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What Is a Bento Box?

Today, we're set to answer the question: what is a bento box? Originating from Japan, a bento box is a single-portion, portable meal packed in a box with compartments.

It's not just a convenient way to carry a meal; it's a reflection of Japanese culture. Moving forward, we'll delve into the history of the bento box, what you can find inside one, how to put together your own, and where you can buy one.

Let's get started!

What this article covers:

What Are Bento Boxes?

Bento boxes are traditional Japanese single-portion meals served in a box. They typically consist of a variety of food types, neatly arranged in multiple compartments.

This style of meal and container is designed for convenience and portion control, allowing people to carry their food easily while maintaining a balance of different food groups.

Bento boxes are known for their aesthetic presentation, where the arrangement of the food is as important as the food itself. Think red, oranges, greens, and whites.

We offer a premium bento box that blends the tradition of bento-making with modern, eco-friendly materials. Our stainless steel bento box is crafted from premium 304 food-grade stainless steel, ensuring durability and food safety.

The top half of the lunchbox features a leak-proof silicone seal, making it ideal for food that might usually spill. The bottom half is perfectly suited for sandwiches, baked treats, and snacks, keeping them separate and fresh.

For the regular size, the top half has a capacity of 540ml, while the bottom half holds up to 800ml, totaling 1340ml. The large size has a top half capacity of 760ml and a bottom half designed to hold 1200ml, accommodating larger meal portions.

Origins of the Bento Box

Our research indicates that the bento box history can be traced back to the Kamakura period in Japan, where the practice of carrying meals in convenient packages began. The term "bento" itself has its roots in the Song Dynasty slang term "biàndāng", which means "convenient" or "convenience" in Chinese.

This term was later adopted into Japanese culture.

what's a bento box

During the Kamakura period, the Japanese developed "hoshi-ii", which translates to "dried meal." This was essentially cooked and dried rice that could be eaten as is or rehydrated with water to make cooked rice. It was typically carried in a small bag, marking the early stages of portable meal culture in Japan.

By the 16th century, the use of wooden lacquered boxes for bento had become common. These boxes were particularly popular during hanami (flower viewing) and tea parties.

The Edo period saw a further refinement of bento culture. Travelers and sightseers would carry simple "koshibentō", which consisted of several onigiri (rice balls) wrapped in bamboo leaves or a bamboo box.

The Meiji period introduced the first "ekiben", which were bento boxes sold at train stations. These were typically filled with onigiri and a serving of takuan (pickled radish).

The Taishō period saw the advent of the aluminum bento box, which became a luxury item due to its silver-like appearance.

Bento boxes regained popularity in the 1980s with the innovation of the microwave oven and the expansion of convenience stores. Today, bento boxes are a common sight in Japan and have gained popularity worldwide, known for their convenience and the ability to provide a balanced meal in a compact form.

What Is Inside a Bento Box?

What goes in a bento box, you ask? Based on our observations, a traditional Japanese bento box typically contains a balanced combination of carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables. The carbohydrate component is usually rice or noodles, while the protein can be fish, meat, or a vegetarian alternative.

what is bento box

This is complemented by an assortment of pickled or cooked vegetables. The goal is to create a nutritionally complete meal in one compact box.

How to Make a Bento Box

Creating a bento box is an art that combines nutrition, taste, and visual appeal in a compact meal. The process involves carefully selecting and preparing various components to ensure a balanced and enjoyable meal.

Here's how you can put together a bento box, focusing on the main components, sides, and fillers.

Sidenote: For those of you wondering, are bento boxes eaten cold? Yes, they typically are, so it's best to prepare ahead. When is a bento box usually prepared? The morning or the night before you intend to eat it.

Main Dish

The main dish in a bento box is typically a protein source. This could range from meats like Japanese fried chicken or teriyaki chicken to fish, seafood, tofu, beans, or eggs.

Ideally, the protein should occupy about a quarter of the bento box, and if possible, include two types of protein to add variety.

Side Dishes

Side dishes in a bento box are primarily vegetables, but they can also include tofu, egg, or mushroom dishes. These sides not only add nutritional value but also bring colour and texture to the meal.

