The Little Lunchbox Plan
By Mike on Saturday, June 15, 2013, 20:12 - Permalink
As you may already know, I love food - however, this means I have a tendency to pile on a few extra pounds.
Time to do something about that - and my plan is to try to restrict my food intake, but by volume - introducing the Little Lunchbox Plan.
My lunchbox is to be this container - originally from Japanese bean paste, it's only about 8cm x 8cm x 6cm in size, with an internal capacity of about 300ml.
Technically, that's enough to contain more than enough calories for me for a whole day, if I were to fill it with something like lard or peanut butter, but I'm not going to do that, of course.
My aim is that I will fill it with combinations of things that provide enough to keep me going all day until dinnertime - I can allow myself to nibble on whatever I like for breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon snack, or whatever, as long as it all fits in this box.
So let's take a look at some example meal plans and their components...
Nuts, Seeds And Fruit
This combination contains salted peanuts, dried fruit, seeds and a little chunk of chocolate - for a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and fibre.
This will be a good one to take on days when I suspect snacking will happen, or when I know I have to work through lunchtime.
|% Daily Amount||22%||17%||16%||25%||30%|
Flatbread, cheese, a mini salami and cherry tomatoes
Although it looks a bit like a matzo, the bread is in fact a soft square wheat tortilla, so it folds up to pack in the box.
This meal really delivers on protein, so it should be satisfying, even though it's small.
|Cherry Tomatoes||3 (50g)||9||3g||1g|
|% Daily Amount||17%||12%||41%||8%||10%|
Almond cake finger, yoghurt coated raisins, a little pot of fromage frais and a few grapes.
|% Daily Amount||19%||17%||13%||25%||8%|
This is a lazy option (well, they're all quite lazy, but this one is positively bone idle) - just fill the box with dry cereal - in this case, 'Krave' - chocolate-filled crunchy wheat pillows.
|% Daily Amount||13%||11%||11%||17%||6%|
The Cheese Board
Cheese (2 varieties), crackers, apricots and grapes
|% Daily Amount||11%||17%||16%||8%||7%|
Chopped mixed salad with just a little dressing, plus a little pack of sesame snaps to smash up and sprinkle on top.
This will be one for days when I'm feeling particularly virtuous, or maybe if I'm feeling guilty after an indulgent weekend.
|% Daily Amount||7%||11%||7%||5%||7%|
Crunchy biscuits, a double helping of cream cheese and two varieties of fresh fruit
This one is nice and light - but also very nicely balanced
|% Daily Amount||9.5%||10%||11%||9.5%||10%|
Four quarter-slice sandwiches (2 slices of bread) just fit the lunchbox - one each of peanut butter, jam, chocolate flavour cream cheese and honey
|% Daily Amount||13%||17%||25%||12%||20%|
Well Dressed Lobster
I bought this tiny tin of dressed lobster for less than £1, and it fits inside the lunchbox - I'll combine this with some chopped salad, some pickled vegetables (including gherkin, olives, capers), and a little pack of crackers to pile it all onto.
At this point, I got bored with the nutritional analyses - suffice it to say that, as long as I'm sensible about keeping a reasonable balance between the different food groups, it's really not hard to keep these mini-meals healthy, nutritious and light.
How It Went
Update at the end of the first week - this week's little lunchboxes were:
Sesame Salad - This was nice and light, but a little unsatisfying.
The Cheese Board - Really good - I did deviate a little from the meal plan above - I only had two Cornish wafer crackers, and replaced the apricot with a cherry tomato - I also managed to squeeze in a few thin slices of extra mature cheddar, some tiny, thin crackers and a few tiny little gherkins (packed into an empty plastic pod from inside a Kinder Surprise chocolate egg. This was a very satisfactory little meal and it left me feeling quite happy.
Nuts, Seeds and Fruit - This was quite satisfying, although not terribly interesting. The slight drawback with this one was that it was too easy to graze at this selection - and by lunchtime, I had eaten nearly all of it, however, it did keep hunger at bay for the whole working day, so this wasn't really a problem.
