A guide on how to pack your zero-waste, eco-friendly Bento box for fuss-free and healthy lunches

Most of us would love to have a healthy lunch at work, but you simply do not have the time to cook, especially when it comes to a “balanced” diet.

Wrong.

We all lead very fast-paced lives and have very busy schedules, but, at the end of the day, our health and diet are so important that it’s really just about organizing your time based on “priorities”. Cooking your own lunch and using a Japanese-style bento box to pack it can really bring so many benefits into your life-style. Yes, of course, a plastic free and zero-waste Bento box.

Traditional Bento Boxes roots go back to 12th Century BCE’s Japan, and originated from the cultural exchange between China and Japan (Source: Martha Stone, ‘The History of Bento Boxes’, The Bento Cookbook: The Artful Japanese Lunch Box, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014). The use of the bento boxes evolved and grew popularity through the centuries, adopting different uses, names and styles.

Most importantly, Bento Boxes still today show the importance of “presentation” and “precision” in Japanese food’s culture. (Source: Shun Gate, ‘The quintessential essence of Japan encapsulated in a box‘).

Japanese food presentation example of tea ceremony
Tea Ceremony: presentation is essential in traditional Japanese food culture
Image Credit: smspsy/Adobe Stock

So how to get started, and adopt this healthy and stylish approach to food storage?

Step 1: Select the Right Lunch Box

Traditional plastic tupperwares here do not really serve our purpose. They often only hold one type of food, they are usually very large and bulky, and they can leach dangerous chemicals into your food. Instead, we focus on more sustainable materials, such as glass, high-quality plastic, bamboo fiber and metal bento boxes. In addition, the secret of sticking to a balanced diet is to eat different types of aliments, which make the old style  one-container lunch box not suitable for this purpose.

Bento Boxes are designed to give you the possibility of dividing different food categories. They are often made from 2 layers, and they contain one or more dividers into each box. Bento Box Dividers not only make your food look neat and stylish, but they will also prompt you to prepare a varied meal.

What are the benefits of packing a healthy lunch for work using a Bento Box?

  1. You will eat more varied, and switch to a balanced diet
  2. Since you are cooking your food, therefore, you are in control of the quality of what you are eating
  3. You waste less food by saving any left overs for the following day
  4. You are literally saving tons of money which would be otherwise wasted on take-away junk food
  5. Bento boxes are super trendy and extremely photogenic, they can be shared on Instagram where you are allowed to brag about your creations 🙂

Yes, Bento boxes are cool!

A meal should be made up of these three things – fat, proteine and plants. A meal purely consisting of refined carbohydrates, like a bowl of pasta, will wreak havoc with your blood sugar levels and leave you hungry (most likely for sugar) an hour later and make giving up snacking near impossible. – Amelia Freer, Eat.Nourish.Glow., HarperCollinsPublishers, 2015

Bento Box for Healthy Balanced Meal
Preparing a Bento, Japanese-Style Lunch Box
Image Credit: strahktsksw/Adobe Stock

Step 2: Make a List of the Flavors You Love The Most

An healthy meal should never be tasteless or boring; instead, we must take into very serious consideration what types of food we love the most. If they turn out to be unhealthy options, try this little exercise: pair each flavor with what you think would be its healthy alternative. Here is an example:

Foods I love:

  • Spaghetti with mushrooms and cream cheese
  • Chicken Tacos
  • Cheese and Crackers
  • Nutella

Healthy Alternatives:

Step 3: Prepare Your Lunch while You Are Cooking your Dinner

While you are preparing your dinner make a bigger portion so that you can pack your left-overs to bring at work for lunch. If you are not a big fan of left-overs, you can also simply add an extra pan and pot to cook your lunch along with your meal so that you don’t waste time doing so after dinner or in the morning.

Cooking different meals at the same time for your day after left-overs
Dedicate one hour of your evening to cook different meals: this will allow you to save time, money, and control the food you are eating

 

Step 4: Lay Out the Food in Your Bento Box

For me, this is the most exiting part of preparing my meal, as it gives me the opportunity of getting really creative with the food display and arrangement.

  • If the box has 2 layers, follow this method:Lower layer of the bento box: main course
    higher layer of the bento box: use the central divider to separate the second course from any side dish
  • Place any fruit or crunchy and healthy snack in the central divider
  • Think about color combinations, and try to keep contrasting colors close together to give a visually bolder food presentation

Bento boxes allow you to unleash your creativity and experiment all types of food displays. As explained above, you can arrange food by placing contrasting colors next to each other, or you can create funny faces by adding berries, seeds and nuts to your composition. You can create funny-faced foods for you or for your little ones, trust me they will love it!

 Image Credits: pbajnoci/Adobe Stock and go2spike/Adobe Stock

Step 5: Enjoy Your Food and Show off Your Masterpiece

Not only your box will be packed with nutritious and delicious healthy food, but you can have loads of fun by sharing your creations. These healthy boxes are fun to make, can spark your creativity, and promote socialization in a school or working environment.

What’s really awesome about bento boxes, is that they really are the perfect lunch boxes for every age. You can prepare healthy and fun lunches for your kids and transform their lunch time in fun time, and they are perfect for adults too. We need to care about having balanced, beautiful and fun lunches just as kids!

Pack a healthy lunch using your bento box
Work Hard, Play Hard: a Bento Box for a balanced diet while working

To check out a guide to the best bento boxes, click here

For a guide to stainless steel bento boxes, click here

Did you know Bento boxes pictures are particularly photogenic on social media? I have shared some of my creations here. Share your creations in the comments or on instagram: #theneatbit

 

 

 

 

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