar things, though sometimes you might have to look around for what you want.
A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.