Bento boxes: The perfect tools to combat portion distortion (and an idea)

UPDATE: Details of the Challenge are now up here! We’ll start on January 13th.

There was an interesting article in The Washington Post on Sunday, titled Portion Distortion. The gist of is it that Americans (but I think this is a growing problem worldwide) have become so used to Supersize meals and Big Gulp beverages that their sense of what is a ‘proper’ portion of food has gotten totally distorted.

One method for weight control suggested by experts quoted in the article is to use a small salad plate all the time. This is a good idea on principle, but really, a plate is just a flat thing with no limit vertically. I’ve seen some very creative, even architectural, piles of food at a local restaurant, where the salad bar is priced by the plate size!

On the other hand, a bento box gives you a hard limit in all three dimensions. If you fill up a bento box over the rim, you can’t close the lid! So, you are forced to stay within that limit. Of course you do still have to make healthy choices for what to put in your bento box (see Skinny vs. Not-so Skinny Bento) and select the right size bento box for you (see Selecting the right bento box). But I do think that, for at least one meal a day, it can be a powerful tool for weight loss, or at least for weight gain prevention!

I have a little idea growing…

This article, and the several pounds I seem to have gained while I was away last month (grr), have me thinking. I know that for the rest of this month, it’s going to be an effort just to stop my pants from getting even tighter. But come January, I’m planning to re-focus on losing some weight and getting back on the healthy-eating bandwagon with both feet, and bento boxes are going to be a main tool in that effort. Would anyone like to follow this kind of plan along with me? I haven’t thought through all of the details of how it would work yet, but if you’re interested, just let me know in the comments.

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I'm with you..

I need a weight loss kick-start too. Plus, I plan on making a resolution to cut down on the wasted food in my house, so this would probably help with leftovers (healthy ones of course).

Count Me In

Healthier eating is one of the reasons I started getting into bento lunches. I kept telling myself I’d lose weight after having a baby. This, of course, was before I realized it was going to take forever to get pregnant. I can’t wait any more. I need to lose weight NOW!

I would love to.

I would love to eat better and bentos look so fun, but I have very little time and even less motivation. It may help to do this with someone else since I know my husband won’t be doing it.

I'll join in

I’d gladly like to join you. This past semester has been bad for my bento-ing goals. I was planning on jumpstarting my plan again in January as well.


I’m going to start studying again starting January, and given my last few months…ok, year of physical inactivity I’m definitely up for a lose weight/healthy eating/budget plan! My main concern at uni is of course that I’ll get lazy and just eat at cafes all the time… So preparing healthy bentos will prevent me from wasting well prepared food and money! And hopefully be a step into getting into shape again, ugh. >.<

I'm in!

I’d love to follow along with you, both for the health benefits and the potential weight loss benefits. Keep us posted!

Keep counting me in! Over

Keep counting me in! Over the last 6 months I have lost 20lbs! Bentos have been particularly helpful in the success of this endeavor and I am especially grateful to you for your very practical and healthful ideas and recipes! And I agree about portion control btw! Now I imagine all of my plates as bentos and it really helps to keep me from overloading my plate. I’ve always had problems with stopping eating when I was full and overfilling even my “salad” plate wasn’t helping. I still have a few lbs to go but I am confident that they too will melt away leaving me feeling healthier and proud. So here’s to you and continued bentoing success!

What a great idea! I’d

What a great idea! I’d welcome having a sort of “buddy bento” system. Your site has been a tremendous source for me so far—especially for recipes! Wow, I’m actually looking forward to January now!


I’ve been toying with getting started on Bento lunches for a couple of months now, and it would probably make a good kick in the rear to start up with a group. Admittedly, i have no supplies, but I can look to acquire some in the new year.

All for it

I really need to get back on track with losing weight.

I agree!

The things you’ve just mentioned are all items I did a year ago when first starting bento: using bento boxes and purchasing smaller sized dinner plates. I am happy to report that I don’t create the leaning tower of pizza on my small dinner plate.

However, I do have a problem with munching and snacking in between meals, inhibiting a healthier eating style. Or I have a second small plate of food (second helping).

I’ve been giving serious consideration to only eating out of bento boxes for a month or two until I can come to grips with better portion sizes. I’m better than I was a year ago, but I still have alot of personal work to do on it all.

I’d most definitely be interested in such a venture as you’ve proposed.

Count Me In

I will totally join in your efforts!

