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TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Bento Box, American-Style

If you dine at Japanese restaurants, you’ve probably seen a bento box. Bentos provide a selection of smaller bites. A traditional bento consists of fish and/or meat, pickled and/or cooked vegetables and rice. In the U.S., dumplings, sushi and fruit are often included.

The bento comprises a box-shaped container with compartments. The boxes range from beautiful lacquer to plastic lunchbox to disposable take-out containers. They can be one level, as in the photo, or stacked. The defining feature is the variety of foods.

Bento is more than restaurant fare: Japanese homemakers prepare them for family members’ lunches, as well as for their own. The goal is to provide an attractive variety of foods.

So today’s tip is: Think bento, with American ingredients, for lunch or dinner.


A restaurant bento box. Photo by
Blue Lotus | Wikimedia.

A variety of foods makes any meal more interesting, and is recommended by registered dieticians and other experts.

You can whip up your bento from scratch, and/or use up leftovers. It’s easy to incorporate healthy foods. You can serve the foods on one plate, or put each item on a small plate or other dish.

Consider an assortment of small-portion foods including:

  • 1 portion of grain (barley, brown rice, couscous, rice, quinoa, etc.), pasta or potatoes
  • 1 or 2 portions of protein—meat, fish, egg, tofu, etc.
  • 2 portions of vegetables, cooked or raw, including salad (how about some edamame?)
  • A few pickles or other pickled vegetables or olives
  • “Miscellaneous”—a piece of cheese, cherry tomatoes, yogurt dip for the veggies, whatever’s in the fridge
  • Something sweet: strawberries, grapes, orange segments, pineapple chunks or other fruit
    By the way, the word “bento” originates from a slang term in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279 C.E.) meaning “convenient” or “convenience.”

    To us, it means “tasty variety.”

    Check out some of our favorite international foods.

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