Monday, 13 January 2014

Bento Love

When I was working in Westminster there were so many quick lunch options that it was simple (albeit very expensive) to go out and grab something for lunch. Now I'm working out of London, lunch options are fewer and bringing my own lunch in saves a considerable amount of money over time, as well as generally being healthier than ready-made sandwiches or salads (our options here are Greggs, M&S or something from Morrisons...). Plus, it just looks so cool to have such a beautiful lunch! Packed lunches are not just for kids, and don't have to consist of boring, sandwiches!

What on earth is bento?
You may well have seen the pictures of amazing packed lunches made by some mothers in Japan for their children (referred to as 'character' or 'picture' bento), however most day-to-day bento are single-portion takeout or home-packed meals, common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento consists of rice, fish or meat, and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container (thank you, Wikipedia). Although very popular in Japan and increasingly popular around the world, particularly in the US, it seems that bento-making is still in its early days here in the UK.

I'm not going to profess to be an expert in bento-making by any means, however I hope that I can share a few ideas that will give you some inspiration for your own lunches.

There seem to be a couple of schools of thought on bento proportions for carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables and sweet/dessert, but generally proportions seem to be given in the proportions of 4:3:2:1 (carbohydrate : protein : vegetable : sweet) or even more simply as 3:2:1 (carbohydrate : protein : vegetable). The idea is that a correctly-sized bento box which is properly packed, will provide you with approximately the same calories as the volume of the box (ie, a 500ml box should provide about 500 calories). This not only makes it easy to regulate your portion sizes, but  also makes it easy to manipulate the calorific intake by modifying the ratios.

Pictured is an example of a pretty traditional bento - included are a simple soy-chicken stir fry, rice, hoisin beansprouts, blanched broccoli and dried mango. I prefer flavoured rice, so this had a small drizzle of kecap manis (sweet soy). This box has a total volume of 650ml, divided over three tiers (a larger one at 250 ml, and two smaller ones at 200 ml), however rather than fill the larger compartment with rice, I decided to use a smaller one and to increase the protein/vegetable content and reduce the calories instead; packing gaps with the blanched broccoli. You could also of course, massively reduce the carbohydrates by replacing the whole of the rice container with more fruit or veggies.

I'll post more healthy bento box ideas over the coming weeks! :)

In other news, today was the Week 2, Day 1 workout for C25K. The 'run' definitely seemed a little trickier than last week, although foing sweet f* all all weekend probably didn't help!
To be fair, I think I felt as tired after the first workout last week and it got easier, so I'm hoping for the same this week. :)

Today's Workout (c25k W2D1):
Rowing (moderate, 30 spm) = 5 minutes
Walking (brisk, 3.8 mph) = 21 minutes
Running (slow, 4.9 mph) = 9 minutes
Strength (Squats, Bench Press, Lateral Pulldown) = 4x8 of each
(Strength programme is being reviewed later today!)

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Breatho
(Minimus ones still need sending back to New Balance for exchange...)

165 lbs (-1.5 lbs)

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