the bento packing, lunch cooking, photo taking, dog loving blog

I Feel Healthier: Grownup Reasons to Bento (#4)

This week on Not Exactly Bento, I’m talking about my Top 5 Reasons why Grownups should Bento. Packing a meal for yourself when you’re on the go, busy, or just because is a wonderful way to meet personal health goals and do something special for yourself.  Join me as I talk about the top 5 reasons why I think you should bento.  Each post will feature pictures of bentos, past and present, to show readers how skill level doesn’t matter when packing lunch for yourself. Feedback on why you bento and what works for you is always welcome.

Dill Chicken Bento from August 2011.

When I made the decision to stop eating out so much, it was partly due to cost and partly due to how I felt (with some urging from my doctor). When I eat out for a full week, I start to feel blah, slow, exhausted, constantly in need for a nap. The intensity of this feeling correlates to the types of lunch choices I make. However even with better choices, I still feel not quite right after awhile. It’s like my body misses eating something completely fresh, made just for me.

I Feel Healthier
Sandwich and a Salad in Laptop Lunches

Sandwich and Salad Bento in a Laptop Lunch Set. From September 2010.

When I began packing lunch, my biggest hurdle was packing bentos that looked very orange/brown. Less color seemed to equal less overall choices from the food pyramid. After much reading about bento, packing lunches, and eating healthier, I shoot for as many colors in my lunch box as I can. Some days I accomplish that, others I don’t. What I try for the most is to have at least 1-2 green items. Which means I’m eating my vegetables, Mom!

I am by no means perfect when it comes to packing the most ideal and healthy bento box for myself.  I do what works for me. When I try new recipes, I tend to look for things from Cooking Light Magazine.  Not because of the low calorie option as much as their recipes are simple, easy for me to follow, and I know they are healthier than what I am going to get eating out.  And usually tastier too. (You can find most of their recipes at myrecipes.com)

Some people bento for portion control. Bento is ideal for this whether you need to eat fewer or extra calories for your particular dietary needs. The size of the box you use helps determine the amount of food you can pack, creating an easy shortcut in portion control. After five years of bento packing, I seldom measure or weigh what I’m putting into my box. If I’m really trying to pack for portion control, I now know that filling a corner of my Lock & Lock box is 1/4 cup of pasta or a full tier is a cup of lettuce.

Pork Tenderloin and Nectarines over Spinach

Pork and Nectarine Salad from Cooking Light. From September 2012.

If you are calorie counting, some of the best resources are Lunch in a Box and Just Bento‘s guides on choosing the right size bento box.  While I am working on a series of posts on choosing a bento box for yourself, I will not be discussing this aspect as it has been written about by people more expert than I.

My best advice is to find a box you’d like to try and start packing in it.  Then figure out what sort of health goals you have, and use your box to achieve those goals. I won’t lie to you. It’s not the easiest process to go through sometimes.  I get frustrated, but I tell myself that is natural and expected. And when I have a day, or a week, or a month of great bentos and cooking, I try to remember that when things aren’t going as well.

Just remember that over time you will develop your own, unique lunch packing rhythm, and it is encouraging to know that you’re working toward your goals.

Be the bento everyone!

~Jenn

Bentos featured in this post: Bento 382Bento 309, and Bento 424.

Previous Reasons to Bento for Grownups:

#1: I Am Worth It
#2: Bento Saves Me Money
#3: I Feel More Adventurous 

P.S. I have no affiliation with Cooking Light Magazine or myrecipes.com. I just use them constantly. I wish I did have an affiliation with them. :)

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