Losing more than 50 lbs as a couple with bento, and dealing with an omnivore's needs
Reader Suzi no miko left this great comment:
I am a vegetarian and my husband is not (slight issue…). When I make Bento for the two of us I end up making a bunch of different things because he wants meat in his Bento almost every day. He’s also on the South Beach Diet thing and won’t eat rice, carrots, corn, potatoes, soba, fruit, etc… This page had been very helpful to us (more specifically me) and thanks to our bento boxes making portion control easy and the tips on packing from you we have collectively lost about 50 pounds.
That is really great - congratulations to Suzu no miko and her husband! Bentos are a great weight loss aid, as I've written before, because portion control is much easier than with large or more open containers.
One point that Suzu no miko brought up is something I have to deal with too: how to make a vegetarian-based bento that an omnivore, or a bigger eater, would feel satisfied with. I often show the bigger-portion version of each complete bento, but here are some general tips:
- Start off with a vegetarian bento, if that's what you want. There's no need for you to compromise.
- When cooking for two, if you are the smaller one (or the one who wants to lose weight!), take 1/3rd of the whole for yourself and the rest for the bigger eater, instead of simply dividing in half.
- Stock up on meat that's cut small. E.g. thinly cut beef or pork, bite size chicken. Ground meat (pork, beef, chicken, turkey) is also handy to have on hand. If you are making a stir fry for instance, after the vegetables have cooked and you've taken out your own veggie-only portion, you can add some thiny sliced beef bits (perhaps marinating them first in a little soy sauce and mirin) which cooks up in a minute or two. To freeze thinly sliced meat or small pieces of meat, just spread them out thinly in a bag, and break off what you want to use. In the U.S., those frozen packs of thin beef meant for Philly cheese steaks are already conveniently portioned for you. In Switzerland 'fondue chinoise' frozen packs are equally convenient.
- Premade freezer stock items you make yourself, especially mini-burgers or meatballs and soboro, are endlessly handy to have around. Just take out what you need, and re-heat.
- Processed meats like ham, bacon and sausage are also handy, used in moderation. These are standby items for most bento makers in Japan, especially the ubiquitous weiner. For instance, you could cut up some fish-shaped weiners (very easy to do, and much easier than weiner flowers and scatter a couple on top of an otherwise vegetable-based bento for meat and cuteness. You could wrap some bacon around some pre-steamed asparagus (you get the plain steamed version), or add some cut up ham to a salad or stir fry.
- Frozen shuumai or gyoza dumplings are also useful to have. Making your own is best - whenever I make gyoza, I always make extra and freeze them. You can find premade shuumai and gyoza at Asian grocery stores (see notes). Frozen shuumai can be steamed, deep-fried or panfried, or just nuked.
- Even if your favorite big/meat eater doesn't need to lose weight, don't pile on the fat content and calories with the extra you add. His or her bento should still be healthy.
What do you do to deal with a bigger eater or an omnivore's bento needs?
- note: There was a scare recently in Japan about contaminated frozen gyoza dumplings from China. If you are very paranoid, stick to ones you make yourself.