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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Sounds like a plan

School’s almost out for the semester (2 weeks!), so I’ll be back to a full kitchen soon and ready to make better bento. I’m definitely in!

Oh yes, oh yes

Sounds great.. and it’s definitely more motivating to stick on to if you know tt there are many out there working on the same issue, and same plan as you !

But January, we would be celebrating our Biggest festive of all, the lunar new year.. I scare to think of the results after the rounds of feasting and bingeing when all our family and friends reunite.. so perhaps this year would be different as I keep to my mind that I am not alone on the diet..

Hmm.. wonder how family and friends willl feel if I bring along a bento box to restrict my food intake at each meal gathering.. definitely a conversational piece !!

I’m in! I’ve been doing

I’m in! I’ve been doing something like this already — I’ve lost about seven pounds since I started bento-ing and want to lose about eight more pounds in the new year.

Also, the Washington Post article link is broken. Here’s the permanent link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/07/AR200812...

Count me in. I’ve gained a

Count me in. I’ve gained a bit this semester because there was nothing healthy at the house. This is what happens when you get lazy and don’t bento. But last year, I did bento and kept weight off. Come January, I’ll take more classes, but I’ll bento everyday so at lunchtime I don’t gore on greasy fast food. Bento Buddies!!

I would love to participate.

I would love to participate. I’m currently trying to lose weight with a pretty good workout plan, and I may be having bento for 2 or more meals a day, with a new musical coming up that I might be in.

It could be like a healthy bento Daring Bakers or Tuesdays with Dorie!

Neat!

Count me in! :) though to second a person’s comment earlier, I would definitely appreciate some vegetarian bento ideas :)

I actually started packing

I actually started packing bento boxes for exactly this reason- I knew I had gotten a really skewed idea of what a meal looks like, so I started packing bento specifically to get used to a more reasonable portion size. I haven’t been packing traditionally Japanese bento foods, but I’ve been trying to balance the protein-veggie-carb ratios with the stuff I usually have around- raw vegetables, multigrain bread, edamame or leftover meat from the previous night’s dinner, etc. It’s been going pretty well, so I’m interested to see what you’ve got in mind for your bento-for-weight loss plan.

I still find that I want a snack or something a few hours later, but still a few hours before dinner time, but that’s pretty normal for me, so I’ve been trying to stick to more fruit or vegetables in that situation.

For the first time in my

For the first time in my life, I am finding myself needing to lose a few pounds and then maintain that healthy weight. I’ve gotten back into bento’ing and lately have been thinking I should put my supper in a bento box as well to keep me from overeating at that meal… so I’m definitely in!

ready to jump on board

I’m ready to jump on board. I just hope it can help all of us who really want to. (I need to probably lose about 45 lbs.. ><) Sitting at a computer all day at work just doesn’t help much.

While I really do love your

While I really do love your sensible and skinny bentos, my problem is that I need more than 500Cal lunch to last through the work day. My dilemma: If I eat a 300 Cal breakfast, 500 Cal dinner, = 800 Cal. (I go to bed at 11, so I’m not hungry enough for an evening snack) That means in order to reach a healthy diet goal of 1600 Cal, I need 800 Cal during my 9 hour work day. And it’s better to spread it out than to eat it all in one meal, so then I end up having to pack more than one bento. How do other people handle the breakdown of calories vs. time when it comes to diet plans?

I guess this all comes down to snacking...

Amusingly enough, I can’t ingest much more than 200 calories in one sitting due to my antibiotics, so I generally tend to snack my way through the day. Stuff that helps:

  1. Home made smoothies. About 2-300 calories each if you go with one banana, another fruit, and some diary/soy. This is great if you don’t want to deal with peeling things/cutting things/throwing away cores/getting fruit juice all over the place at work. Might want to drink it in two sittings to avoid irregular sugar rushes though.
  2. Granola/multigrain bars are good - and come in about 200-300 calorie servings as well.
  3. Small sandwiches -i.e., finger sized - are nice and scarfable. I like making an egg salad sandwich out of one slice of sandwich bread and a single egg. 2-300 as well. Small pitas stuffed with hummus and things are also great for this purpose.
  4. A small (300mL) container full of things like crackers, cheese, dried fruit, small fruit (berries/grapes/whatever), wasabi peas, and rice crackers to graze on during the day…
  5. “Tea time”; aka thermos of tea + small scone/muffin loaded with dried fruit and nuts.
  6. Finally, if all else fails and you find yourself shaking during the middle of the day, you can always resort to energy bars/booster drinks. Usually 2-300 cal, and works like a charm.

