Low Calorie Bentos

MikaCake
Bento-ing from: › California › USA
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 38 weeks ago.

Hey Everyone!

I am trying to make bentos that are under 250 calories (300 at absolute most) and was wondering if people had any ideas. Because I keep the calorie content so low my bentos tend to look a bit empty. Any tasty suggestions that would be nutritious, and pretty would be very appreciated. Thanks :)

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Awfulknitter
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 30 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

I try to keep my bentos low calorie too - although I don't count the calories religiously. I try start by thinking about the vegetables: if you have at least two different veggie dishes, there's less space for carbs and protein, which tend to have more calories. Blending different colour veggies looks pretty and interesting too! And veggies can be filling - www.nutritiondata.com has a 'nutritional target map' that shows how filling a food is versus how nutritious it is, which I find really interesting. Veggies tend to score pretty highly. Also I read somewhere that having a wide variety of foods helps you feel fuller, so that you can eat less.

With veggies, I prefer steaming to stir-frying, because it avoids adding oil. There's always the option of adding a little dressing or garnish later on for extra flavour.

Last thing I'll say - 300 is a pretty small calorie count. You don't say whether you're on a very low calorie diet overall, and I'm not a medical practitioner, but I know they're not supposed to be very good for you! If nothing else, my common sense view is that the unhappy and sluggish feeling that a low calorie diet could cause is more likely to get you falling off the healthy/weight-loss wagon. I don't mean to lecture, I'm just putting forward my opinion...

nicole
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 21 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

Raw veggies and melon cubes are very low calorie and filling. Most fruit is low calorie (not bananas). Spring mix salad looks pretty in there and takes up a lot of space.

I can't eat wheat gluten, so I have substituted shredded cabbage for noodles in a low-mein style stir-fry, and I really liked that. When just trying to cut calories I've subbed bean sprouts or cabbage for half the noodles. A half-serving of low mein noodles (1 oz. dry) is 100 calories. I've not tried Shiritaki noodles, but they have almost no calories.

Try using julienned zucchini (like cut into ribbons on a mandoline) instead of noodles in Italian-ish dishes. It's lovely dressed with a little olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese. If you cook it, do it very very quickly in a non-stick pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and the garlic. Dress with a T. or two of grated parmesan and black pepper. If you can afford the calories, a scattering of pine nuts is nice.

Cauliflower mashed like potatoes has a lot fewer calories than potatoes. It's also very nutritious.

If you don't have a food scale, get one. It's essential if you're trying to control portions that tightly. Be sure to budget some fat in your lunches or you will not be satisfied. It's calorically expensive, but your body will be happier!

____________________________________

My flickr photostream: http://flickr.com/photos/astrogirl

All my bentos appear on flickr, but not all on my blog, which is here: http://astrogirl.com

wisdom goddess
Joined: 13 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 44 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

Just an aside and maybe a might simplistic, if you enjoy your veggies al dente, you might leave them raw and use the microwave reheating at lunch to flash cook the veggies a bit, this works exceptionally with the zuchinni ribbons used as pasta.

annenayne
Bento-ing from: › California › USA
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 30 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

Have you tried tofu shirataki noodles? They're way lower in carbs and calories than regular pasta (I think it's about 20 calories for a 4-oz serving).

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 36 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

I second awfulknitter's comment. 250 - 300 Cal is not very much, and you may find it counterproductive - your body can go into starvation mode if you don't eat enough, and try to conserve every bit of fat it can. You then end up losing less than you would otherwise. I hope you have seen a doctor to talk about optimum calorie intake for your personal situation.

____________________________________

Bronwyn

My blog is Food and Shoes

Stephanie
Bento-ing from: San Lorenzo › California › USA
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 23 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

I guess it really depends on what kind of diet you are doing. When I was doing one where I ate 5 meals a day I would usually go for 350-500 calorie meals.