Well Dressed Lobster - the meal eventually comprised: the little tin of lobster, some Ryvita crackers and a little pack of thin Asian crackers, some thinly-sliced red pepper, cucumber and spring onion, and a little pod of homemade tartare sauce (made from a teaspoon of light mayonnaise with roughly-chopped gherkins and capers mixed in).
This little lunch was an absolute delight - and the time taken to eat it was a pleasure - delicately loading each little cracker with various combinations of the ingredients at hand.
Positively super - I will definitely be doing more of this.
Deconstructed Cheesecake (shown here reconstructed!) - again, I surprised myself at how much I was able to pack in.
Five biscuits, three triangles of cheese spread, some sliced strawberries and raspberries (in a vanilla syrup), a crushed chocolate biscuit, a couple of squares of dark chocolate and a little pot of sour cherry jam.
I spread the cheese onto the biscuits, then the jam, then added the fruit, sprinkled on the chocolate biscuit crumbs and shavings of the dark chocolate.
Although it lacked the variety of the cheese board and lobster meals, this one was definitely the best of the bunch. It was great fun to put together (at my desk at work), and it tasted really luxurious.
Kinder Surprise Pod
I've written before, elsewhere on this site on the utility of these little plastic pods, originally containing the toy element of a Kinder Surprise chocolate egg, but they've found yet another use in my Little Lunchboxes.
They're just perfect for securely containing a small, but adequate amount of dressings, sauces, pickle, jam, or for ingredients to be sprinkled on the top of things.
How It Worked
Even at the end of the week, I can feel that I've shed a little surplus weight - I suppose I should be keeping track in a spreadsheet or something, but I'm just going to keep an eye on my waistline instead - my belt now buckles one hole smaller - and my stomach is flatter - there's a way to go yet, but this is a step in the right direction.
Not all of this is attributable just to the Little Lunchbox, of course - it has taken a bit of resolve and willpower to resist snacking, and I don't expect that to get easier, but having a very rigidly defined plan does help - for me at least.
More Little Lunches...
Tiny Tapas - this one was very delicious and satisfying. Anticlockwise from top:
- Morcilla (black pudding) with boiled peeled wheat, tomato and herbs.
- Salad of green olives, cucumber, green pepper, grapes, pickled hot peppers, capers and gherkin.
- Sweet pickled hot cherry pepper stuffed with cream cheese.
- Ham, cheese and potato tortilla (Spanish omelette) - this was originally two small slices, but they welded themselves together in the box.
- Crispy potato sticks.
- Spicy slim chorizo sticks.
- Savoury crackers.
(I heated the black pudding and the tortilla in the microwave at work before plating up the other components - the additional contrast of hot and cold was good).
Comprising three malted milk biscuits, a pot of vanilla fromage frais, apricot jam, fresh whipped cream (in a little plastic bag - I cut the corner off and piped it onto the jam and vanilla loaded biscuits) and grated dark chocolate mixed with a little bit of freeze dried instant coffee.
There was a little bit of space left in the box when I packed it, so the three squares of white chocolate were just a bonus.
Nice, but not quite as delightful as the deconstructed cheesecake above.
I based my calculations in this project on the following daily amounts:
- Calories: 2,500
- Fat: 95g
- Carbohydrates: 300g
- Protein: 55g
- Fibre: 30g
Why Restrict Volume?
Why restrict the volume of the day's meal - why not count the calories instead, or use a points method?
The answer is: simplicity. It took me a couple of days to analyse the nutritional content of the meals on this page - And going forward, I can't be bothered with that sort of nonsense - it'll be a good deal easier if I just keep within the confines of a container too small to reasonably contain an excessive amount of food.
Small Can Be Beautiful
Consumption of large quantities of food, although it is on occasion hilarious, is not the only path to gustatory satisfaction - it turns out that a small, carefully-crafted meal can be an utter delight (although in truth, I think this is probably no secret).
I'm not talking about ridiculous minimalism - just attention to detail and great care to pack as much interest, variety and sympathy of flavour and texture (not to mention balance of nutrition) into a finite space.