Me too !!

I need to loose weight that I have accumulated in the last year as well. My clothes have started to fit differently. I noticed lately I can eat larger and larger plates and portions of food, where they used to make me full even earlier this year. I also noticed I have been eating more unhealthier, greasier food where as one year ago I was completely vegetarian eating healthy. I want to make becoming healthier my goal, too.


Once I started bentoing the days of the week I was at work for lunch and really liking it, I wanted to do it at home, but there’s just no way I’m making a bento on days I’m at home. I tried, it wasn’t worth the effort.

So what I did was get a little kiddie divided plate and use that as a sort of bento facsimile. It’s sized for “kid” meals and it helps me control the portion size of each item with the little spaces. One has to be careful about not over-piling things, of course, since there’s no vertical limit, but that’s not too hard to manage. And, unlike my bento box, these can go in the dishwasher. (And are popular with my friends’ kids when they come over for dinner.) that style plate, but mine have crabs and fish.

I’d totally be in the bento healthy eating/weight loss thing, but I’m preggers, so I’m not looking to lose. :) (And I’m looking to eat “whatever will stay down today.”) But maybe I’ll participate on behalf of my husband who’s been eating crap ever since I stopped being able to eat people food. :)

I mean ...

It WAS worth the effort but the effort was not occurring. :)

Sounds like a great plan. We

Sounds like a great plan. We will lose in solidarity!

Count me in...

I’d say. Quite a few of my clothing articles are feeling like they’ve been shrunk in the washer lately ;) Also, teeheehee @ Marisa’s comment ;P Now, how to accomplish this is another matter, since my mother does a lot of the cooking (house wife, nothing else to do, etc) and it’s very often quite fattening. So unless some sort of compromise is reached, our losing solidarity may be broken ~_^

I'm with you

I lost 50# a few years ago and have kept it off mainly by doing two things - measuring portions accurately and by eating only at meals, from a plate, sitting at a table. No eating while doing anything else.
I’ve been following your blog because bentos are a natural aid to controlling portion size and because I love Japanese food. So count me in! Pat in Oregon

I'm at home, too

Great idea, and sticking to low carbo helped me lose in the past. Trouble is that I only bento three times a month when my little quilting bee meets. The rest of the time, I’m at home for lunch. Hope you and the readers have some ideas for this kind of situation. I’m not alone in this….

Me too!

Ohmygosh, me too. You’re completely right about the portion control and I often feel like that’s probably my biggest barrier. That and the unhealthy food they serve at my job! So Bentos would solve both problems. I’m so in.

I agree

You basically said everything I would need to say right there, down to the unhealthy food served at my job without even a healthy alternative.

Me too!

I’m totally with you on this!

Please more vegetarian options? I’m having trouble getting balanced bentos .


I’d love to give it a go.

I’d love to give it a go. I love the idea of being healthier and I would welcome a community where the real focus was HEALTH, not OMG SIZE. (ANd sure, some readers have a personal goal of specific pounds or dress sizes, but the content of the daily blogs would be healthy recipies, portions, etc).

Count me in!

I love the idea of using bento to eat healther and manage the waistline. I could use the inspiration!

I find myself passionately

I find myself passionately growing more and more interested in the use of bento to improve my eating habits and by extension - my health.

I am not sure of a weight loss plan though.

But I follow your blog anyway!!

Good Idea

It’s been one I’ve been trying to stick to lately myself, and so far it feels like it’s working. I was surprised though, after eating nothing buy healthy, home cooked meals in my bento box, I can’t really eat anything insanely sweet, like a doughnut, which I tried yesterday…make me think my body is telling me it’s bad for me.

Yes, please!

..sounds great on all accounts, especially if there are vegetarian options involved.. :)

you read my mind

I stepped on the scale this morning, and saw that my weight is creeping over the acceptable limit. I hope to be able to participate in some fashion. Please count me in.

I want to lose 17 pounds by

I want to lose 17 pounds by my wedding in May, so I’m definitely in. It’s a struggle right now just to keep from the pounds creeping up on me, so getting back into bento and into losing weight would be a very good thing.

I'm in !!!

Totally! I’m going to the US for 10 days before Xmas, then Xmas in France, I’m going to be overweighted in January and I would love to be part of this bento-diet !

Count Me In.

