"But there is plenty of healthy food abroad", I say, "You can find fruit and vegetables easily". But they disagree with me. 'Foreign food is bad for health and full of fat and too much meat and foreign people don't eat enough vegetables. Japanese food is the healthiest in the world'.
Actually, the mediterranean dieat is supposed to be the best in the world but I don't contradict them.
So over the 3 days that I interviewed them when I went to the combini to buy my lunch I stood behind the students and chose the same meals that they chose. Here they are.
The first is a typical obento lunch box. It contains a portion of rice with a pickled plum and some sesame seeds on top, half a chipolata, a mini-hamburger, a slice of salmon, a fried shrimp, a potato croquette, a square of fried egg and some seaweed. There are also some slices of sukemono (pickles) but I didn't eat them.
The second is Chinese noodles with beansprouts, spinach and half a boiled egg. The brown sauce was soy, I think. (It didn't taste like meat).
On the third day I cheated and bought a pumpkin salad from the deli at my local station.
All the meals were less than 500 calories. The first two were 360 Yen. The salad was 700 Yen.
There are very few vegetables in the first two meals and a lot of starch. However there was also very little actual fat.
But I think the real reason that students 'gain their weight' when they go abroad is that the portion sizes are much larger. That, and when I ask them where they ate they always say 'MacDo'.
When one student returned recently having gained her weight, 5kg, she said that she was looking forward to eating Japanese food again. Since she had been away during the earthquake and Fukushima incident I asked her if she had any worries about Japanese food. She replied, "I don't care about it because if I care about it, I can't eat anything". Which I think is the attitude of most people here now.
Me, I am getting out of this burning summer heat and flying to England where I am looking forward to rain, beer and fish and chips. I may gain my weight ....