Have you ever heard the saying "you eat with your eyes"? It's more than just a phrase folks use to justify splurging on the fanciest cupcake at the bakery. Studies have shown that eaters actually enjoy the taste and experience of their food more if it is visually appealing to them. When trying to implement a healthy diet, you can use this phenomenon to your advantage by making sure your healthy food looks as delectable as can be.
One way to step up the aesthetics of your food? Bento boxes.
If you’ve never heard of them, bento-making is the Japanese method of beautifully arranging a single meal in a box. Think: a cool, fresh, healthy, and beautiful version of a TV dinner. Bento boxes can be packed at home, picked up for carry-out from a local store, or served as a dish at a restaurant. Bento-making can be as simple as layering some rice, protein and veggies in a plastic container from your house to as complex as food-as-art pieces that take hours to complete. There are even competitions to crown who makes the most beautiful bentos.
The beauty is in the box
The physical bento box is sold in a million different shapes, sizes and colors and with even more accessories available, but bento boxes aren’t just random-sized and shaped boxes, they are specifically measured to provide adequate nutrition for each individual person (here is a great guide to figuring out sizes). Which means bento-making is absolutely perfect for people trying to control their portions. Not keen on calorie counting? Bento-making is a great alternative method for tracking your food intake. It’s hard to bust through your calorie budget when you’re using a small box that’s tailor-made for your nutritional needs.
Spice up your lunch with variety
One of the cool things about bento food culture is that a focus on variety is encouraged. Sure, you could fill up your whole bento box with a slice of lasagna, but a more beautiful, fun, and healthful alternative is to include a variety of little tastes.
I personally find it a lot more fun to get to try a bunch of different foods at my meal. I can fit upwards of 10 different foods in one small bento container. Sure, a whole pile of carrots is great, but isn’t a few carrots, a few cherry tomatoes, a few snap peas and a few pepper slices even better?
I also love bento-making because it’s just flat out fun. And I think food should be fun! I love taking the time to arrange my food, balance the colors, and make something fun to look forward to at lunch. It sure beats last night’s turkey surprise leftovers slopped into a container.
Want to get started in bento-making? If you have a medium-sized square or rectangle food storage container, you’ve got everything you need. No need to get fancy. Just try to arrange your food in a neat and organized fashion. Make sure to pack the box tightly so nothing shifts around. If you find yourself loving bentos like I do, then you can step up and buy specific boxes and other accessories. Now that bentos are gaining popularity, most Asian markets sell bento supplies.
Have you ever made or eaten a bento before?
Photo Credit: Wendy Copley
9/2/2012 at 9:45 AM