This was a real good, complex diet that worked but due to the complexities of it was very difficult to do for an extended period of time. It concentrated on food that have a low glycemic index, strict portions and calories [all calculated through formulas based on your body fat percentage]. Plus a very stringent work-out regimen.

So I can see some diets with that low of a calorie count being okay in some cases, but if it was anything like the one I did it will take away the enjoy of eating and make it weird to go any where for a few hours.

*Note: for most people the calorie count would be lower than what I had, I am a 6 foot tall woman, I need more food.

Aleria
Bento-ing from: Vancouver › British Columbia › Canada
Joined: 20 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 1 week ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

That is not a lot of calories!
One thing that's good is celery - it takes more calories to eat than it you get from it, so you actually don't get any from it.
Basically, just eat lots of veggies that aren't fried.

Alice
Bento-ing from: Leicester › UK
Joined: 9 Jun 2008
User offline. Last seen 3 years 31 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

If it's not to personal, could I ask about the nature of your diet? If you are cutting back on other meals in the same way, your consuming half or less of what your body needs. Not only is that counterproductive in terms of weight loss (your matabolism will slow down enourmously) but it is quite dadgerous even if you where quite chunky. Your body does strange things to itself when it "thinks" in danger of starving, and some of the damage can be fairly long lasting. Also, once you come off a diet like that, you'll just put weight on faster.
Of course, I am making some assumptions here. Perhaps your eating more that 3 meals or something?
Whatever your doing, please see a doctor about it first (if you haven't already). She/He can tell you if its safe to proceed.

MikaCake
Bento-ing from: › California › USA
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 38 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

i eat 5 meals a day, and sometimes a snack. thanks to everyone to the concern and suggestions. i am quite aware of my calorie needs and all the facts about nutrition, metabolism, etc. as only one out of 5 meals, i just wanted to make a cute, healthy bento that wasn't too heavy. however, thanks again for the concern :)

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 36 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

In that case, check out Maki's recipe for Japanese dry curry. I made it the other day substituting chopped cauliflower and broccoli for the beans. Very low calorie if you don't have rice with it, and rather tasty too.

wisdom goddess born
Bento-ing from: B-more › Maryland › USA
Joined: 20 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 15 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

I googled "What 200 calories looks like "and "What 300 calorie meals look like" and you get treated to a pictoral of foods and their mesurements for the appropriate calories. Its a good guide for anyone watching their weight and the 300 calorie meals would be useful for someone who enjoys several mini meals per day.

Alice
Bento-ing from: Leicester › UK
Joined: 9 Jun 2008
User offline. Last seen 3 years 31 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

You can't go wrong with a variety of fruits and vegetables (especially raw) to fill up spaces. Most of them contain alot of water, so their low in callories, and almost all are highly nutritious.

MikaCake
Bento-ing from: › California › USA
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 38 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

Ooh great suggestion, thanks :)

MikaCake
Bento-ing from: › California › USA
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 38 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

That's a really good idea. I'll deffinitely give it a try. Thanks Bronwyn :)

MitarashiDango
Bento-ing from: Melbourne › Australia
Joined: 28 Feb 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 23 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

Shirataki noodles taste quite good, although personally if I were to have them I'd miss out the chewiness of what noodles. Shirataki noodles are firmer too and they never get soggy. Probably due to its water/fiber structure.

Mashed cauliflower? I've never tried that, but do they taste like mashed potatoes? I'd expect them to taste lighter than potatoes.. and when they are left untouched for some time, I have the feeling that liquids would leak out of them..

____________________________________

[black]magic from Dango-kun's kitchen

Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
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Re: Low Calorie Bentos

I can imagine that the hardest part of this sort of 'little but often' diet is keeping up your interest in these low calorie meals.

If you've not tried it before, I'd like to suggest zucchini/courgette 'pasta'. Try to find the thinnest zucchini you can for this.

