Three Compartment containers can be purchased on Amazon or pretty much any other online retailer, as well as find at your local store. They are popular because packing the most important nutrients into one meal (protein, carbs, and veggies) is super easy. Containers first came about in Japan and were used by wives and mothers to pack lunches for their children and husbands, as well as themselves. While they’re a neat invention, they are more than just a novelty. Using a 3 compartment container to meal prep will help track what you eat, promote weight loss, and keep you on track. Personally, I use the Fit Simple Stackable Meal prep containers (Amazon Link). For each meal, you can pack your complex carbs, veggies and protein, and when you are finished making 6-7 meals, you don’t have to play tetris with the space in your fridge! The ability to stack these is what made me get them, and can really help keep your meals and fridge organized.
Here’s how you can use a Bento box or compartment container to help you start losing weight.
Organize Your 3 Compartment Container Right
Your Bento box or your compartment container should consist of whole grains and healthy carbohydrates, and these should make up a third of the box. This is around two hundred calories in the box.
That’s a little less than a cup of pasta, a cup of rice, or two to three slices of bread. Add to that the protein foods that don’t exceed the carb calories, if you can. The rest should be made with vegetables, oils, and fruits.
There are other formulas out there for filling your compartment container, but this is most likely the easiest one to remember. I always like to think of it as the rule of “thirds” – 1/3 carbs, 1/3 protein, and 1/3 veggies.
Watch The Salt When You Meal Prep
Most of the recipes that are intended for Bento boxes or compartment containers tend to be a little salty because they’re meant to be eaten with a hefty serving of plain white rice. Due to your diet having less rice, you should reduce the salt in any traditional Bento recipes, or you’re going to crave more rice. Make your protein component the usual way in the recipe, but make the vegetables without any added salt so it’ll all balance out.
Keep the Fat Low
This should go without saying, but you should try to minimize the amount of fat in your container. You don’t have to eliminate it completely, but you shouldn’t be liberal with it, either. Using cooking methods that aren’t using a lot of fat are better for you.
Water sautéing is the best option for stir-frying things to go in your bento box. Just add a bit of water to prevent any sticking from happening in the pan, and forget about the oil or butter. Use oil only as a flavor ingredient by using a bit of olive oil, sesame oil, argan oil, or other flavor-infused oils.
Use Prepared Foods Sparingly
You may have just gotten into preparing meals at home and using bento boxes, but don’t be fooled by the cute and colorful foods you might see in prepared bento boxes at stores. Just because it’s colorful and in a bento box doesn’t mean it’s something that’s good for you.
Prepared bento foods will usually have breaded or fried foods. These are common in Japan. Room temperature battered and fried foods are very tasty, but they wreak havoc on your waistline. If you have to, include them in the bento box as just an occasional treat.
Use Whole Rice or Grains in Your Bento Box
When it comes to using grains or rice in your compartment container or bento box, you should make sure you use whole grain rice and grains because white rice is full of starch and not full of nutrition. Brown rice or whole grain foods have more fiber in them, which make you feel fuller for longer. Cooking brown rice will take a little more time, but with compartment containers, you can easily precook the rice and freeze it.
Fill a Compartment with Beans!
Beans are very popular in the Japanese bento box, which is what the compartment containers were modeled after. Beans cooked in Japan are usually a little sweet, so you should do the same. Add a few into the corner of your box and scatter a few over your rice to add some protein and fiber. If you can’t give up the flavor of white bread or white rice, one way you can compensate for the loss of fiber is by adding a few legumes or beans.
Remember, people eat with their eyes first, so you want to make your compartment container as attractive as possible. Make sure the vegetables are colorful. Use two different types of vegetables in every container and make sure they’re of different colors. The darker the greens are, the better. The brighter the vegetables are, the better. Use peppers, carrots, and dark leafy greens to contrast against one another.
You can also cook your vegetables by blanching or stir-frying them briefly to reduce their size without losing too much of the nutrition. Raw salads taste healthy, but a bowl of pale lettuce has very little nutrition, but a small handful of some blanched spinach has a ton of nutrition. Choose your vegetables wisely.
Educate yourself about what foods contain a lot of calories and which ones are pretty low on them. Most vegetables are extremely low in calories, so your compartment container should have a lot of vegetables compared to everything else. There are other foods that are low in calories, such as fruits like grapefruit, strawberries, and plums, which are all low in calories.
Shirataki noodles, popcorn, wheat bran, and rice cakes are all low-calorie grains that you can divulge in.
Make sure you use lean meats such as fish and chicken without the skin in your container box. Seafood, such as cod and mussels, are good to put into your bento box. Cod has 70 calories for every three ounces, and mussels have 73 calories for every three ounces. That’s a decent sized serving in your compartment container!
Lastly, you can’t forget the seasonings! Your compartment container doesn’t have to be bland and boring. Add in some oregano, thyme, or whatever other seasonings you like with your protein and rice. Just make sure you’re keeping track of how many tablespoons you’re using and how many calories are in each. Seasonings can be a hidden calorie nightmare if you’re not keeping track of them.
Three Compartment containers are an excellent addition to a dieter’s home. They allow you to dish out portions appropriately and store them for later. There’s no longer an excuse to go out to eat when you have a bento box waiting for you in the refrigerator or the freezer at home!