Count me in. I’ve integrated Bento into a series of lifestyle changes that seem to be bringing me back to habits that I learned from my wonderful mom and I seem to have lost over the years: packing pretty, well rounded lunches, playing outside with vigor and enthusiasm, and taking a wholesome approach to health and good living. I’ve been a little too sedentary in my current job, but I’m in transition and moving across the country to San Francisco at the end of the month, and it would be a great time to instill these habits better in my routine (and have some accountability for it!).

In the past, having a community (like the Self diet groups) has been useful, but when people with distorted health images get into the mix, sometimes it has been negative. What I love about Bento is the principles that allow you to maintain healthy balance and portion (to minimize under-eating as well).

I’d be curious as to how you might want to go about this: a limited group with some sort of accountability? A forum for ideas? A group blog? Let me know and I might spend some time collaborating if you need the help.

As always, thank you for your wonderful work, and congratulations on your milestones for Just Hungry and Just Bento this week!

Yes. I need to stop the pants tightening too!

Count me in. I’d love to lose weight along with everyone here. Renee

I’m not currently into

I’m not currently into making bentos, but I’d like to be! Figuring out a good bento box size would be great. My nutritionist recommends meals with a standard proportion for food that’s based on a plate, and could easily apply to a bento box. (1/2 vegetable or fruit, 1/4 starch, 1/4 protein)

IM Watching

My family and I are going to be on weight watchers from Jan 1..
but im already starting to think of creative ways to put my weight watchers style food into my bento boxes. :)
I am definately going to be lookign for some low cal bento friendly recipes that I convert quickly into weight watches points value type meals.


Emphatically Yes!

This sounds just wonderful! I’m one of those ladies who never lost her pregnancy weight and my daughter’s 2 and a half already! I was never really concerned about it until my last dr.’s visit when my blood pressure started to creep up a little. Now it’s time to get back on the eating and general health bandwagon!

Emphatically Yes!

This sounds just wonderful! I’m one of those ladies who never lost her pregnancy weight and my daughter’s 2 and a half already! I was never really concerned about it until my last dr.’s visit when my blood pressure started to creep up a little. Now it’s time to get back on the eating and general health bandwagon!

Emphatically Yes!

This sounds just wonderful! I’m one of those ladies who never lost her pregnancy weight and my daughter’s 2 and a half already! I was never really concerned about it until my last dr.’s visit when my blood pressure started to creep up a little. Now it’s time to get back on the eating and general health bandwagon!

Emphatically Yes!

This sounds just wonderful! I’m one of those ladies who never lost her pregnancy weight and my daughter’s 2 and a half already! I was never really concerned about it until my last dr.’s visit when my blood pressure started to creep up a little. Now it’s time to get back on the eating and general health bandwagon!


I would love to follow the plan with you! I recently lost 30 pounds and don’t really plan on loosing more, but I’d like to keep eating healthy and this sounds perfect.

I'm on board

Count me in on this challenge too, I will really need to loose some weight after Christmas!!

That's a good idea...

I haven’t had the pleasure of making my first bento yet, but I will definitely follow this along. I really really need to lose some weight. It doesn’t help where I work all I can eat is really unhealthy food. I want to start packing lunch, so I’d love to follow along.

Count me in!

Yes, I’d love to join in. :O)


I’m totally curious. I think both my husband and I would be interested in playing along..

A first-time commenter -

A first-time commenter - just wanted to drop by and say that I love this site, and the things you write about. The organization of this site is fantastic, and I’ve had at least ten servings of carrot kinpira since I started reading two weeks ago.

Portion-size is something that I feel very strongly about, so I’d love to see how this would play out. :)


this is one of the reason I’ve been looking into Bento! Count me in!

Me, too.

I could use some help balancing my bentos.

I’m with you too, but I

I’m with you too, but I would definitely love to see some more vegetarian options. I can help with that, too, I’ve been doing non-meat substitutions for more than 15 years.

Count me in

Last winter/spring, I lost about 15 pounds. Those pounds are slowly creeping back on and I would like to have them come back off. So I would love to participate!


I personaly only feel the need to loose around 2 kg, but the diet I eat not in my lunch (ie, what my parents make me eat) is getting worse. I’m also signing my brother up too the idea whether he likes it or not.

I'm in

Man, I need a kick start. Weight loss is my annual New Year’s resolution. I’m good for a couple of months, then I gradually backslide. Maybe with a group of bento-ists I’ll stay motivated.