By now, you have probably heard of Bento box lunches
These are meals made up of small portions of different foods, packed in reusable containers and boxes that reduce lunch waste. Bento lunches can be appealing, healthy, and delicious alternatives to traditional school and work lunches. They don’t have to be works of art – really, they can be just as easy or as detailed as you want them to be. Here are some ideas and guiding principles that will help you put together fun, healthy Bento box lunches for your kids – or yourself!
- To ensure that your bento box lunches are nutritionally balanced, include some protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats in every box. The general rule of thumb that I have come across for Bento components is 3 parts carbohydrates such as rice or pasta, 1 part protein, and 2 parts fruits and vegetables.
- Have a little fun. It can be hard to pack healthy lunches for picky eaters, but injecting a little fun can go a long way to encourage kids to try new things. Try cutting some vegetables or cheese with cookie cutters, or putting a smiley face on a healthy sandwich. See how your kids react when you change things up! Here’s a picture of a recent “sandwich car” that I made for my twins!
- ….But then again, keep it simple. I know that as a busy parent, you won’t have the time or energy to make several different things for your bento boxes every night (or even most nights!). To avoid overcomplicating your boxes, stick to a maximum of 4 different items for each one. Most of the lunches that I make for my children have 3 or 4 items. Also, try to spend about 10 minutes or less to prepare everyday lunches. If you start spending 20-30 minutes on elaborate decorations or extra components, you may be making things hard for yourself.
- Add vegetables! Not only are they bright and colourful, but they are nutritious. Give vegetables a starring role in your boxes alongside the other main ingredients. A bento full of colourful veggies can be beautiful – even without any additional decorations!
- Work with your schedule. I tend to pack lunches in the evenings, but that’s just because I don’t have enough time in the mornings before I leave for work. Packing the next day’s bento lunch the night before when you’re cooking or cleaning up from dinner is a great way to save time in the morning.
- Use seasonal, natural ingredients whenever possible. I try to make use of seasonal produce and try to stay away from pre-made, processed foods as much as possible. When I do use processed foods, I just try to stick to ones that have fewer additives.
- Pay attention to food safety. You’re packing food that may have to sit at room temperature for a few hours before it is consumed. Select foods that won’t spoil easily, or add an ice pack for lunches with perishable items.
- Focus on budget-friendly options. Bringing a healthy lunch from home saves money that might be spent on fast food. Bento lunches are also an excellent way to use up leftovers from previous dinners or restaurant meals. I like to give my dinner leftovers a “makeover” – I turn leftover stew in a pasta sauce, for example, and leftover noodles into pasta salad. Your kids may not notice that they’re having the same ingredients a second time around!
I hope these tips will help you create fun, healthy Bento lunches for yourself or your kids. Fair warning, though, you may start having teachers approaching me and ask if you can make their lunches too!
Barb practices a holistic approach to health and wellness, which means that she looks at how all of the areas of her client’s lives – activity level, eating habits, stress, relationships, and work – are interconnected. She then helps them work towards the results they desire, such as such as achieving an optimal weight, reducing cravings, incorporating more healthy foods into family meals, and minimizing fatigue, in realistic and enjoyable steps! Barb doesn’t believe in magic pills or fad diets, and has seen firsthand how dramatic results can be achieved through simple nutritional and lifestyle improvements!