Lots of questions about bento boxes!

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A few people have asked me why I chose to use bento boxes for my lunch.. the answer is simple — portion control. A lot of people are afraid of Core because they think they will over eat or that its too restrictive.. truth being that neither of those are actually true. I have never been a volume eater so Core works well for me, but if you are a volume eater, then bento boxes, laptop lunches, or other pre-portioned plate settings might just be your answer to weight loss!

I started realizing that though I was eating well and very balanced meals, I just wasn’t getting enough variety of foods because I am the only Vegan (or even Vegetarian) in my household. So, day in and day out I usually ate leftovers… while left overs are great, its not all that exciting…. then enters bento boxes. I use them for 2 reasons… first being portion control, the second being that they can make a really adorable lunch or dinner. They come in all kinds of versions, boxes (like the ones I have), cups, and even 1 layer dishes. They are not all as girly or cutesy as the ones I like, they even make Mr. Bento’s for men.

Bento Q & A:
Q: What are bento boxes?
A: Bento boxes are Asian lunch boxes. The cute ones that I collect are actually children’s lunch boxes and most are made by the Sanrio company. They come in many designs, shapes, and sizes. Most common are the two tiered kind. They have two fillable levels, that serve as your dinner set. Most come with chopsticks but some sets come with a matching fork and spoon set. Some come with carrying bags making transport easy. Two-Three tiered bento boxes will most often come with what is called a ‘bento belt’ to keep your boxes from separating or spilling. They really are a necessity for the stackable kids. If you don’t want to mess with the stackable ones, you can purchase the nesting boxes or the larger 1 tier box. The nesting boxes come with several different sized boxes that all fit into one another when your storing or finished eating.

Q: They look really small.. I think I would be starving by dinner time! Do they really hold enough food?
A: The average size of a 2 tier bento box is about 4″ x 6″ x 3″ (deep). The one tier boxes are generally bigger. They hold the correct amount of food that you should be eating at one meal. They will really hold about 2-4c worth of food. What you fill them with is generally what will keep you full, not how much you eat. Brown rice is more filling than white rice, veggies and fruit are more filling than candy and snacks. However, if you truly find that your bento cannot satisfy your appetite, you can add a side car to your bentos. I frequently add one to mine for fruits, yogurt, or sweets.

The bento box in the photo above is a rather small, compact bento.. but it held enough food for me at lunch and I still had left overs for dinner.

Q: Where do you buy them?
A: Some local Asian stores will have them but I haven’t found any in mine, so I purchase from ebay, jlist, and jbox. Target carries ‘laptop lunches’.. while they are similar to bento’s they aren’t quite the same thing, but will work just as well. Some people say that tupperwear and rubbermaid has dishes much like bentos, but I haven’t purchased any so there is nothing I can recommend, but basically any small container will work.

Q: What should I put in a bento box?
A: Any food that you like. There is no right or wrong way to make a bento lunch. If you are looking to use them for children, you might want to use your cookie cutters to make cute shapes and use food safe dyes for coloring. If you looking for ideas on how to make a quick, easy lunch, you might check out bentotv or veganlunchbox.

Q: How do you use your bentos? & are they microwave safe?
A: I use them basically for lunch and dinner plates. I also take mine with me for trips and vacations, or picnics in the park… basically anywhere you would need to bring or pack food. I find that the convenience of having a carrying bag to keep all of the food items in one small place is much easier and makes for less fuss when traveling. I also find it takes me less time to prepare meals now because I can make several bentos at once and store them in the fridge then all I have to do is just grab one and go. :) You will have to check your bento label to see if they are microwave safe, but most of them are.. just remove the lids because those generally are not.

Q: How do you clean and store them?
A: While some of them say that they are dishwasher safe, I wash mine by hand. The paint could come off of your boxes if you scrub too hard or use too much heat on them. I just simply wash them the way you would any other plate or cup. Once they are dry, you will find that most of the 2 tier boxes will have a smaller tier, this usually fits inside the larger, deeper level and then you can put the lid on and store it in its bag or in a shelf. They take up less space this way. To wash the bags, you can machine wash, but I also do this by hand.. the bags will last longer this way.

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