Losing more than 50 lbs as a couple with bento, and dealing with an omnivore's needs

Reader Suzi no miko left this great comment:

I am a vegetarian and my husband is not (slight issue…). When I make Bento for the two of us I end up making a bunch of different things because he wants meat in his Bento almost every day. He’s also on the South Beach Diet thing and won’t eat rice, carrots, corn, potatoes, soba, fruit, etc… This page had been very helpful to us (more specifically me) and thanks to our bento boxes making portion control easy and the tips on packing from you we have collectively lost about 50 pounds.

That is really great - congratulations to Suzu no miko and her husband! Bentos are a great weight loss aid, as I’ve written before, because portion control is much easier than with large or more open containers.

One point that Suzu no miko brought up is something I have to deal with too: how to make a vegetarian-based bento that an omnivore, or a bigger eater, would feel satisfied with. I often show the bigger-portion version of each complete bento, but here are some general tips:

  • Start off with a vegetarian bento, if that’s what you want. There’s no need for you to compromise.
  • When cooking for two, if you are the smaller one (or the one who wants to lose weight!), take 1/3rd of the whole for yourself and the rest for the bigger eater, instead of simply dividing in half.
  • Stock up on meat that’s cut small. E.g. thinly cut beef or pork, bite size chicken. Ground meat (pork, beef, chicken, turkey) is also handy to have on hand. If you are making a stir fry for instance, after the vegetables have cooked and you’ve taken out your own veggie-only portion, you can add some thiny sliced beef bits (perhaps marinating them first in a little soy sauce and mirin) which cooks up in a minute or two. To freeze thinly sliced meat or small pieces of meat, just spread them out thinly in a bag, and break off what you want to use. In the U.S., those frozen packs of thin beef meant for Philly cheese steaks are already conveniently portioned for you. In Switzerland ‘fondue chinoise’ frozen packs are equally convenient.
  • Premade freezer stock items you make yourself, especially mini-burgers or meatballs and soboro, are endlessly handy to have around. Just take out what you need, and re-heat.
  • Processed meats like ham, bacon and sausage are also handy, used in moderation. These are standby items for most bento makers in Japan, especially the ubiquitous weiner. For instance, you could cut up some fish-shaped weiners (very easy to do, and much easier than weiner flowers and scatter a couple on top of an otherwise vegetable-based bento for meat and cuteness. You could wrap some bacon around some pre-steamed asparagus (you get the plain steamed version), or add some cut up ham to a salad or stir fry.
  • Frozen shuumai or gyoza dumplings are also useful to have. Making your own is best - whenever I make gyoza, I always make extra and freeze them. You can find premade shuumai and gyoza at Asian grocery stores (see notes). Frozen shuumai can be steamed, deep-fried or panfried, or just nuked.
  • Even if your favorite big/meat eater doesn’t need to lose weight, don’t pile on the fat content and calories with the extra you add. His or her bento should still be healthy.

What do you do to deal with a bigger eater or an omnivore’s bento needs?

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11 comments

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=^_^=

Thanks for the advice about the Gyoza thing! My husband keeps wanting me to buy them frozen so I don’t have to stand there and fold them forever every other weekend, but I like to make my own (and the ones he wants to buy have meat in them, natch).
I wasn’t expecting such a great thing to come of my comment! All this useful information in one big post! Awesome. I’ve been using my bento boxes for about three months now and mostly use my 300 ml one for myself. I’m a pretty light eater. Ocassionally I’ll use a 500 ml box (not even a bento box, just a pretty stack-box I bought at www.happymall.com, but it works for dry stuff and if I want to pack a few extra lunches for my friends at work since they stack right up) and my husbands box is typically 700 ml capacity. Until I read your post on how to properly pack the bento I was making a common mistake in packing too much of the food I like best - plain white rice. I have switched to brown rice and now pack it in the smaller compartment.
I can’t even tell you how GREAT it feels to know my hard work in making lunches every day has had a positive impact on my health, but I probably don’t need to, do I? Thanks again! I’ll definitely keep up with this site!

