Check out Uwajimaya and Kinokinuya Bookstore for bento box ideas and containers!

By: Helena Oliviero – Cox Newspapers

ATLANTA — The latest trend in packing creative, healthy and perfectly portioned lunches is all about the lunchbox.

The bento box, that is.
Originating in Japan, bento-style boxes are compact, visually appealing meals packed in a box-shaped container. Some bento-style boxes have only two or three compartments, while others feature as many as five sections for various foods — everything from rice and tortillas to deli meat, crackers and fruits and vegetables.

A traditional bento box in Japan may hold rice, fish or meat, with pickled or cooked vegetables. In recent years, they’ve gained popularity in the United States as an eco-friendly approach to store and transport a mix of foods all together in one container.

And they aren’t just for kids, with bento boxes winning over adults who want to give their sandwich — and the brown bag — a modern face-lift.

A range of bento-style boxes are widely available, including simple plastic, bento-style containers at Target for under $15 and the stainless steel PlanetBox — part bento box, part TV dinner tray — available in three sizes starting at $34.99.

Ellen Stokes, a registered dietitian and a nutrition instructor at the Art Institute of Atlanta, said the different compartments in a bento box help people think about assembling a healthy meal with variety, such as a lean protein in one space, along with grains, fruits and vegetables in other parts. Variety and portion control are also easier to visualize with a bento box, she said, and it’s fun to see your lunch lineup displayed in the bento before digging in.

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Originally published on Seattle Times on August 6, 2015