Guest Post: healthline.com brings you some Gluten-Free Bento Ideas!

Bento is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds some sort of meat or fish, a veggie and rice, and is packed in a box-shaped container called a bento box. They are becoming famously popular in the U.S.

Bento boxes also allow you to pack plenty of food without gaps. A 21-ounce box holds a 700-calorie meal, which is a very effective method for counting calories and weight loss. It is also plenty of food for a health-conscious meal.

While the bento box allows you to pack your food in reusable containers, bentos also reduce lunch container waste and allow you to pack a wider variety of food for lunch. Perfect for the workplace, another added benefit is Bento boxes provide you a nice meal planning tool to control the portions you eat. In fact, the Bento rule of thumb is actually 3 parts carbs, 2 parts fruits and vegetables and 1 part protein. And if you’re into a good healthy balance, you won’t include processed foods, snacks or candy in the mix. Rather, adhering to a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and gluten-free foods are optimal.

What exactly is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat that gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape. Additionally, it’s a combination of glutenin and gliadin, which is joined with starch in various grains. Gliadin is what enables bread to rise properly while glutenin is the major protein in wheat flour, making up 47% of the total protein content.

When people with Celiac Disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine. The tiny, finger-like protrusions lining the small intestine are damaged or destroyed. Called villi, they normally allow nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, regardless of the quantity or quality of food eaten.

Some people suffer from gluten intolerance, which is different from Celiac in that it is not an immune mediated response. The symptoms appear after eating wheat or other foods containing gluten, which can cause abdominal cramping, flatulence, diarrhea and bloating. Doctors are still investigating whether gluten intolerance over a long period causes permanent intestinal damage. More commonplace is gluten sensitivity, which affects over 20-million people in the U.S. and is essentially a less severe form of gluten intolerance. The gastrointestinal symptoms are similar to those that affect individuals with Celiac Disease, but gluten sensitivity does not cause damage to the intestinal lining. Even those without any significant intolerance to gluten can experience bloating or a swollen abdomen as a result of ingesting gluten-based foods.

Many concerned with nutrition rave about the benefits of a gluten-free, vegetarian diet, and many people do find that eliminating gluten eases digestive issues. More recently, those who’ve adopted the gluten-free lifestyle report improvements in weight loss, brain function, energy, joint pain and a better general sense of well-being.

And what better way to adopt a healthy eating plan, good nutrition and portion control than to use the bento for preparing and carrying your meals. You probably have enough in your kitchen right now to get started packing bento-style lunches. Really all you need is a shallow Tupperware-type food container with a watertight seal and eating utensils. If you really want to get fancy, you can add a thermos for soups, a sandwich case and even an authentic bento box straight from Japan. Here are a couple of vegetarian, gluten-free food ideas you can pack in your bento box:

● Gluten-free Brown Rice English Muffin- These are great toasted and topped with vegan cream cheese and bagel seeds for a hearty sandwich or veggie burger

● Quinoa Pasta- These noodles are great topped with marinara or pesto or used in a cold pasta salad

● Veggie Burger- They’re easy to heat up in a skillet and also over an open flame out on the grill

● Havarti Cheese- This spicy and creamy vegetarian cheese makes the perfect queso to pair with tortilla chips. You can also add it to your veggie burger for an extra kick

● Tofu Pups- These veggie dogs are easy to pack in a bento. You can also deep fry them in gluten-free corn-dog batter

● Veggies and Beans- vegetables will provide you with all of the protein that you will need. Veggies such as broccoli and spinach are great sources of protein. Beans are also another great source of protein

Whatever you decide to eat, using a bento container and maintaining a gluten-free vegetarian diet are two great ways to control your weight, keep you disciplined and are sure-fire ways for a successful healthy eating strategy.

David Novak is a international syndicated newspaper columnist, appearing in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV around the world. His byline has appeared in GQ, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, among others, and he has appeared on The Today Show, the CBS Morning Show and Paul Harvey Radio. David is a specialist at consumer technology, health and fitness, and he also owns a PR firm and a consulting company where he and his staff focus on these industries. He is a regular contributing editor for Healthline. For more information, visit http://www.healthline.com/.

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Just adding: check the ingredients on veggie burgers and tofu pups, because it can be difficult to find varieties that don’t include sources of gluten in their ingredients!

Guest post funtime?

Hey everyone,

With summer coming up in about a month and a half (not that I’m counting down to the end of the school year or anything!), I won’t be making bentos regularly, and so I won’t really be posting them.  However, I want to keep the bento fun coming!  Consequently, I wonder if there are any readers or bloggers out there who would like to do a guest post.  I can reciprocate and whip something hopefully pretty and tasty up for your blog too. I wouldn’t necessarily have to do a bento for you – I have cooking and baking skills in addition to bentoing.