Thank you for these tips!

Thank you for these tips! Lately, I’ve been making bento for my stepfather, who lives in the apartment below me (he actually owns the house and I rent the top unit from him). He has diabetes and needs to lose a lot of weight. We’re both trying to lose weight, actually. It’s been a bit difficult trying to keep him feeling satisfied and full, while keeping the lunch on the whole lower calorie. I’ve been trying to figure out what box size in ml to use as his perfect size. I’ve used boxes that are way too small (600ml or less) because it’s all I had, and then I found him one that’s about 700. It’s hard to figure out a conversion for an American male. Any pointers on box size?

Bento Box Size

I think it’s different for everyone! I’ve made bento for my Husband and my brother. They’re about the same size, but my Husband needs a 700 ml box to feel full and my brother is perfectly happy with a 400 ml box! At 500 my brother feels too full and complains that I’m trying to make him fat. O.o; If you’re having trouble keeping the box healthy while putting filling food in, I would suggest packing heavier things like Seitan or Tofurkey (if you can find it) and lean meat cuts (not pork). Denser protiens like heavy beans (black beans, soy beans, kidney beans, etc…) and vegetables with high fiber in them like baked sweet potato work very well too. To me it seems the issue is what goes into the box and not the size of it. I hope that helps!

Great tips!

Great tips Suzu no miko! To add my experiences with a big eater (who needs to lose some weight too), I more or less rotate between two bentos for him, which you can see here - the black one is a standard ‘men’s bento’ from Japan that holds 850ml, and the other is an Ikea box that holds 900ml. I always pack just more of what I’m having into these bento, sometimes with one or two extras added (esp. if it’s vegan). I try to have a lot of vegetables and fiber-rich things in my bento, so he always gets full and hasn’t complained (much…) so far.

As far as caloric values are concerned, your stepfather’s doctor may have daily guidelines, or there are any number of sites where you can calculate that too. This handy calculator is good. Then just divide up the daily total by how many meals and snacks you consume and go from there.

Weight Loss

I have no tips, I just want to say that I’ve been bentoing reliably, 4 days a week, for 6 weeks now, and I’ve lost 3 1/2 lbs. without any other lifestyle changes and without, frankly, paying too much attention to the healthiness content of my bentos. I get a lot more fruit and veg since I’m using Mr. Bento and he has 4 containers and I feel like at least 1, preferably 2, has to be fruit/veg (and I can’t think of what else to put there!). Otherwise I tend to grab whatever leftovers are in the house and fit in the container, but at least they’re portion controlled! As I get better at bentoing, I can probably be even healthier.

Awesome!

That’s a healthy rate of weight loss, making it easier to keep it off even if there’s a slip later on. Great job!

I hope so!

My work schedule changes every semester; since I know I’m unlikely to actually PACK a bento when I’m home this summer, I’m trying to figure out how to keep up my good bento habits at home. (I will be bentoing dinner a couple days a week.) I was thinking of getting a kiddie-size divided plate and seeing how that works. Does anyone else have ideas for easy “bento” at home?

Awesome job! And a great

Awesome job! And a great post that further highlights the benefits of Bento. I’ve been reading this blog for a while, but this post inspired me to feature you on my blog:

http://smarterfitter.com/blog/2008/04/25/bento-boxes-to-lose-weight-save...

Enjoy the extra traffic. And keep up the awesome blog!

thanks for linking, and the

thanks for linking, and the great review! :)

Re: Losing more than 50 lbs as a couple with bento, and ...

I've been bento-ing for about a month now and have so far lost 5lbs. It's working for me and I'm thoroughly enjoying the process!

Re: Losing more than 50 lbs as a couple with bento, and ...

That's great MegMcG! Congratulations!

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