Monday, September 20

Tiffins and Such: Bringing Ease to Homemade Lunches and Portion Control

So now you may be thinking, "Excellent, I'm looking forward to trying all of these fabulous recipes for wholesome, natural, homemade food and bringing some of them to work for lunch....but how exactly do I transport a Tofu, Arugula, and Shiitake Mushroom saute to my office? Or any number of the other dishes you post recipes for?" Well, you can use any food storage container you have around your home, of course, but convenience and practicality are very important here, so I recommend some variation on the "tiffin" or something similar to it.

What on earth is a "tiffin" you ask? Tiffins come from India, and they're basically just stackable metal food containers that snap together, keeping food items separate but compact and resulting in ease of transportation and enjoyment. Because the containers are usually made of stainless steel, they won't discolor, crack, peel, or leach nasty chemicals into your food. They look like this:

Many other cultures have similar items that are used for transporting and portioning food, such as the Japanese bento box, usually made of lacquered wood or smooth enamel:

These days, you can find variations on this idea made from non-leaching quality plastic that does not contain BPAs, such as the handy ones from Sistema available in a multitude of shapes sizes that are divided into sections:

The main idea here is convenience and compactness, of course. You don't need to be fancy. But having something reliable and purposeful readily available for you to pack your lunch into each morning (or the night before, you go-getter!) really makes the idea much more manageable. No more rooting around through drawers of mismatching Tupperware lids and bases, most of them scratched and yellowed with age, or saving up those flimsy plastic take-out containers. Not to mention these handy options described above are made from materials that won't leach dangerous substances into your food; something we want to be aware of.

Now onto portion sizes...these handy dandy containers serve another function (you knew I was going to get there....) The thing is, sometimes we need some help adjusting to what an appropriate portion is given the distortion that we've been exposed to. Ultimately, the very best gauge of portion is trusting the needs of our own body, because people are different and sometimes we need more food and energy than other times. However, when we are learning to trust our body in this way, and when we are still in transition from the Portion Distortion of our culture to a more mindful awareness, we can use a little help. These pack-and-go containers can make it easier for us to stick to proper portions because they are designed to be compact and taken on the go, AND because they are divided into sections already, or "portions" if you will. Let's say, for example, that you have a tiffin with four equal sized compartments: fill one with your starch (like brown rice, quinoa, or soba noodles), one with your protein(like black beans, tofu, or fish), and the other two with a different vegetable each (like kale and carrots, or brussels sprouts and artichoke hearts) . Or maybe you get a Sistema plastic container divided into three sections; one larger, two smaller. The larger section if for your "entree", perhaps a cooked dish like a recipe I have posted, or a nice salad with protein and grains in it, or even a sandwich, and then the two side compartments can be for additional veggies, fruit, get the idea.

It's rare than I advise people to buy food-related tools or extra "stuff", because I firmly believe that making positive, life changing shifts to a healthier and more balanced diet and lifestyle doesn't require anything fancy, expensive, or complicated...however, there are some times when a small and simple investment brings back significant long term gains, especially when it comes to ease and convenience. One example: a vegetable steamer. Another example: a handy dandy grown up lunch box. So consider it, especially as you try many of the recipes I've been posting. Both your work bag AND your waistband should be feeling roomier in no time....

So where do I get one of these? It depends on where you live; in some cases ordering online may be easiest- sells a large variety of tiffins, Sistema plastic containers, and even bento boxes, and they can ship anywhere in the world. Or simply do a online search for any of the above items and find a vendor near you. Many cooking stores will stock this type of thing. For example, New Yorkers: in Brooklyn, visit A Cook's Companion on Atlantic Avenue for tiffins and Sistema, and in Manhattan, visit Broadway Panhandler or Pearl River Mart. They won't be hard to find, and they aren't pricey. Happy packing!

Interested in finding out more about what foods are right for your own body and why? Looking for personalized information and support to help you change your eating and lifestyle choices in order to achieve your own specific goals for health and wellness? Contact me to set up a consultation:

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