Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bento Box Love

Steve's new bento box
A new found love...
My lovely boyfriend bought me two books on Bento boxes for Christmas this year (he loves Asian culture and thought that Bento boxes would be something I could share with my clients, or perhaps blog-followers). The first one "The Just Bento Cookbook" has tons of great history behind Bento and plenty of traditional recipes to try.

Bento, translated as "convenience" is a single-serve meal that is very common in the Japanese culture. Traditionally a bento box has white rice, meat or fish, and some sort of pickled vegetable. They are easy to transport, are re-useable and easy to clean. You can make them as simple or complex as you would like.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The elaborate bento boxes are referred to as "kyara-ben" or character boxes. These can take hours to make, but I'm sure would put a smile on anyone's face.

Why Bento?
Portion control. One of the top reasons to pack a Bento lunch is to help pack reasonable portions (you can only fit so much in the small containers). This can help promote weight control if healthy choices are selected!
By packing a lunch vs. eating out you can save hundreds of dollars a year AND know what you are putting into your body! I find that it is a great way to use leftovers from the night before.

Soon after he asked me to start packing him bento boxes for lunch. So I set off in town to find a bento box (I now know there are many great places to purchase them online). About the same time he decided to essentially go vegetarian. I had become so accustomed to packing sandwiches and wraps that I had to step back and rethink "the lunch bag". I found that it was perhaps easier to pack a healthy lunch as long as I thought about a few main components.

Think of "my plate" to help build a healthy lunch!

-High quality protein (meat, tofu, eggs, cheese, nuts, beans, hummus)
-Source of carbohydrates for energy (fruit, brown rice, whole wheat bread/wraps/pita)
-Fiber and color (vegetables and fruits)

My first Bento Box

-Corn and bean salad (1/2 cup)
-Wild rice (1/2 cup)
-Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers (1+ cup)
-Greek yogurt (1/2 cup)
-Fresh fruit salad (1/2 cup)

I would suggest packing the night before (before you put the food away and clean-up). That way you aren't scrambling the morning of trying to pack lunch before heading out the door!

Here are some great websites to purchase bento boxes, to search or share recipes, and learn more about bento boxes! I plan on posting additional original bento boxes in the future as well, so tune in!

Have a happy and healthy day!

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