If you haven't got a mandolin you can use a potato peeler to slice a zucchini lengthways (just remove both ends first). Put the sliced ribbons of zucchini (which will look like fat tagliatelle) into a sieve/colander and add plenty of salt. Mix the ribbons and salt together and leave to drain for 20 to 30 minutes. Do something else in the meantime. (This is to 'firm up' the zucchini so that it has a better texture once boiled)

Boil a big pot of water on a high 'flame' just as if you were making conventional pasta. You won't need to add salt to the water as the zucchini has plenty. Add the ribbons to the water and allow to simmer/boil FOR NO LONGER THAN ONE MINUTE.

Take the cooked ribbons off the heat and carefully drain in the colander/sieve. Either dip the sieve in a bowl of cold water or turn them out into cold water and, once cooled, drain again. (You can, instead, just drain the zucchini slices and pour cold water onto them directly, but the cooked ribbons are quite delicate and the running water can break them up, the flow of water should be gentle.)

You now have a portion of zucchini 'mock' pasta to dress in any way you choose. Capers, lemon zest and a dribble of olive oil and lemon juice or a little tomato sauce are both good, but you can flavour them with anything you like.

----
For the summer, you might like to try the same technique with cucumbers (these don't have to be boiled). Some cucumbers don't have many seeds in the centre and these are ideal. Otherwise, just start slicing away from one side until you reach the part where the seeds start to make the slices too watery. Turn the cucumber a quarter round and do the same with all four 'sides'. (If my husband is around he just eats the middle part straightaway).
For the ribbons, just pop them into the colander, add some salt, let them drain for 20-30 minutes, run them under cold water to rinse the salt and juices off (they are sturdier than the cooked zucchini), drain and dress them however you like best (soy sauce, vinegar, a little grated garlic, perhaps a touch of chilli, and a teeny dash of sesame oil are delicious with these. I'm sure mixing either the zucchini or cucumber ribbons with some chopped kimchi would be really satisfying)

---
Both zucchini and cucumbers have such low calorie contents that you should be able to fill your bento box to the brim!

Mandachan
Bento-ing from: Pensacola › Florida › USA
Joined: 28 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 15 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

I'm on a very similair diet (5-6 meals a day, generally around 300 calories for my main meals). It isn't much. But what mine normally look like are Zucchini/Asparagus (1-2 cups per meal) and up to 3 cups of salad (i eat different types, anything from spinach to lettuce blends) with 1 tbs dressing - and about 4-6 chicken breast or fish. If you tend to stick with stuff that's not fried or all natural - it's a lot more food then something that is cooked with sauces 'n stuff.

I normally cook zuchinni in the oven with either cayenne pepper or some type of garlic and onion flavor. A little bit of olive oil for the flavor and vinigar for the salad.

Jiza
Bento-ing from: Madrid › Spain
Joined: 13 Feb 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 1 week ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

Now this is one of the BEST idea ever!!! o_O
This way you can eat super healthy and trick your eyes with the pasta-like food! :D

____________________________________

My bento blog: http://justbento.com/blog/1305
My art blog: http://jizaacaso.deviantart.com

Eileen
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

I too am on a strict diet, hoping to find more creative recipies to try. I'm under supervision of a physician, and was told to eat every 3 hrs - totaling 3 snacks and 2 meals, 300 cal. or less each per meal. is there any compillation of balanced 300 cal or less bentos somewhere as well? all these suggestions are great, but it would be nice to have a few recipies together to be able to make a shopping list for the week.

Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 17 weeks ago.
Re: Low Calorie Bentos

Hello Eileen

I don't know other English language sites for Bento with the information you are after, everyone's needs are so diverse; low carb, low GI, vegetarian, vegan, no gluten, no dairy, etc, etc.

However, this site does address your needs directly. At the top of this page on the left you have an option called "Bentos" (in between "home" and "recipes" under the just bento logo. Click on this and select one of the archive lists. These lists show all the bento meals in the site with their approximate calorie contents.

e.g.
http://justbento.com/handbook/lists/bento-archive-list-1

There are quite a few under 300 meals to choose from so it would be up to you to put together a week of menus depending on your tastes.

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