By Cassie Johnston
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Add this one to things you probably don’t know about me—I used to be really into making bento boxes.
You know those little single-serving Japanese lunch boxes that folks turn into mini, edible art pieces? Yeah, those! I never really got into making the super artsy ones (some of them should be in a gallery!), but I did love arranging my favorite foods in a nice, organized box.
There are so many things that appeal to me about bento boxes. They fulfill the small (but strong) part of me that craves organization. I love things in boxes! The visual part of me loves the artistic aspect of it. It’s so fun cracking into a beautiful box for my meals. Above all of this, the most appealing thing is the inherent portion control. When I first started losing weight, I made bento boxes because of how easy they were for keeping my meals the correct size. You find a box that is the right volume for you and then fill it up with the correct ratio of veggies, carbs and protein. Without much effort you have a perfectly balanced, portion-controlled meal.
I got out of the bento-making game because of the time involved–it’s a lot more time-consuming than just throwing leftovers in a Tupperware. But as of recent, I’ve gotten back into making bentos. With my recommitment to weight loss, I’m trying to return to the practices that served me well once before—and one of those is bento-making.
It’s been a few years (and I since threw away all my bento accessories), but I’m really enjoying creating beautiful lunches (and snacks and breakfasts!) for the sake of health and beauty. Of course, having cute boxes, picks and cups would be nice, but there is something simple and beautiful about brightly colored, delicious food organized in boxes.
If you’ve been really paying attention, you might say, “Uh, Cass. You don’t like Asian cuisine. Including Japanese.” Truth. But that’s the great thing about bentos—you can use whatever foods you want! Sure to be traditional, you’d fill it with Japanese dishes, but the principle works with any kinds of food.
I’m eating the same kinds of foods I did sans-bento, but just in smaller portions and arranged beautifully.
Overall, I’m really excited to get back into bentos. So often weight loss is such a bore, but I think bentos are a great way to take something that is usually a snooze-fest (portion-contro—zzzzzzzz) and spice it up. It’s hard to hate on counting calories when it looks this pretty. If you are interested in making your own bentos, there are some amazing blogs out there with great tips on getting started.
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Very cool! I’m definitely one to just throw leftovers in a container. I think I’d really enjoy this style of lunch-packing though!
I loooove little boxes of food. I would look forward to lunch all the time when I did that. I really should start that up again… in September (I don’t have a choice about what I eat this summer while on my bike ride). A great in-between for bento boxes and containers you just throw stuff in is the Zojirushi bento box collection. I got the Mr. Bento (http://www.amazon.com/Zojirushi-SL-JAE14-Bento-Stainless-Steel/dp/B000246GSE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336072893&sr=8-1), which has four containers, but they have smaller sets too.
I really love the snack/tea bag idea! Perfectly sets up a drink to go along with food.
I LOVE Bentos. What’s in the round containers in the Bento in the 4th photo? Greek yogurt? I have the cutest Laptop Lunchbox that I often use in the summer. I also love how much of a space saver it is than a collection of mini Tupperwares!
Your meals look delicious. I’ve started following Tastespotting’s 30 days of Quinoa for summer salad ideas I can use in my Laptop Lunchbox.
I’m sure these lunches will help the weight loss but also give you the eye-candy necessary to really enjoy the healthier food.
Overnight oats! :) With chocolate chips on top.
Looks delish… may have to add that to my summer lunch routine!
Are you just using regular ol’ tupperware though? Or do you buy actual ‘bento’ branded boxes?
I use rectangle and square glass Pyrex. I might eventually get some real bentos, but for now, the Pyrex work just dandy. :)
I love bento boxes! I’ve never made one but I love variety, so they are right up my alley. I’ve had bento boxes at Japanese restaurants, but they’re not quite the same. I need to make one soon. Variety rocks my socks!
I LOVE the variety of it, too! That’s one of my favorite parts. :)
I’ve been bringing cold lunches in two cute little boxes, using those silicon cupcake things as separators too! I brought a lunch in the other day in one; a sandwich, popchips, chocolate, nuts… I love my little boxes.
You and I are opposites on the food spectrum because I LOVE Asian food and dislike Mexican and Italian! Give me Thai or Indian any day!
Hao ke ai!!
(That’s “So cute!” in Chinese. I thought it was appropriate.)
I love this idea… but… I’m one of those people that in my youth couldn’t stand my food to touch… as a grown up, I’m pretty okay with my food touching, my bento concerns are that my foods will smell and taste like one another and I’m won’t love that… I was looking at one of your boxes and it had cut up red peppers in it, and all I could think about was how once the lid was closed on the box and it sat for a bit, everything in the box would smell and taste like red pepper somewhat… I guess bentos just aren’t for me… : (
Nothing else in the box tasted or smelled like red peppers. :) The only thing I ever struggle with sometimes is bananas. They’ll give a faint hint of sweetness to other foods, but nothing that makes me not want to eat it. But then again, I was the girl as a little kid that would mix everything on my plate together into one giant pile and then eat it. :P
I get so inspired looking at those perfect little lunches! :)
I’m really surprised to hear you are so uninterested in Asian food. Although maybe the local interpretations of Chinese, Thai, Japanese etc are just not that good? I’m not crazy for Asian food, probably because of spending so much time living here and desperately hunting for western items (I would kill for cottage cheese!), but I am surprised nonetheless that you would be able to make such a clear-cut call! Can I ask if there are any reasons why?
You are probably right that the term “Asian food” is probably too broad. I probably should have said “East Asian”. But the problem is that I don’t care for a lot of the base flavors of many Asian cuisines. I try to avoid soy for health reasons, and I also just don’t like the taste of soy flavorings (soy sauce, miso, etc.). I also don’t love the taste of ginger or sesame. Does that mean there isn’t a single dish from any culture I won’t like? No, way! I’m sure there is stuff out there I like. But I’ve been to my fair share of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean restaurants (we have a ton of great ones in my town) and never found something I’ve enjoyed. It’s kinda hard when you aren’t a fan of the base flavors.
That being said, I LOVE Indian food. But even though that’s technically considered “Asian food”, I feel like that’s a whole different world. And Thai food is okay. I’ll eat it and enjoy it, but I’d never make it for myself or actively search out a restaurant for it.
Trust me, I’ve tried reconditioning my taste buds, but this is something that has been with me since I was a little kid! There are very, very few foods I don’t enjoy, but this is one (whole, giant set) of them. I want to love Asian foods!
Fair enough, I feel that way about beetroot and seafood, I really want to love them but they make me gag! If you don’t like soy sauce then it would indeed narrow things down quite a bit.
Thai food is definitely my preferred among those that you name, I think the South-East Asian countries have nicer food in general than those further up North. I’m still not a fan of a lot of local dishes, especially as I am mostly vegetarian and here veg tends to be just something they throw in for colour. But as you say, there is a lot of variety and maybe if you get to travel in the region, you might stumble across some delicious street-foods, which I personally often find far superior to the restaurant offerings!
I can definitely see myself getting really into arranging my food like that. Unfortunately, I can hardly spare any more time to make lunches as it is. This seems like a great healthy habit to get into when you want to mindfully select, eat and appreciate your food.
Nice lunches! I like that you don’t spend an insane amount of time on these — bentos can be quick and easy, packed with just about any kind of food inside.
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