Photo: Ryzhkov Photography/Shutterstock

Packing the Western Version of a Bento Box

Japan Travel
by Michelle Schusterman Apr 16, 2010
Michelle Schusterman explains how to use bento boxes to pack a healthier, more earth-friendly lunch.

Bento boxes, the Japanese art of packing an aesthetically pleasing lunch in a divided lunch box, are more than just a pretty version of a Lunchable. Companies like Laptop Lunches, who sell “bento-ware” in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, are making it easier for Westerners to not only get a grip on portion control and the amount of trash that accumulates from paper bags and Ziplocs, but also how to put a little thought and effort into the artistic side of what we eat.

Environmentally Safe

The beauty of the bento box is that no other container or bag is necessary – the compartments keep your food from touching. Laptop Lunches pride themselves on being a green product:

Our sustainable lunch boxes–which come with a book of healthy lunch ideas and lunchmaking tips and recipes–are reusable, recyclable, and dishwasher safe. Our lunchboxes, recently featured in Shape, Self, and Health Magazines, contain NO phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), or lead.

Imagine the trash that comes with the average lunch brought from home – a paper bag, a plastic baggie for your sandwich and crackers, napkins. As a former teacher, I remember seeing the amount of trash bags piled up in the cafeteria after lunch and wondering how much was unnecessary.

A good bento box, including Laptop Lunches, will be airtight and easy to clean, a great reusable choice that cuts down on all that one-time-only garbage. To make it even greener, pack reusable plasticware and a cloth napkin.

Bento for Health

One look at a bento box tells you why it helps with portion control, but that’s not the only way it can be used to pack a healthy lunch. If you’ve been thinking about the ratio of what types of food you eat, like meat to veggies, or starch to fruit, here’s your chance to see exactly what you’re putting in your body and maybe look at what you eat a little differently.

The bento box pictured on the right can be used in many ways. Maybe a roast beef sandwich in the big front compartment, broccoli cheese soup right behind it, crackers and salad in the right two compartments and a few grapes in the small container. Hey, we’ve got veggies, we’ve got fruit, it’s got to be a healthy lunch…but what makes up the majority of the meal?

Sandwich, crackers and liquid cheese, with a little produce on the side.

Take the same items and put them in different compartments. Half a sandwich in the back right, a ladle of soup in the green container. A big salad in the front left with a bunch of grapes behind it, salad dressing on the side.

It’s the same food, but this way over half of your lunch is fruits and veggies and you still get the satisfaction of hot soup and a good sandwich.

Bento boxes can really spark some creativity and help you get out of the same boring lunch habits. Got a good bento box lunch recipe? Share it in the comments below!

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