Easy bento box lunch ideas

Kaitlin Bruce

Let’s face it: A lot of college students don’t really have the time or patience to deal with bringing lunch to school, let alone the stigma you feel carrying around a lunch box all day.

The bento box, a popular plate option within the Japanese culture, is a convenient, single-portioned dish for those Sacramento State students looking to save a few bucks and eat a little healthier, not to mention the flashy new lunch box you’ll want to show off to all your friends.

A typical bento consists of rice, a main entrée of meat or fish and vegetables. Bento boxes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from cute and colorful animals to beautifully-designed, tasteful carriers. You can buy them with single or separate compartments, stackable designs and with extras such as washable soy sauce containers or cutlery.

They range in price from five to about $30 dollars and can be found in Japanese markets, various stores such as Pottery Barn Kids and online at Ebay and Amazon.

Quick and easy ideas for bentos could include meat options, vegetarian options or those who have dietary restrictions; the possibilities are endless.

First, you can start with rice. If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to white rice, brown rice is always a good substitute. Brown rice is the whole grain that retains its vital nutrients and essential oils, which is all stripped away in white rice through milling.

As for meat, you can choose anything you like, but there are some that are healthier and easier to cook than others.

You can get quite a bit of protein from beef. Four ounces has only 5 grams of fat and 136 calories, not to mention 35 grams of protein.

If you don’t feel like taking the time to cook your meat, there are always cold-cut options like ham, salami or prosciutto that go very well with cheeses such as gouda or cheddar.

For vegetarians: grains, vegetables, beans and nuts are a good source of protein to help keep you energized throughout the day. Options like hummus, pita bread, brown rice and assorted vegetables will keep you happy and healthy.

Add a small bunch of grapes or some orange slices and you’ve got nearly all of your food groups covered for a light, satisfying meal that will leave you and your pockets full as well.

Kaitlin Bruce can be reached at [email protected]