During a recent trip to Japan, I found myself digging into more than one bento box meal with absolute delight!  These to-go boxes are readily available everywhere – train stations, local shops, even 7-11.  Although they are not as easy to find in North America,  it occurred to me that there are actually several lessons within the bento box experience that we can learn from:

1.  Portion Control.  (enough said!)

2.  Avoid Mindless Eating:  A term coined by Brian Wansink, PhD and author of over 100 academic articles and books on eating behavior, Mindless Eating essentially refers to eating without paying attention.  Have you ever reached back into a chip bag to find it empty, or looked down at your plate to be surprised that it is already clean?  The bento box seems to decrease the likelihood of Mindless Eating, because there are several things to pick from in the box, each of which taste quite different…. you have to actually think about what you’re going to taste next.  (note that with multiple things to choose from, portion control *#1 above) is key!)

3.  Strong Flavors tend to lead to lower calories consumed.  In bento boxes, there are often a few strongly pickled vegetables, or some pickled ginger that give you pause to think about what you are eating, and the strong flavor also helps to keep portions under control.  Using hot sauce is a great way to exercise this point in western cooking.

4.  Thoughtful Preparation: Though often easier said than done, taking time to prepare a quality and varied meal allows you to enjoy a healthy, balanced meal….. rather than hitting the drive thru for something overportioned and often less healthy on the way home from work.

5.  Have Fun With Your Food!  Food can be healthy and still be exciting and fun.  Travel your tastebuds – try a local oriental food market to find some neat new options.

Dr Sue Pedersen www.drsue.ca © 2013 

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