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Using Bento Boxes for lunches.

mangrothian Posts: 1,351 Member
Please be easy on me, it's my first post in the forums here! <3

I'm so surprised that there aren't any posts on Bento-ing here; or at least not where I could find them. And before I get a member of the grammar patrol on me, it does seem that the word has evolved to the point that it can be used as a verb!

Are there people here on MFP that make Bento lunches to help control their calories/portion sizes? If so, what kind of things do you add to your Bento box? Do you have favourite recipes that you regularly use to help with your dietary goals?

As an office worker who has a long public transport commute, after much trial and error (and a few leaked lunches on the train :'( ), I discovered Bento lunches through the JustBento website when looking for healthy lunch ideas. The idea of using the concepts of a traditional homemade Bento lunch to control the size of your lunch portions as well as their transportability appealed to me, and after giving them a go, I was hooked.

Just to clarify, I'm not talking Charaben/Kyaraben here (those cute yet unhealthy artistic lunches that look like cartoon characters and take hours to make). I hate to think what gets put into some of those lunches for the sake of them looking like a piece of artwork.

I find that now for me, the almost ritualistic habit of making my Bento each night for my lunch the next day to be essential to controlling what I eat whilst I'm at work (I can be a bit of a mindless eater and don't always realise that I'm actually putting food in my mouth), as well as being very aware of portion control and serving sizes. I have to think about what I'm going to eat for the week in advance, I can pre-cook meat and freeze it in portions required, same with my carbs, it never takes me more than 15 minutes during the week to do (about an hour of pre-cooking and freezing on the weekends) and I feel good knowing that I've formed a healthy eating habit that I enjoy greatly.

I also love the fact that my Bento's look good as well since neat and tidy packing is the key to a good Bento lunch - because food that looks pretty is generally more fun to eat, and if it's fun to eat, then you're more likely to enjoy the food itself. I mean, people buy those fancy birthday cakes, and fondant icing tastes horrible (sweet plasticine anyone?) :s

I rarely ever comment on MFP, generally staying to the lurking shadows of the forums (seeing some of those threads evolve from a simple question into macro/lowcal/sugar/fasting/give-me-a-scientific-reference-or-be-damned arguments scares me to posting silence!), but when making tomorrows bento before dinner (I made it extra neat and used some fun cutters to liven up my vegetables since we having a New Years picnic lunch), I thought I'd make the dive into the forums and reach out to see if there were Bento-ers around, see how they made their Bento, and to maybe get some great new ideas for foods/recipes to add to my repertoire. I really want this post to be about ideas and recipes for foods that are:

- Easily transportable (please don't suggest sandwiches, as that's pretty much a given!)
- Can be eaten at room temperature, or only need to be stored in a basic insulated bag
- Can be packed tightly without smooshing (is that the technical term?)

To start with, this is an example of my Bento for my breakfast, lunch (in this case a more Japanese traditional style) and snacks that I have at work, just made prettier than normal for our work picnic tomorrow (hey, it's lovely and warm in Australia right now - come and visit!):

The foods you can see here are:
blue containers
- white Japanese rice (140g), with 1/4tsp rice seasoning and pickled plums
- 5 lean beef mince meatballs, cooked and glazed with a small amount of soy sauce, with lettuce and tomatoes with filling
- 1 cup of lightly blanched vegetables (carrot, capsicum(peppers), broccoli, snow peas, brussel sprouts)
pink container
- 80 grams strawberries, quartered
- 20 grams blackberries
green container
- 15g each of blueberries and raspberries
- 100g natural yoghurt (unflavoured) with cinnamon.

For reference, the three Blue containers stack together, and have a total capacity of 490mL; the two square containers are 120mL and 70mL (normally I'd just use one container that has dividers). Throw in a babybel light mini-cheese and you have there a total of 545 calories that took me 15 minutes to make (maybe add 30 mins if you include me cooking a batch of mini-meatballs on the weekend that gave me 10 lunch servings) and leaves room to have a couple of coffees and maybe a cookie during the day without wanting to fret about my calories.. Except for the cheese and the seasoning on the rice, the food is cooked from scratch with in-season vegetables and fruits (so much cheaper!), and there are no preservatives in sight. They fit in a small carriable insulated bag, which I find is essential when taking peak-hour public transport.


