Geek Health: Bento Lunches and PlanetBox Review

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I believe this is the first time I’ve written something health/fitness wise on this blog ever. I am by no means an expert on the topic – in fact, my current state of health and fitness is in great need. I’m not in the worst shape I’ve ever been in my life. But, I work in a sedentary office environment, then I come home and enjoy hobbies that are also sedentary (gaming, art, writing).

The truth is, I’m not as young as I used to be (and that’s not going to change), and I haven’t been as health-aware the past decade as I should. Experts seem to stress that getting healthy isn’t about gimmick-diets or fad workouts. It’s about making slow, lasting changes in lifestyle.

So, that’s what I’ve been trying to do this year.

Lunch Lament

I started my path to better health by trying to identify my own behaviors that lead to unhealthy eating. I knew that lunch, in particular, is a big stumbling point for me.

Mario Bento Box
Cute Mario Bento Box – I didn’t make this!

As I noted, I work full time in an office. So that means I must either bring my lunch or eat out. It’s so easy and tempting for me to eat fast food – there’s a Burger King, Chick-fil-a, Arby’s and Subway all within 3 minuets of my work location.

I tried hard to bring my lunch, but I’d soon get tired of the same foods each day. I’d look at my lunch bag with a curled lip, grab my keys, and opt for the more expensive and less healthy option.

Or. I’d force myself to eat what I brought, which was usually not enough to keep full. By the time I was ready to go home, I was so hungry that I’d grab something unhealthy on the way home, or just eat way too much at dinner.

I knew I needed to change this.

The Bento Option

About a month ago, I decided if I could make a lunch that was both appealing and more filling, then I could hopefully prevent unhealthy eating behaviors. I’m not much of a cook, and don’t enjoy spending time in the kitchen, so I needed a simple solution. I took to Google to search about what kind of healthy lunches folks make, and quickly ran across the bento box lunch.

Bento is just Japanese for a “meal in a box.” You often see these in anime, especially when school kids bring their lunch. They can be cute or decorative, but above all, they can be healthy.

Bento boxes encourage you to think about portion control and variety – both things that I really needed. Because bento styled boxes are made up of little compartments, there’s only so much you can fit in it. These compartments help separate food (I can’t stand food blending or touching), and keep crunchy things from getting soggy. It also alleviates the need to use extra packaging, such as plastic baggies, making less lunch trash each day (and saving money, too)!

My PlanetBox

A PlanetBox with Koi magnets
A PlanetBox with Koi magnets

While doing research and reading bento blogs, I took note that the actual lunch box you choose is a pretty big deal to folks who are into bento. You can easily head to the local Wal-Mart and pick up a cheap Rubbermaid food container with dividers for under $10. But, I wanted to encourage myself to be dedicated to this choice, so I researched boxes that bloggers were recommended.

What I ended up getting was a PlanetBox. Now, I will say up front that I spent more on this than I’d usually spend for a lunch box – they are not cheap. However, being made of stainless steel, and quite high quality, I doubt I’ll need another lunch box for a long, long time.

I’ve been using mine for about a month now, and I’ve been pleased with it. In fact, I took it to a working lunch meeting a few weeks ago, and all the girls at the office noticed it instantly and adored it. Even the resident foodie oohed and ahhhed about how healthy I packed my lunch!

Todays Lunch!
My lunch today!

It doesn’t take long to clean or pack nightly, which is a plus. It also comes with little dipping containers, which can be used for things like salads and dressings – I have yet to try these out. I try very hard to put a good variety in my boxes each day, stressing fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t disallow myself something salty/crunchy (such as pretzels). But the box’s compartment keeps the portions small, which is far better than devouring handfuls of chips or such.

So far, this has been pretty successful for me. I have enough variety to keep me from getting bored. Though portions are small, there are many types of different foods, so I don’t leave work ravenous and overeat at dinner as a result. I’ve also made strides to portion control dinner and pick up a variety enough to prevent the desire to order a random pizza instead of eating something healthier.

I’m starting to add an exercise regimen – the P90 series, which I will review later – and hope that this will see a gradual improvement in health and fitness over time. Hopefully blogging about it every now and then will also help keep me accountable… and maybe give you guys some ideas on small changes for a healthier lifestyle.

What do you do for lunch?

12 responses to “Geek Health: Bento Lunches and PlanetBox Review”

  1. I took control of my health this year, hardcore. I am 41 (for the record!) and a lot of the same issues. Work at a desk. Play at a desk. Eat out (every day almost!). My issue is that I don’t do balance well. When I gamed hardcore it was 20+ hours a week. Now I am into fitness hardcore =)

    So, I made the commitment to game/tv less 1 hour a night, 6 days a week, and be active during that hour. I do weights 3 days a week, and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) the other 3 days (or play hockey. Hockey season just ended so back to the HIIT videos: ie: Instanity).

