Lunch boxes and food containers – which is better

Millions of workers, schoolchildren and tourists since the industrial revolution have packed their meals in containers every day to enjoy delicious food. The prototype of the first lunch boxes can be considered the Japanese bento – a wooden box with sections for sushi and rice, which appeared at the beginning of the 12th century.

Modern technologies make it possible to manufacture containers from glass, plastic, metal and combine different materials to facilitate construction or expand capabilities.

Food containers and their capabilities
Food containers are used for temporary storage of fruits and vegetables, transportation, freezing and heating of ready meals. Let’s immediately understand the differences between food containers and lunch boxes.

The containers for the food , you can transfer the products, but they are not designed to shock and can open at the wrong time in your bag.

Containers are general-purpose and specialized, for example, lemongrass. In such containers, onions, lemon and other fruits and vegetables retain their useful qualities and appearance longer.

Containers created for storing food in the refrigerator are airtight and leaky. The tightness is achieved by a rubber gasket and can be adjusted with a top valve. If there is no rubber seal or retainers, such a container cannot be called airtight.

Timed containers allow food to “ventilate” and prevent condensation on the lid.

Feature of lunch boxesUnlike food containers, lunch boxes are designed to transport lunch. The interior space can be divided into several vertical or horizontal sections. They have an attractive appearance; some models come with cutlery.

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Freezing and reheating
Polypropylene containers are suitable for storing food in freezers, withstand temperatures down to -300 ° C.


In such plastic containers, you can pour hot first courses and reheat food in the microwave . Pay attention to the markings before purchasing.

Graphical labeling of food containers

At the bottom of each food container there is a schematic representation of the main properties and capabilities of the material from which it is made. Numbers and pictograms carry a lot of useful information if you understand their meaning.


The images differ depending on the manufacturer – some icons are intuitive, others require decoding.


Glass and fork – container for food products.
Snowflake – Can be stored in the freezer.

Two plates and water – the container can be loaded into the dishwasher.
Microwave and circle – you can heat in the microwave.

Microwave crossed out with a cross – you cannot heat in a microwave.
Alphanumeric labeling of food containers
The number “1” is a disposable container made of polyethylene terephthalate (PETE). Small amounts of phthalates are released upon repeated use.
Number “2” – containers made of dense polyethylene (HDPE) are used for storing cold food, you cannot heat it. Formaldehyde may be released. There are reusable and disposable containers with this marking.
Number “3” – polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is prohibited for food use. Releases bisphenol, mercury, phthalates, cadmium.
The number “4” – Low density polyethylene (LDPE) is considered relatively safe for storage of food with temperatures up to 70-800 ° C. You cannot heat in the microwave, it is also better not to pour a very hot soup – formaldehyde is released.


The number “5” in the triangle and the letters “PP” – a polypropylene container can withstand heating in the microwave and rinsing in the dishwasher. Designed for temperatures up to 95–1000 ° C. The most common option for food containers and lunch boxes.

Number “6” – polystyrene (PS) containers are only disposable.
Number “7” – other types of plastic. It is necessary to focus on additional pictograms and markings.

Materials for making food containers
In addition to plastic, there are metal and glass containers. Each type of container has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Glass containers

Pros : glass containers are easy to clean, look beautiful, and are suitable for storing food in the refrigerator and warming up in the microwave.

Cons: These containers are heavier than plastic ones. Models with a plastic cover are lighter, but if there is no “5. PP ”, the cover must be removed when heating in microwave oven.


Plastic containers
Pros: they weigh less, are inexpensive, take up little space. A good container will stand up to freezing and microwaving.


Cons: plastic darkens or turns yellow over time, it is more difficult to clean from fat, it bends and breaks. Fasteners, latches and rubber bands wear out over time and fail.


Metal containers

Pros: first courses can be transported in a metal container. Such containers are not subject to deformation, retain heat for a long time, and are convenient to carry thanks to the handles on the lid.

Cons: Can not be heated in a microwave oven. As a rule, they are more expensive than glass and plastic.

Selection Tips
When choosing a container for first courses, it is better to take models with an air valve or timer . If there is no valve, as the liquid cools down, the lid is sucked in and fits so tightly to the container that it is difficult to open it. To return it to its original state, it is necessary to reheat the contents of the container.

In order not to seduce colleagues with the smell of cutlets and not to leave behind a path from borscht, it is better to choose a container with a sealing rim – it does not let odors through, prevents the contents from spilling out.


A thread, a latch-lock or just a tight-fitting lid – there are many options, but only the thread can be considered really reliable.

The latch is suitable for storage and transportation over a short distance: to kindergarten, to school, to work. Over time, they loosen and the lid begins to come off. It is better to choose models with multiple latches to reduce the risk of accidentally opening the lunch box.

Tight-fitting lids are devoid of the drawbacks of a retainer, but leaks cannot be avoided if the container is turned upside down.

Threaded connection of the lid and container – a mobile lunch box for transporting liquids, often multi-level, is extremely rare.

When there is an opportunity to reheat food, why not do it right in the container ? The price of lunch boxes for microwave ovens does not differ from the cost of containers in which it is impossible to heat.

For long-term storage of food, there is no better place than a freezer. Before sending food for long-term storage, it is worth making sure that your container can withstand ultra-low temperatures.


Washing the container of food leftovers every day is not a pleasure. Therefore, it is better to choose special containers that can be easily cleaned under streams of warm water.

Lunch box and food containers are similar in appearance, functionality and capabilities. The main difference between the lunch box is the ability to safely transport ready-made food. Food containers are more suitable for storing ready-made meals in the refrigerator, if necessary, you can take them with you.