Are you a veg*n blogger?  Post a recipe that could work in a bento, or just a recipe that you really love and want to share.

Are you a cupcake or other baked good aficionado?  Cupcake Friday! could easily be taken over.  It wouldn’t have to be one that you’ve made.  Have a relative that loves to bake?  Snap a pic of what they created.  Got a bakery near you that you want to show off?  Photos are a great way to do that!

Do you like bento, but don’t have a blog?  Take a photo of what you made, and a quick write up of the ingredients, or the recipe, or the process of putting together the bento.  It would be the fun of blogging without the commitment!  Readers are very supportive, and we all love feedback 🙂

Email me at veggiebentolove@gmail.com to set some guest post blogging up! 🙂

May Stridebox reveal (spoiler alert?)

Being a snackaholic (thanks hypoglycemia!), I have fallen in love with Stridebox, who provides snacks and other products for runners and those living healthy lifestyles. I’m not a hard-core runner, but I do love a good snack! I purchased this product with my own money. I’m just sharing here because I want to, and will likely use these delicious treats in my bento planning to eat! Here are the goodies all out of the box:

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Happy day! I’m really excited to try the peach workout gel, as I had great success before when I tried that. With the jelly snacks, I am very happy to see that they’re vegetarian, so looks like I have a couple of tasty afternoon snacks in my future! I love the idea of bottle cleaner, and can’t wait to see what it can do for the inside of my beloved Sbucks metal go cup. I’ve had it for two years; it’s leak-proof, I haven’t lost it yet, and would rather not replace it, so I’d love to see what happens. I see a couple of bars, and how could you go wrong with those for a healthy snack? Awesome! I’m quite excited about the blister protectors – into the purse with those, for the next time I’m rocking some new heels (yes, I know they’re supposed to be for running!). There’s also a single serving of protein powder. I’m not really a fan of Tone It Up! who make the product, but I’m sure the powder will be good.

Last but not least, the package came with a shoe clip. Not only does it match my new runners (!), it’s incredibly functional… I decided to hang this off a kitchen cabinet to snap a photo but of course, attaching to a backpack or gym bag would work better – no more squished shoes! I don’t normally hang shoes in my kitchen, but what a way to combine two loves?

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How totally awesome?

http://www.stridebox.com – the shipping to Canada is very reasonable!

Stridebox (minibox) snack delivery

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How totally awesome is this? Lately, a bunch of companies have been getting into the business of packaging up items by subscription. I’m a little hesitant about the shoe/fashion/makeup services because I tend not to consume where possible, and I like thrift stores for the economic and environmental benefits, but a girl’s got to eat!

This is the April minibox from http://www.stridebox.com. They had so many orders all in a rush that I got to wait. I will get a full-sized box in May, and will be able to evaluate the full value of the service then. I purchased this – no freebies (although I wouldn’t complain, I don’t solicit). I got a caffeinated granola bar, which believe me has made all my wildest dreams come true! I also got a caffeinated sports drink sample – again more caffeine is always a happy for me (perhaps too much of a happy!). Finally, I received a pre-workout gel. I tried this before a 5K run, which for me is a big deal because I’m slow and not exactly built for running, first thing in the morning, and it gave me tremendous energy. And who doesn’t love peanut butter? I can’t wait for the May box to come and unveil the snacky goodness in there too. This service is designed for active people, but there are other options out there for people who don’t run 🙂

Foodie penpal reveal!

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This month’s foodie penpal reveal comes courtesy of Carmen, just the other side of my lovely province of BC. I sent treats to Tiffany in Ontario. I confided in Carmen that I’ve been really trying hard to reduce cheese and find a plant-based coffee creamer that works in coffee, and Carmen really helped me out. This is a super-sized foodie penpal package filled with good intentions for me, and I really appreciate the care Carmen put into the package.

First to be eaten were the vegetarian gummy bears. I haven’t had those in years. When I went to try the jelly beans a few days later, I found that my son had snuck most of the package, but I got to try a few and both the gummy bears and the beans tasted fruity, sweet, and were very good. The next morning I tried the mimiccreme. It’s not the perfect creamer, but I would try it again if I could find it locally (or just bring some back next time I’m in Vancouver).

I love tasty bars, so I enjoyed the Taste of Nature and Kind bars as snacks in my bentos. I plan on using the Quinoa puffs in a Rice Krispie square kind of dish. I loved the Sea Snax, and they were a wonderful distraction during my study time! I used the coconut chips in a Lara bar recipe to rave reviews from both me and the hubs. I haven’t tried the almonds or the kelp noodles yet.

Thank you to Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean for hosting the program, and thank you to Carmen for an amazing package!

href=”http://www.theleangreenbean.com/foodie-penpals/” title=”The Lean Green Bean” target=”_blank”>The Lean Green Bean