    I also cook (but I like cooking!) and always make extra. Eating is really the main thing that will change your lifestyle. I cook larger meals now so I have leftovers that I can bring to work. I also eat 2x now at work (smaller meals more often helps!) so Breakfast at 7, lunch one at 11, lunch 2 at 3pm, dinner at 6:30, and then meal/protein shake after my evening workout (10pm). and then game/tv if there is time.

    So workout 6 hours a week, and eating properly, the results have been crazy. Went from 205 to 175 and absolutely feel amazing! I started it last year with gaming on an elliptical and recommend that as a good place to start (bud I would do a treadmill, elliptical was dangerous at some points with hands on a controller =)

    I am jealous in the USA they have these healthy lunch programs where you can pay and get your lunches for the week dropped off at your door Sunday night. Where I live in Canada that isn’t available. Food is a big investment (veggies and lean proteins cost more, of course) but in the end I feel like I am happier and that I will live longer and enjoy more of my life =) Sorry for the giant comment, I am just really pumped about it and hope other people who want to take control of their health do so too!!

    As you mention – just make small steps first so it’s not overwhelming – and as it feels good and gets easier increase the activity and the commitment =)


    • Wow! Congrats on your health/fitness progress – no need to apologize for an encouraging comment! This is super great, and makes me think I might be on the right path, too!

      I admit it’s sooo hard for me to put away the fun stuff after work and set that time aside for a workout. So much temptation just to veg out… so many excuses (I had a hard day. I’m tired. I had to do grocery shopping. etc) to fight against.

      You should blog about it sometime! I’d love to hear if you have some fitness tips for us geeks, especially since you’ve seen some huge results! I haven’t heard a lot of the gaming bloggers discuss health and fitness, so it might be a great way to encourage other folks and exchange ideas and tips.

      I’m starting way, way back at a low fitness level, having to take it super slow, myself. I need all the encouragement and suggestions I can get!


      • I think I will do some posts about it. The hardest part is starting (well, the FIRST hardest part) and the second hardest part is sticking with it.

        Vision will get you inspired – Discipline will take you to your destination.

        Some days I could barely motivate myself to start, but once I did and pushed through to do the best I could I always felt better. Talking about it is also really important! Set some small, manageable goals (I will be active 3x a week to start) and then increase them as you feel you can!


  2. I usually bring either leftovers from dinner or a frozen meal to work for lunch, so… on average, I’m probably a six out of ten or so for healthiness of lunch. 😀 I do make sure to at least pack a fruit of some kind along with it.

    I know I really need to work on exercise. My schedule is all over the place, though, so what I really need to do is set a time each day for exercise… which of course, I haven’t done. I at least get a half-hour walk in most days, but that’s hardly enough.


  3. This is awesome! I’ll have to do some more research and maybe try this for myself. Like you, my lunches can get a bit haywire in unhealthiness (and expensiveness). This would be a good solution.


  4. We started shopping at Whole Foods back in November when I got my new job. While it’s a little pricer, we’ve found that we’re eating healthier–more fruits and vegetables for snacking, or if we eat crackers they’re whole-wheat versions, or pita chips instead of potato chips. We’ve also gotten into a guacamole kick.

    Usually, we make three meals a week for dinners. Chaide brings a salad for lunch daily with different meats/fruits/veggies on top with his favorite dressing, and I’ll alternate between leftovers and a bunch of snack-type things with a salad.

    It feels good to be eating differently, and we can definitely tell a difference with our weight loss, even though both of us don’t really exercise (I maybe do 30 minutes twice a week?).


    • I haven’t actually checked out the whole foods store around here. That’s a good idea! I may look into that if we have one that’s close enough (we should). Thanks for the suggestion!


  5. I should finally get myself a bento box… and exercise XD
    I did research about this topic a while back and frankly I am not sure if what I eat can be considered healthy or not. Still I try to make myself food each morning to work so at least I tend to make them less unhealthy…. I love my sammiches =3

    Still I try to live according to a few rules.
    One of them is to eat less but more often.
    Another would be that everything is for people, but in moderation.

    I think that people who deny themselves things they like may just break their resolution and “pig out” on what they tried not to eat. Getting healthier doesn’t prevent you from eating the occasional “junk foods”. I wrote that in quotation as there are many ways to make those unhealthy foods be better. Like making them yourself and trying not to add those ingredients that are bad for you. Finding healthy equivalents is also good.

    I for example, love pizza as many do. Some though can consider it, amongst others, as unhealthy. But the one I make at home is way different from a ready made one. Same with hamburgers and other such foods. Thing is, you can enjoy your favorite “junk food” without those consequences.

    But still I would definitely feel better if I exercised more. Maybe I should try that deskcycling that Syn mentioned 😉


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