Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento and meal delivery plan

One of the questions asked in the comments to my first Japan trip report was what kind of healthy ‘fast-food’ options there were. In that vein, I thought I’d talk about something that you can see for yourself, in a way. You might have heard already how totally awesome Japan’s convenience stores, called conbini or konbini, are. They are like the 24 hour delis and bodegas that you see all around a big city like New York in a sense, but go several steps further in terms of customer service. Competition is fierce between the major conbini chains like Lawson, Family Mart, and 7-11, and competition between the conbinis and the fast food restaurants for the quick-meal market is quite serious too.

Japan’s 7-11s are not quite the same as the ones in the U.S. to say the least. One of the services they offer is takeaway or home delivery of pre-ordered meals, including bentos. They have a dedicated web site for this service, called 7meal (セブン・ミール) (in Japanese only.)

7meals-frontpage.jpg

7-11 does have readymade and ready to buy bentos and other prepared foods for sale in their stores, but this is a bit different. Basically, you place an order via the web site, by phone or at your local 7-11 for a bento or other meal such as noodles (ramen, udon or soba) a day or so ahead. There is a different bento menu every day. You can order a single meal, or order ahead for a full 6 days, say for lunch every day. You can order for lunch or dinner delivery or pickup. Delivery is free (correction: delivery fee is 200 yen with a minimum 1000 yen order; though pickup is free of course).

The emphasis of the site is on healthy, balanced meals. Conbini bentos and other takeout meals have come under a lot of criticism for being unhealthy and fattening, and this is an obvious attempt to combat that. Their 7meals philosophy page states that they do not use any artificial colors or preservatives in their delivery meals, and that each meal is planned based on ‘strict nutritional guidelines’ and food safety considerations.

You can flip through the web version of their current print brochure here (to navigate from page to page, click the buttons at the bottom with the page back/forward icons; or to print a PDF version, click the button that says PDF). Here’s a closeup of part of one of their daily-changing bento pages. The graphic in the top left quarter says that each bento is 540 yen (about US $6), averages 550 calories, has 150 grams (about 1 bowlful) of rice, and has more than 20 different kinds of food.

7meals-higawari.jpg

They also have some ‘special’ bentos, such as this one-bite sushi assortment, which sells for 670 yen (about US $7.40), and has only 502 calories. It has some stewed vegetables, meatballs, and even a little dessert (a kanten milk jelly). I don’t know about you, but I think this for lunch would make me very happy.

7meals-sushimori.jpg

I’m not sure how popular this service is, but at least there is an option for having healthy, reasonably priced readymade meals, for less than the price of a meal at McDonald’s.

If you’re in Japan and near a 7-11, see if you can get the brochure in-store to take a look. Ordering may be an issue unless you speak some Japanese…The regular 7-11 bentos on sale on their shelves are not bad either, though there they face a lot, and do mean a lot, of competition from other sources.

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

14 comments

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Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

Wow, that is really awesome! I wish that there was something like that available here.

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

Personally, I think 7-11 bentos are not the greatest. I used to be all about konbini bentos when I first moved to Japan; I ate them all the time and thought they were the greatest. Now they sorta make me sick. I've never ordered the 7-11 meal service though.

Once a week I go to Origin Bento. I always get nikkujaga or their meatballs or potato salada or a stamina bento!

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

I'm not that impressed by the readymade bentos they have at 7-11 either, but these are supposed to be sort of made to order or something, and guaranteed to be healthy...so I'm tempted to give it a try at least once I must say. (I like going to the Origin in my local Aeon in the evening for the half-price deals... ^_^;)

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

I am intrigued by the 7Meals but my Japanese is bad. Once I tried to order CoCoIchi online and waited almost two hours. My curry never came >_< Must've misread something!

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

That looks wonderful. I think such a scheme would work great in the US, too, esp. since it takes some of the guess work out of the nutritional workup. Thank you for posting--even though I can't eat in Japan, thanks to you I can feast with my eyes! I hope your trip is going well.

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

Looks so wonderful! I'll definetely look for these combinis :D

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

Thanks, Maki, that's very interesting!
It's lovely to see that the calorie content of the meal is indicated. That's quite rare in France, England or Germany...
I really wish I could have something like that at end... those milk jellies look so cute!!
In England, when you order dessert, you get a massive slab of sponge. It's delicious, but it has some 600 calories... When I felt like having one, I would not have diner and just have a dessert instead.
I am glad that in Japan you can have both for under 600 calories!
Have a great trip and I look forward to the next post ^^

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

that's so cool -- i would love to have well-balanced, reasonably low-cal bentos delivered fresh to my door!! sigh, here's to hoping that state-side 7-11s adopt this program! :-)

thanks for the informative report, maki!

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

thank you so much for posting this! it's nice to see commerial food chains placing emphasis on good nutrition. i know some here in the USA do that, but most of it is still junk food. thanks for answering my post from your first Japan report entry with a whole new thread!

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

Thank you for asking a great question Sophie ^_^

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

thank you so much for posting this! it's nice to see commerial food chains placing emphasis on good nutrition. i know some here in the USA do that, but most of it is still junk food. thanks for answering my post from your first Japan report entry with a whole new thread!

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

Ugh, this kind of reading really makes me want to move back to Japan. As much as I love cooking and enjoy home made bentos they are not always practical and getting a nice preservative free semi-healthy bento for 540 yen is GREAT.

If only I could put my finance degree to work in Japan and outside of Tokyo.

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

LOL 7-11's in the US only have crappy food. Over cooked sausages, coffee, slushies, taquitos, and the like. They are also usually attached to a gas station.

~オタク

Re: Bento tidbits from Japan: 7Meals, 7-11's healthy bento ...

This sounds incredible; maybe in a few years this will catch on in other first world countries. There's absolutely no reason why we can't do this in Europe, or North America.

Dirk
Food Lovers Heaven

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