  • Mihani
    Mihani Posts: 3,268 Member
    I love my bento style lunchbox. Mine is from Laptop Lunches. I don't use it as much as I used to because I generally just take a huge container of salad for lunch every day. I would generally fill the larger size one with leftovers or a hummus or black bean wrap, then the smaller ones with fruit, veggies, olives, etc.
  • Sabine_Stroehm
    Sabine_Stroehm Posts: 19,334 Member
    I have a bento style lunchbox as well. I use it when I take left overs and love it, but like Mihani, I usually just take a huge container of salad for lunch.
  • EllieRaff1
    EllieRaff1 Posts: 1 Member
    This is fabulous! I really want to get into this! Do you have a recipe for your little meatballs etc? They look great. I will try that Bento site you linked and start Bentoing asap!
  • Swiftlet66
    Swiftlet66 Posts: 729 Member
    Yay! Bento! I'm a bento-er too; well, occasionally. It's fun and you really do get to "eat with your eyes." :) That and the box automatically helps you restrict the amount of calories. I'm maintaining right now but I still make bento occasionally because it's just pretty to look at. :#



  • JenniferIsLosingIt
    JenniferIsLosingIt Posts: 595 Member
    Welll, I sorta do that hahaha. I prepe every weekend and then portion out my food so that I can easily fill my lunchbox with good stuff.. but that is super cute!!!
  • AbbieBeckett
    AbbieBeckett Posts: 70 Member
    I use one of those "box appetit" things and I know they have a recipe book to help you fill it, maybe look online at that? I haven't bought the book myself yet though :) x
  • dopeysmelly
    dopeysmelly Posts: 1,411 Member
    When I go to the office, I use my bento (Zojirushi) depending on what I'm taking. I always take leftovers and find the multiple boxes make it easier to fit my macros with lots of small portions of different things, but for a huge salad, I just take a big plastic container. I make a bento lunch for DD every day, again with leftovers, so she has something warm.

    I did find that the suggested portions of starchy carbs etc were just too much food for me, but it does make life a lot easier.
  • LizN63
    LizN63 Posts: 129 Member
    I'm a great fan of bento and I use justbento as well! It makes me more conscious of what I'm taking for lunch and less likely to snack. I've not been doing it recently, must get back into it!
  • MKEgal
    MKEgal Posts: 3,276 Member
    Your meal looks delicious & healthy!! :heart:

    I love bento, and if I ever get a real job I will be using my various boxes.

    Here are a few recipe sites.
    A couple are simply Japanese recipes, but there's lots there that would be appropriate.
  • Ainesilver
    Ainesilver Posts: 72 Member
    While I do own a Bento, I never really used it. I do use a website to get ideas on things to make to eat and it has some interesting Bento ideas. Here is the link to some of her Bento ideas: http://nomnompaleo.com/post/59118514268/paleo-lunchbox-roundup
  • Jerseygrrl
    Jerseygrrl Posts: 189 Member
    If someone made me a lunch like that I'd be smiling every day! That looks beautiful AND delicious. I make my lunches for the week on Sundays. I portion them out - weigh and measure - but I don't have any cute containers like that.
  • Kabiti
    Kabiti Posts: 210 Member
    These are awesome!! It looks like so much work? How do you cut down on prep time?
  • NoelFigart1
    NoelFigart1 Posts: 1,280 Member
    Bento are awesome and I adore them. Portion control, healthy food and pretty. You can't beat it.
  • LifeInTheBikeLane
    LifeInTheBikeLane Posts: 345 Member
    We have a man in my town who makes bento lunches. We have gotten them before and they are always so amazing. I've always wanted to try to make them myself!

    *clicks link*
  • lexidear
    lexidear Posts: 70 Member
    I love bento! I have a few random bento things I got from Daiso but I mostly just use regular containers. I love the style of eating though - a bit of everything, rahter than just 1 solid meal. Would love to see more of your photos!
  • adamitri
    adamitri Posts: 614 Member
    Kabiti wrote: »
    These are awesome!! It looks like so much work? How do you cut down on prep time?

    It's not that bad if you do it when you make dinner. I do it all in one go when I make bento and don't mind eating the same thing the next day.
  • Of_Monsters_and_Meat
    Of_Monsters_and_Meat Posts: 1,022 Member
    adamitri wrote: »
    Kabiti wrote: »
    These are awesome!! It looks like so much work? How do you cut down on prep time?

    It's not that bad if you do it when you make dinner. I do it all in one go when I make bento and don't mind eating the same thing the next day.

    I just make my wife fill mine... if she will ever fill mine.
  • Kabiti
    Kabiti Posts: 210 Member
    I just make my wife fill mine... if she will ever fill mine.

    Hmm... Maybe I can teach my kids to make my lunches but my ex isn't about to start!