Build a Balanced Bento
The bento boxes trend has its roots in Japanese culture and most simply translates to ‘boxed lunch.’ Bento boxes are typically compartmentalized to hold a variety of foods. Traditional bentos usually have two larger compartments for a starchy rice or noodle dish and a protein, like eggs, fish, or meat. Smaller compartments are for accoutrements, such as pickled or cooked vegetables or diced fruit.
Modern bento boxes may take menu inspiration from the western world, but building a balanced box is still key! Just like any other meal, you’ll feel most satisfied if you include complex carbohydrates, lean protein, veggies and fruits, and healthy fats.
Components of a Balanced Bento
Google "bento box ratio" and you'll find plenty of variations. However, there's general consensus that the star of the show is a starchy dish, followed by lean protein, and veggies or fruit.
While the Japanese typically feature rice or noodles, our bentos center on complex carbohydrates. On the simple end, best bets are oats (think overnight oats or oat-based bars), whole-grain bread or crackers, and popcorn. For something fancier, you might try a whole grain salad or bean-based salad, or roasted root veggies.
You'll find a wide variety of proteins in traditional bentos like grilled fish, fried chicken or shrimp, Japanese omelet, or tofu. Following suit, we recommend a wide variety of lean proteins: slider patties, meatballs, grilled tofu, chicken or tuna salad, hard-boiled eggs, falafel, you name it!
Veggies and Fruit
The last main component is vegetables or fruit... or both! Vegetable crudites and fruit salad are go-to's for ease and simplicity.
BONUS: Healthy Fat
Some resources mention a fourth, and smallest, element in bento boxes: pickled veggies. In our modern, western-style bento recipes, our fourth and smallest element typically incorporates a small serving of healthy fats. Think a quartered avocado, dip (like this Greek Yogurt Ranch), or an ounce of mixed nuts.
You can practice with our recipes below or simply open your pantry and your fridge and see what you can come up with. Start simple!
Breakfast Bento: No-Bake Oatmeal Flax Squares, Compote, Berries, Greek Yogurt
This breakfast bento is great for the whole family! The No-Bake Oatmeal Flax Squares are simple and delicious with a shmear of your favorite fruit compote or jam.
Serving size 1 bento box | Makes 12 servings
|FOR THE OATMEAL FLAX SQUARES|
|2 cups steel cut oats|
|1/4 cup skim milk|
|2 tablespoons brown sugar|
|3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract|
|3 tablespoons flax seed|
|FOR THE BENTO BOXES|
|3 cups prepared fruit compote or jam|
|6 cups mixed berries|
|6 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt|
- Prepare the oatmeal flax squares. Cook oats with water until tender, according to package instructions. Stir in milk, brown sugar, vanilla, and flaxseed and simmer 5 more minutes.
- Prepare a 9x13 in lipped baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread out cooked oats and press into pan. Cover with parchment and place another pan on top, pressing gently to evenly distribute and compact mixture. Chill overnight. Cut into 12 squares.
- Fill each bento box with 1 oatmeal square, 1/4 cup fruit compote or jam, 1/2 cup mixed berries, 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt.
Nutrition per serving: 325 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 57 g carbohydrates, 8 g fiber, 33 g sugar, 18 g protein
Lunch Bento: Chicken, Pita, Salad, Grapes
Bentos don't have to be anything fancy. It doesn't get any easier than this. The beauty in this box is that it's easy to swap in a different protein, your favorite salad greens, or whatever veggie toppings you have on hand.
Serving size: 1 box | Makes 1 serving
|3 ounces grilled chicken breast, chilled|
|1 6-inch whole wheat pita pocket|
|1/2 cup spring mix|
|2 slices fresh tomato|
|2/3 cup seedless grapes|
In a bento box or other container with four compartments, place in each compartment:
- Grilled chicken
- Pita pocket
- Spring mix with tomato
Nutrition per serving: 375 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 450 mg sodium, 55 g carbohydrates, 5.5 g fiber, 17 g sugar, 32 g protein
At FLIK Hospitality Group we believe in great food, great service, and great people. Our wellness first approach ensures our food supports healthy and delicious choices, specially curated by our team of culinary experts and registered dietitians. At FLIK, we believe in seasonality in sourcing our ingredients and providing a customized approach to the culinary and hospitality needs of each client. Our dedication to providing quality hospitality service is unparalleled in the industry.
Have feedback or questions for our team? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in working with us? Apply today!