A bariatric bento box offers a great solution for every foodie who has had bariatric surgery. Unlike a traditional lunch box, the small compartments within a bento box allow for bariatric-friendly portions of healthy food. And as long as you select from 4 food groups for its contents, the bento box will be nutritionally sound for the bariatric diet.
It’s as if the bento box was designed for bariatric patients!
Bariatric Diet Planning for Success
Many of us require a recipe or dish to pack into a lunch box for eating at work (al-desko). Also to take along to an event from time to time, when we know something will not be served that’s bariatric-friendly.
Being unprepared in such situations means that we’re likely to skip the meal. This is not a good idea! Skipping meals can leave us feeling hungry, unlikely to meet our nutrition goals for the day, and ‘hangry’ as well. So we are more likely to overeat later in the day.
Or we may choose from a poor selection of foods offered at work or the event. We likely are faced with a cornucopia of processed, high-fat and high-sugar foods. And we later regret eating since ‘there was nothing else.’ Additionally, there is the risk of ‘dumping’ on foods that are not bariatric-friendly.
So the key to success is to be organized. Have a bariatric-friendly recipe or two that:
- can be put together in a pinch,
- can be mixed and matched with other foods to give a good balance of macros
- travels well and you will enjoy
Build a Bariatric Bento Box
The quantity of each ingredient will vary upon several factors, including your stage after bariatric surgery, your surgery type, and other individual variables. But each and every person whether vegan, vegetarian, or meat-eater; banded, sleeved, bypassed, or switched; newly post-op or old-timer; and all the other variables in between, can be catered to by using the following formula when building their very own bariatric bento box.
Be sure your bariatric bento box contains:
- high fibre and complex carbohydrates
- healthful fats
- a good mix of veggies and fruits so that you get your 5-a-day
I pack a bariatric bento box lunch at least 3 times a week, because I travel extensively and often need to take a meal with me. Sometimes I take along bento box breakfast and dinner, too, because I know some venues I must attend don’t cater to my needs (sporting venues in particular). And I cope well. By choosing seasonal fare, I never tire of what’s in my bento box or feel as if I have been short-changed with my food choices. I also save myself a good deal of money!
Bariatric Bento Box Lunch Ideas
Here are a few tasty bariatric bento box lunch ideas. Also be sure to check out more ideas and recipes in the bento box gallery on my website Bariatric Cookery.
- a tuna, onion and tomato salad with a wholegrain cracker, plus some seasonal fruit like fresh cherries
- a Greek salad with low-fat Feta cheese, olives and a small wholegrain roll or piece of protein bread, plus some berries
- a couple of prawn/shrimp and rice paper rolls mixed with shredded vegetables and a low-fat and low-sugar dipping sauce, plus some nuts or piece of cheese
- a couple of spoonfuls of smoked fish pâté in the saucepot to serve with a small wholegrain pitta or cracker with salad, plus some fruit, cheese or nuts
- a stir-fry mixture with cubes of tofu or meat and low-fat sauce (to be eaten hot or cold), with a few grapes or small portion of bariatric brownie
- a sliced flatbread with hummus, tabbouleh or falafel with some cherry tomatoes
- a lentil, beetroot and cheese salad with separate low-fat dressing and some orange or mandarin segments
- a savory low-fat muffin or egg bite with separate fruit salad
- a chickpea salad with Quorn or deli meat and celery sticks with a Babybel or small portion of cheese
Think Outside the Box, Too
Don’t make hard work of preparing your bariatric bento box lunch. Simply heed these time-savings tips:
- Use leftovers from your main meal the night before. This is a no-brainer and my only mandate is to re-purpose leftovers in a clever way. So, for example, if you’ve had ham then use a few slices to roll up and fill with a salad mixture. Got some leftover chicken? Toss it with raw veggies and spoon into lettuce cups; or roll-up in lettuce leaf for a kind of non-bread ‘sandwich.’
- Batch prep bariatric bento box lunches on the weekend. Most will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Having a few prepared bento box lunches in your fridge that you grab before leaving for the office saves so much time in the morning. Just make sure there’s lots of variety in them!
