Top 4 Bento Lunch Box Food GroupsKatachiware Japanese Style Tableware
There are many advantages to preparing bento lunch box meals as a part of your daily life. You get to eat a balanced diet, save money if choosing the right foods possibly lose a few kilograms and most importantly develop healthy eating habits.
Bento lunch boxes are perfect for getting your family to eat a balanced diet though it all boils down to what you prepare. Fill the bento with chips, lollies, and processed foods its a lost opportunity. To be successful at preparing “healthy” bento lunch boxes follow a few simple principles and look forward to a healthier, happier family.
A well-prepared bento lunch box should have the right amount of four food groups including proteins, carbohydrates, veggies and fruit. Dividing the meal proportionally with fresh and natural ingredients will help you to make a nutritionally balanced meal but also make it look apetising with the variation of colours.
Table of Contents
4 part, 2 part, 1 part and 1 part
A good rule to follow is 4 part, 2 part, 1 part and 1 part. The simplest way to describe this is to imagine a bento box broken up into 8 part. In 4 part add carbohydrates, in 2 part add proteins, in 1 part add veggies and in 1 part add fruit. You can also add a few extras to elevate the flavour such as sauerkraut, dukkha, fetta, tabouli or anything that compliments your ingredients.
Carbohydrates 4 part
A typical Japanese bento meal is heavy in carbs which is an important energy source that helps to fuel your brain, kidneys, heart, nervous system, aids in digestion and helps to keep your blood cholesterol levels in check.
Carbohydrates for traditional bento meals include steamed white rice (Hakumai) or brown rice (Genmai) as the base and must-have ingredient. Bento without rice is like having a bolognese pasta without the pasta. Plain rice may be bland for some but you can add a little taste by including furikake (toasted sesame seeds, nori, salt, sugar), tsukemono (Japanese pickles) or soya sauce. Also try rice cooked with red beans (Sekihan), rice with mixed grains (Zakkokumai), rice mixed with seaweed (Wakame Gohan), rice with a sheet of nori seaweed (Noriben). Onigiri rice balls recipe includes a fulling seasoned with dried nori seaweed, black sesame seeds, umeboshi (Pickled Plum) and grilled salted salmon, yum.
Proteins 2 part
Protein in moderation is beneficial to the body as it helps you stay healthy, reduces hunger levels, is good for your bones and muscles, and boosts your metabolism, which helps to burn fat and maintain weight loss. Protein is a critical part of the processes that fuel’s your energy by carrying oxygen throughout your body. It also helps to produce healthy new cells and antibodies that fight off infections and illnesses.
Proteins can be served hot or cold and are normally the main course of the meal. In Japan, proteins traditionally included seafood as they are close to the sea. Served raw, fried or grilled however today, proteins served in bento lunch boxes include chicken, beef, pork or stir-fried pork slices (buta-no-shogayaki) and it is not uncommon for seafood and other proteins to be mixed. Try our Beef Teriyaki Bento Recipe or Chicken Teriyaki Bento Recipe.
Veggies 1 part
Veggies are not only nutritious but they also add colour to your meal and contain many vitamins and minerals that are good for your health. Vegetables are rich in potassium and can help to maintain healthy blood pressure and also high in fibre, folate, vitamin C, vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E, agnesium, zinc, phosphorous and folic acid. You can also try vegetables missed with seasonal salads.
Veggies being a secondary dish can include a mix of vegetables that are simmered in a dashi broth, sauteed, or simply boiled or steamed in water and served with soy sauce and mayonnaise. Yaki nasu is a popular dish of grilled Japanese eggplant topped with garnishes of ginger, bonito flakes, green onions, and a drizzle of soy sauce. You can also try the Veggie Dumpling Recipe which are like cooked balls of dough with vegetable-based fillings. Also try bento box side dishes which includes stir-fried eggplant with ginger, gomae spinach salad and more.
Fruit 1 part
Lastly, fruit provides our bodies with a wide range of health-boosting antioxidants and normally last to be eaten. The benefits of adding fruit to your bento lunch box are that they are high in fibre and include flavonoids, reducing your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, inflammation, and diabetes.
Fruits is an easy one as your local supermarket will have a range of seasonal options to try. Rather than cutting half an apple and placing it into the bento lunch box, try to include thin slices of several fruit types so that the treat looks colourful and appetizing. Examples include a mix of freshly sliced or chopped orange, watermelon, apple. Some other fruit ideas include apple cut into thin slices with a mandarin piece, a few watermelon cubes topped with half a spoon of passionfruit.
Tip: Keep Dry Foods Dry
A handy tip when preparing your bento lunch box four food groups is to keep wet and dry foods separate. To ensure that your veggies or salads don’t spoil and soggy always serve your condiments on the side or in a sauce tray. If you are making the bento lunch box as a takeaway highly pour your dressing over the meal and drain excess amounts. That way you can enjoy crispy vegetables or salads many hours later…
For many of us, bento lunch boxes are just another meal but take a look at the Japanese and the amount of effort they put into perfecting each meal. For the Japanese, eating is a way of indulging, and food is also a means of expressing. Bento represents the human of Japan, and they present themselves through these small bento boxes. Read more about post-war Obento Lunch Boxes.