I'm in!!

Since I had to move recently, I haven’t been eating well and stopped making bento, and with the holiday’s so close, dieting right now seems like a bad idea… but come January I’m going to try to get back to being more healthy!!

Let’s works hard together!!

D: YES!

I need a super kick-start to help me lose weight. I’ve been trying to cut back the fast/junk food, but I need something else. I will gladly follow along a plan with you.

I just need to work in some exercise and I just havn’t been able to figure out a way to manage my time and not feel so exhausted and burnt out. I’ve gained at least 10 lbs. in the past semester and I seriously need to look 50 lbs. to be my pre-college weight!

HELP! D:

oops

lose, not look. XD If i looekd 50 lbs, i’d be scared of myself.

I’m interested! I’ve

I’m interested! I’ve been reading Just Bento for a while, but I have not had the incentive to make a daily bento for my lunch.

I'll have a go

I’m in! This will be interesting to see. Just let me know when we start.

Me!

I have a lot of weight to lose and would love to feel a part of a bigger group working on it.

Count me in, too!

Id luv too!

ive been reading your site like crazy id luv to do some healthy bento for weight loss with ya.. count me in!

I'm in, too.

I’ve been using bentos as enforced portion control for a while now, but I know I don’t pack as healthy a lunch as I should. A little guidance will go a long way. Thanks for the great idea!

I'm in!!!

I’ll be with you in January!

Good idea to start on

Good idea to start on January! I’m with you too.

I'd love to!

I’m already making a renewed effort to lose some weight now. I figure if I can do it now, I can do it any time. Laura

Count me in!

I need to find a way to lose weight again. I did well on Weight Watchers years ago, but I just haven’t been able to make myself stick to it again. Losing weight and getting healthier by bento-ing sounds like a fun challenge.

I want to

I’d like to join as well. I was trying to loose weight with bento boxes before, but I’ve kind of fallen off the bento wagon.

This is a great idea!

Can’t wait to see what you come up with - even if it is just more inspiration for healthy bentos!

I really don’t want to

I really don’t want to loose any weight, everyone says I’m too skinny .. I really just prefer healthy food, tastes way better, and then the desert feels more special xD anyway, how can I be a part of this (about the healthy food part wich interests me ALOT =D ) without losing weight? should I just increase the portions? ^^’ because i really eat alot lol and just to put it out there *because alot of people don’t understand this* gaining weight can be tough and being too skiny actually makes you alot more tired .. I have been able to gain 3kg in 2 years just by doubling the lunch and dinner portions and eating 2 more snacks during the day =D wich makes me eat 2 really full plates of food and 6 snacks during the day plus one after dinner ^^ well, with bentomaking now i only eat one plate-meal :\

but anyway, if you know how I could be a part of healthy eating without loosing weight, please tell me… I really do love your recipes, ideas and bento making ^^

I'm In

I’m in. Longtime lurker, love your site!

All encompassingly!

I hate that I don’t use my bento as often as I could (and should), and that my eating habits are a bit on the lax side of things. Count me in!

I'm definitely in!

I really need to lose some weight, and it gets so hard to maintain healthy eating around this time of year, and I fall into a slump even after that… I could use a kick-start to making healthier choices again! > w < ♥

This is a wonderful idea, and I can’t wait to start it with you!! ♥♥

I’m hoping to play tennis come spring, so hopefully I can shed a couple mounds (aiming for 5!) by March. That would be lovely! ~♥

Oh, yes, please!

I have been following you for almost a month now. I LOVE bento & have done it off and on for the last 20 years. My husband even bought me two good sized boxes from J-List several years ago but I never had a good source for ideas & recipes and tips on packing boxes until I found your site. Now I am bringing bento to work 3-4 days a week & LOVING IT! I am even making my own recipes and gearing them toward bento use! Yea!!! I am up for whatever you have in mind!!! Itadakimasu!!! ^_^

I’m in!! I currently make

I’m in!! I currently make a bento at least or twice a week, I am following WW (have already lost 32lbs) at the moment. But a bento plan for the New Year would be great as I would centre myself into bringing lunch to work rather than raiding the vending machine and hoping I don’t go over my points!

count me in. I’m 19 and

count me in. I’m 19 and weighed in at 240lbs. I really want to lose weight and go back to my original size of 140lbs. so yeah.

