Whether you're seven or forty-seven, toting the old standby brown bag lunch to school or work has probably lost a lot of its allure. Meet the bento box, a fun and creative way to revitalize lunchtime that lends itself well to integrating diverse and healthy foods into your daily diet.
Bento boxes are a Japanese innovation, typically consisting of a compartmentalized and/or layered box containing single portion servings of an assortment of foods. The boxes can range from cardboard containers (found in Japan at carry-out restaurants or convenience stores) to simple plastic versions to ornate laquered boxes. Some bento boxes include small bottles or flasks to hold sauces or dressings and others come complete with chopsticks; if you prefer a hot meal at lunchtime, there are also microwaveable styles available (the variations are endless; see some helpful shopping links at the end of this post).
What a boon to lunchtime nutrition. With those little compartments just waiting to be filled, it's easy to become creative. Add leftovers and tidbits from from all the food groups: some pasta salad, a few baby carrots, olives, noodles or rice, your favorite sushi, walnuts or almonds, sliced fresh fruit and cheese, a cookie or two -- the sky's the limit for taste and visual appeal.
And what child wouldn't love to open a brightly colored bento box of his or her own, and explore the compartments to see what surprises Mom or Dad packed for them. The presentation of smaller portions and varied selections may also encourage picky eaters to expand their horizons and try different foods.
Home meal leftovers and restaurant doggie bags suddenly become much more appealing when you imagine them repurposed as next day's lunch in your new bento box -- enjoy!
Interested in learning more about the beauty of bento box meals? Here a few resource links for shopping, information and ideas:
Amazon.com - Just enter bento box into the Search box, add variables as needed (microwaveable, kids, etc.)
INFO & IDEAS
Laptop Lunches - Bento Menu Library (also has a Shopping page AND a great Photo Gallery of lunch ideas)
Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate.