Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bento, Baby

We ate out at a Thai restaurant last week and I ate a bento box lunch - perfect amounts of salmon, sushi, vegetables and spring rolls. Yum. Even my husband liked it.

If you don't know what a bento box is, you're missing out. First of all, they make taking a lunch to school or work really convenient. Second, it makes it easy to pack a variety of foods into your meal (which is a healthy idea). But the best thing of all: they teach you how to eat small. Plus, they're just cool looking.

Bento boxes can be traced back several centuries ago to Japan. Japanese field workers would use bentos for their lunches (comprised mostly of white rice, potatoes and other typical staples). Today, bentos are everywhere, and of course, have been westernized for our benefit. They can be chilled or heated up; they come with silverware, cups or chopsticks; they have lids and can be dishwasher safe; they come with cutesy kid designs or in sophisticated adult colors. Somewhere out there, there is a bento that appeals to your individual taste.

They may have changed and adapted over the years, but the simple premise has remained the same: take a box and divide it into several small compartments, each large enough for a small, snack-size portion of food.

This is where you learn to eat small.

You can't cram a huge portion of fries or a gigantic serving of pasta into a bento. You can't stuff half a chicken or a triple-decker hamburger into it, either. But you do have room for sensible portions of food; and the opportunity to add some variety to your selections. Branch out by adding different types of proteins, veggies, fruits, breads - whatever you want to eat that can fit into those compartments.

Have lunch with a bento for a few weeks and pay attention to the amount you are eating and how you feel. I bet you will find that you don't need to eat the huge portions you might have been used to in the past. And, another thing: I bet you will find that you lose some weight.

Check out one of my favorite bento box sites for great ideas (this is one I use for my daughter's lunches):

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