Our findings show that they are usually placed next to the main dish, filling another quarter of the box.

The choice of vegetables can vary, but common options include salads, steamed or sautéed vegetables, and pickles.


Fillers are used to complete the bento box, occupying the remaining space. They are typically simpler, colourful ingredients that add visual appeal and balance to the meal. Common fillers include cherry tomatoes, blanched broccoli, or a boiled egg.

bento box meanin

They are strategically placed to fill gaps and prevent the main and side dishes from shifting, ensuring the bento remains attractive and appetising.

Fruits can also be included. They provide a sweet end to the meal and can range from berries and grapes to sliced apples.

Elevate your mealtime experience with the Activated Eco Stainless Steel Single-Layer Lunch Box, a perfect blend of style and durability.

Made from high-quality 304 Food Grade Stainless Steel, it's safe for food storage and resistant to stains and rust. The lunch box features extra strong clips and a thick stainless steel wall, enhancing its strength and longevity.

It's equipped with a leak-proof silicone seal, ensuring no spills, and is 100% BPA-free, making it a healthier choice for daily use. The lunch box is also dishwasher safe, offering easy cleaning.

Available in Regular or Large sizes, this lunch box caters to different meal requirements, making it a versatile choice for everyday use.

Bento Box Ideas

Bento boxes offer a unique and delightful way to pack meals, combining variety, nutrition, and artistry. They are perfect for anyone looking to add some excitement to their lunch routine, whether it's for work, school, or a day out.

Here are some inventive bento box meal ideas.

Delightful Turkey And Cheese Roll-Up Bento

This bento features charming little roll-ups of turkey and cheese, complemented by crisp celery and sweet blueberries. It's a playful and balanced meal that's simple to prepare, even the night before, for a hassle-free morning.

High-Protein Bistro Bento

This lunch option is loaded with protein-rich foods like eggs, edamame, and tuna. It's an economical and fulfilling choice, perfect for keeping you energized throughout a busy day.

Mediterranean Bento With Cucumber Salad And Hummus

Enjoy a Mediterranean touch with this bento that includes a refreshing cucumber salad and creamy hummus, paired with pita bread. It's an ideal choice for a light yet satisfying lunch break.

Plant-Based Bistro Bento

This vegan bento box is filled with a selection of crunchy vegetables, pita, hummus, and olives, making it ideal for a plant-based diet. Inspired by the flavors of the Mediterranean, it's both healthy and delectable.

what is in a bento box

Cheese And Fruit Combo Bento

This bento combines fruit, cheese, and crackers for a balanced and enjoyable meal. It's an excellent alternative to the usual sandwich, perfect for lunch at work or a relaxed picnic.

PB&J Bento

Reinventing the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, this bento box is a hit with both children and adults. Simply make an old-fashioned PB&J sandwich, accompanied by yogurt, fruits, vegetables, and popcorn to complete and delightful meal experience.

Where Can I Purchase a Bento Box?

For those looking to buy a bento box, Activated Eco offers an excellent range of options. Our bento boxes are available online, providing an easy and convenient shopping experience. With a variety of designs and sizes (regular and large), we cater to different needs and preferences.

For instance, our Stainless Steel Bento Box with Silicone Seal stands out in the market for its practical and durable design. This bento box features five compartments, allowing for a variety of food combinations.

The removable silicone seal in the lid is a game-changer, ensuring that each section is leak-proof and keeping your food fresh and mess-free.

The disadvantages of storing food in plastic containers are contaminants and their negative impact on the environment. With our steel, BPA-free containers, this is not a worry!


There you have it. The bento box is a meal container with origins rooted in Japanese culture. It's a symbol of convenience, balance, and aesthetic beauty in food presentation.

From the historical journey of bento boxes in Japan to the diverse and nutritious contents they can hold, we've explored how these lunch boxes have evolved and remained relevant in modern times.

We've also guided you toward a few high-quality bento boxes so you can begin implementing some of the meal ideas we've shared. Peruse Activated Eco to explore our range of durable, stainless steel, bento boxes!

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