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Nothing inspires me to stop accepting sad desk lunches like bento boxes. These adorable, organized little boxes, which originated in Japan, make it easy to craft a satisfying meal, and the internet is brimming with ideas and recipes to fill them.
The beauty of a bento box is that it can be anything — sort of like girl dinner, but in a more organized form. Rather than filling one lunch container with food, you have several little compartments that you can use for any assortment of lunchtime treats. This adds variety and can make lunch feel even more fun, almost like a charcuterie board. It also makes it a lot more Instagrammable than one big pile of salad or pasta. Plus, who doesn’t love having a designated dessert section? The beauty of bento boxes is that you can make them completely your own, whether they’re cohesive or not at all.
Another reason bentos are beneficial is that they can help with portion sizes. You can use larger sections for fruits and vegetables, smaller ones for carbs and fats, and adjust protein accordingly. If you’re not trying to count macros, the bento grid can also help you make sure you build a balanced plate that includes all your macronutrients. As a longtime bento box lunch maker, I swear by this Umami Bento Lunch Box ($27, originally $40) because its multiple sections remind me to pack fruits and veggies in addition to a main meal. Many bentos are stackable and have several compartments, which make it easy to pack for a long day outside of the house or even multiple mealtimes. Plus, since they’re completely reusable, they may help you reduce plastic waste, since you won’t need to wrap your sandwich or fruits in cling wrap or plastic bags.
Because it doesn’t have to be one cohesive meal, you can also get creative with how you fill your bento box. Charcuterie bentos are popular, but there’s no shame in using up whatever is in your fridge or pantry. To help you get started or inspire some new ideas, we rounded up 19 of our favorite bento box lunch ideas to inspire happy desk lunches. Keep scrolling to check them out.