Me, too.

I have finally found some nice, leak-proof boxes in sensible sizes (570ml for the hubby, 450ml for my lunch) and am all bento-motivated. Today we had our first “pretty” bento with spanish tortilla omelettes, salad and olives on the side. Over summer, I wanted to build a good foundation of what of our cuisine actually works well in bentos and seeing which of your recipes will make it into our repertoire, but come January (and work again), we’ll both want to get into the healthy home-made bento most days of the week thing. So here’s two more me, toos. Cheers from NZ, Rebecca :)

Excellent Idea!!!

I am absolutely interested.

This is just a thought

Please excuse me if I get a bit off topic but this thought just popped in my head.

A lot of people have said to start the plan in January. Which is a good idea to me, but whenever you chose to start is fine as well.

The idea I had, which may or may not work, is a motivational tool have all that want to participate (if they want to) take their measurements and post when we start. Then say every month or so have them update it so everyone can see the progress that’s being made.

Another I had just as something kinda silly (if you have time of course) make a “PLAN Bento” post, so we can share our bentos and give each other ideas of what to put into them if we are in a slump.

I think that’s my only ideas for right now. If you think any of them would work feel free to e-mail me. I’ll be glad to help as best I can

Bramble Rose

I’m quite interested. I

I’m quite interested. I hope I follow it though x.x… when I smell food, it smells too good sometimes x.x but my doctor said I had to lower my weight (or magically grow taller… which won’t happen)… I guess I should exercise a little too =X

OK.

I want to loose some weight after Christmas, so I’m with You.

NicK.

Me too!

Great idea! I am wondering if we can really talk about weekly/monthy menu planning and bento boxes! :) Also maybe more seasonal vegies etc.

I’m with you too,

I’m with you too, Maki!

I’m looking for better overall health and weight loss, and bento seems like the perfect way to do it!

Add another 2

I’m getting bento items for Christmas this year and I’ll be starting my own bento lunches in January to help my boyfriend keep track of his meals when he’s at school, so add the both of us for this!

Count me in!

I’ve been trying to lose weight so I’m definitely interested! I’ve recently just discovered your blog so this is all perfect timing! :)

I'd like to try too...

I’ve been on and off Weight Watchers for over a year and have lost about 20 lbs but I still have lots more to lose! I think the Bento challenge is a great idea and I’d like to join in!

count me in for maintenance

I really don’t need to lose any more weight, but I do tend not to eat when I get busy…….unless my lunch is right there for me at work. I’m mostly just interested in maintaining where I am.

I am in!

My blog is in French, but I might just open one for this challenge

I'm in!

deffinately, its one of the reasons i started doing bento (and also to save my food bills! tho I have been spending it on boxes hehehe)

Its nice to have support and a group to stick together and keep each other on track.. count me in!

Yes!

Count me in (and my husband by default). I am have two kids under the age of three and my husband is working full time while going through seminary. Needless to say we don’t have the time or budget to facilitate gym memberships or pristinely healthy shopping lists…so portion control is definitely for us. I’ll be checking back regularly.

Thanks!

New Year's Resolution...

I’ve pledged to eat better starting in January too! I’d love to be a part of this!

Me too! (will try at any rate)

My Mom’s started to do most of the cooking at home since she retired and is still trying to get me to lose weight (without much success) She regularly complains that I should learn to cook so i think this will be a great opportunity to try out cooking and stay on the straight road to weight loss!

[with regular exercising too since she’s been threatening to cancel my gym membership too.. ~.~]

I've already noticed my portion control!

I’m totally in. I put on a ton of weight(in my mind ><) over the last 2 years, and I ballooned out at 190lbs this summer(I was 125lbs 2 years ago). Over the last two months I’ve started using bento boxes for my lunch at work and working on breakfast portion control(one pastry or a thing of yogurt)- I can already tell what a difference its made! Less than 6 months ago I was able to devour half a large pizza - now one slice is enough to make me full. The first month took a TON of self discipline, but to those of you starting your journey, the hardest part is the first 2-3 weeks.

Most of my recipes that I use come from this site, but I do have some trouble following them at times. I think its mostly because I’m a disaster waiting to happen in the kitchen. I have had quite a few days of “What does she MEAN?! I don’t UNDERSTAND AT ALL!” trying to decipher recipes, but I’ve managed through trial and error ^^