Healthy Lunch Ideas, Bento Box Edition!

March 04, 2011

by Lana Buseman

Garden-Sandwich-bento-lunch 
Photo from Laptoplunches.com

Recently I was introduced to the Bento Box, a style of lunch box that originated in Japan. But this is no ordinary lunch box, and after doing some research I fell in love with the idea.

A Bento Box is a lunch box that is divided into small sections for each portion of your meal. The typical rule behind the Bento Box is that the meal you pack will be 25 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent meat or protein and 50 percent vegetables or fruit. What makes Bento Boxes so special is that they are meant to be as visually appealing as they are tasty, buying into the idea that, initially, we eat with our eyes.

The decorative Bento Box trend is catching on here in the states, but has been a way of packing lunch for a long time in Japan. The beautifying of a Bento Box could be something as simple as pretty arrangement of cut veggies or something as elaborate as making a rice ball look like a panda.  The tradition of making food look like cute little animals, known as charaben/kyaraben, started with Japanese mothers who were trying to convince their children to eat foods they didn’t like.

After seeing the pictures of some of the Bento Box ideas out there, I can only imagine my younger self (and to be honest, my current self) getting very excited about digging in to my lunch.

On most days it is not feasible to spend 45 minutes turning your child’s lunchbox into an elaborate zoo of food animals, but I came across some quick tips that can brighten up the everyday PB & J and carrot sticks. Between the food group guidelines, pre-set compartments and just a little decorative flair, you can create a healthy lunch that your kids will have fun eating!

Panda-bento

photo from Flickr user luckysundae

Some Bento tips from JustBento.com:

  • Bentos should be reasonably healthy and balanced. Try to stick to the produce to grain to protein ratio.
  • Keep it simple. You don’t need to spend an hour to create a delicious and attractive Bento. Use no more than five items in your everyday Bento Box.
  • Make sure your Bento tastes good! Don’t pack things in your Bento just because you think they are healthy; make sure you or your child will enjoy eating what you choose!

See the rest of the top 10 Bento tips at JustBento.com!

Plus! Check out some of the more artistic Bento Boxes here!

Click here to see where you can buy a Bento Box and tips on how to make your own!

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