Choosing a Bariatric Bento Box
There are a good many bento boxes on the market and my criteria for choosing one may well be different from yours. But in general I would choose one that is not overly large so that I keep a handle on portion size. I also favor one with some divided compartments to keep foods separate; and I especially like a small lidded cup for holding dressing or nuts.
Needless to say the bento box should have a water-tight seal to prevent spillages. And an integral fork or ‘spork’ means I am less likely to need to hunt for cutlery. Finally, a box that is dishwasher-safe and microwave-compatible means I won’t have to worry about washing separately and I can reheat a meal without transferring to another container.
My Favorite Bento Box Lunch
I have a favorite salad that makes a regular rotation or appearance in my bariatric bento box. Called Bariatric Green Pesto Chicken Salad, it looks and tastes stunning, yet takes hardly any time at all to prepare. It is good to eat outside on a sunny summer’s day but equally welcome indoors when the skies are grey.
This bariatric bento box lunch relies upon using cooked chicken or turkey — but you can use a ready-cooked rotisserie chicken if pressed for time. Add-ins can be some jarred or deli-style roasted red peppers/capsicums, crisp lettuce, cherry tomatoes and some pesto to make a bariatric-friendly sauce. You can use ready-made pesto or make a batch of my special blend (recipe below). My version is lower in fat than the ready-made kind and worth making if you enjoy pesto in your recipes. I use it in many Italian dishes!
Bariatric Green Pesto Chicken Salad
- 400 g/14 oz cooked skinless and boneless chicken or turkey, cut into bite-sized pieces or strips
- 100 g/4 oz roasted red peppers/capsicums, sliced
- 1 small Little Gem or Iceberg lettuce, roughly chopped
- 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 5 tbsp extra-light mayonnaise
- 5 tbsp fat-free thick Greek-style yogurt
- 3 tbsp pesto sauce (see home-made below)
- 2 tsp snipped fresh chives
- 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
- 4 spring onions/scallions, chopped
- 1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Mix the cooked chicken or turkey with the peppers/capsicums, lettuce and tomatoes in a bowl.
- To make the dressing, mix the mayonnaise with the yogurt, pesto sauce, chives, parsley, spring onions/scallions, Parmesan, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. If necessary thin with 1-2 tbsp cold water to a coating consistency.
- Divide the salad between the bento boxes or serving dishes and drizzle over the pesto dressing.
- Chill until required.
My version pictured above is served in my Bariatric Bento Box with some carrot sticks, a Babybel cheese, 3 mini wholewheat crackers, a couple of strawberries and some nuts to cover not just a main meal but also a healthy snack if required.
WLS PORTION: ½
CALORIES PER PORTION (for salad only with dressing): 220
PROTEIN: 29.7g, CARBOHYDRATE: 5.8g, FAT: 8.6g
BARIATRIC PESTO: Place 50 g/2 oz fresh torn basil leaves in a food processor or blender with 25 g/1 oz rocket (arugula) leaves, 50 g/½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 cloves crushed garlic (optional) and 150 g/5 oz fat-free natural fromage frais or plain Greek yogurt. Process until creamy and reasonably smooth, scraping down the bowl with a spatula, a few times. Add a little vegetable stock/bouillon to thin if liked or use as a flavoring ingredient in its thicker form.
RECIPE VARIATION: This Bariatric Green Pesto Chicken Salad recipe can be varied by using a curried rather than pesto dressing to make a Coronation-style Salad. Simply use curry paste (mild to hot) according to taste instead of pesto in the recipe but also add the grated zest of an orange and a few diced chunks of fresh mango with a little red chili. Omit the Parmesan cheese.
Carol Bowen Ball, the UK’s favorite bariatric foodie, recently published The Bariatric Bible. It’s chockfull of her amazing bariatric recipes. Plus, Carol shares her amazing journey and the wealth of knowledge she gained over the past decade+ since having bariatric surgery.
Return to Slender by Eating Right with Every Bite,
© Recipe and Images copyright of Bariatric Cookery (UK) Ltd