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Last Updated on September 14, 2019
As kids start to head back to school and the colder weather begins to set in, many families are trying to ensure that everyone has the nutrition they need to power through the day. That means that, whether you’re headed to class or to the office, you’ll need a lunch that packs a punch. But actually packing that lunch can be more difficult than it seems.
Since U.S. organic food sales amounted to $45.21 billion in 2017, it’s clear that Americans are focused on the quality of food they eat. But when it comes time to unwrap your sandwich at the lunch table or at your desk (where over half of all American employees eat during the workday), you might not be so pleased with what you’ve brought. Not only is it hard to make healthy food appealing when it’s thrown into a paper bag, but this method can quickly derail your efforts to embrace more sustainable practices. If you’re looking for a way to attractively display your lunch and promote environmental responsibility, it may be time to ditch the traditional brown bag lunch and buy a bento box instead.
Bringing a lunch to work or school can allow you to save money and have increased control over the kinds of foods you consume — a must for anyone with strict dietary restrictions or preferences, like those with celiac disease or who choose to be vegan or vegetarian. But if you’re also focused on doing your part to protect the planet, you might want to think twice about how you pack your lunch. Single use plastics — like zip-top baggies, cling wraps, and disposable silverware — are found in many a lunchbox and inevitably end up in the garbage. And while you might think reusable Tupperware containers (or other multi-use plastics, some made from the reaction injection molding process) are a bit better, the truth is that those do wear out eventually and may end up in landfills. What’s more, there’s some debate that plastic food and water containers may contain harmful chemicals, which is the last thing you want infusing into your meal.
While it might seem strange to our modern sensibilities, one of the best options for food safety, sustainability, and even visual appeal is the stainless steel bento box. Bento, which refers to a home-packed or take-out container of food in the Japanese tradition, has made its way to the U.S. and now loosely refers to a sealable vessel with separate sections for a number of food items. Think of it as a hybrid between a traditional food storage container and a TV dinner, with its individual compartments. While there are some plastic varieties, there are now a number of stainless steel bento boxes on the market. Stainless steel 304 is the most common grade of stainless steel, but whichever grade is used, it’s actually the safest material you can use where food safety is concerned. Steel is also recyclable, and thanks to its separate compartments, you can stop using many of those single use plastics for food wrapping purposes. You can simply stick each element in its proper container and wash it out at the end of the day with very little waste at all.
It’s also a much more visually appealing option. We really do eat with our eyes first, and seeing all of the colorful and edible elements without the plastic barrier makes everything look that much better. Plus, bento boxes allow the person packing the lunch to get a bit more creative. Because everything has its own compartment, the lunch packer gets a bird’s eye view of the items included and may be more inclined to add a wider variety of items or come up with combinations they might not otherwise enjoy. Whether you’re putting together your own lunch or deciding what to pack for your kiddo, a bento is a great way to get more excited about what’s on the menu.
So if you’ve been seeking a way to spice up your humdrum lunch or want to continue your commitment to becoming more environmentally conscious, think about buying a bento box when it comes time to replace your lunchpail. It’ll last longer, help you eat healthier, and reduce unnecessary waste — plus, they’re just plain fun.