Bento box lunches for your little one


stainless steel lunch box, bento box, vegetable cutter

With the end of summer fast approaching, you may be facing a new transition with the coming fall season: school! You’ve stocked up on binders and notebooks all ready to go. But just as important as what goes in your child’s backpack is what goes in his belly. You may not be with him at school, but you can still make sure he has the nutrition he needs to concentrate and focus during a long day of learning and activity.

I’ve been packing a bento lunch for my kids since they were 18 months old and going to the park for play dates. They are now 7 and 3, and starting 2nd grade and preschool. What is a bento lunch, you say? It’s simply a lunch that is packed and presented in a single box, in an appealing and appetizing way. You can find dedicated bento boxes in Japanese grocery stores or online, but you can just as successfully use any food-safe tight-sealing plastic or stainless steel lunch box.

The advantages of a bento lunch over a traditional “brown bag” lunch are many. First, you eliminate the need for excess individualized packaging. No need for a sandwich bag, a snack bag of grapes, and a shrink-wrapped cheese stick. All those items can be packed easily in a reusable, washable bento box. Second, you gain the ability to pack varied, healthy foods that you might not readily think of as lunch items. I’ve routinely packed rice, teriyaki chicken, fish tacos, 4-bean salads or roasted brussels sprouts in my kids’ bento boxes. Third, an attractively presented meal might encourage a reluctant eater to become more adventurous: add a face to a hard-boiled egg or use a vegetable cutter to make a carrot flower shape, and your child might begin to enjoy these (now fun) foods.

Packing a bento doesn’t need to be a time-consuming task. You don’t even need to cook anything specifically for the bento; I usually make use of leftovers I’ve made for dinner the night before, and then add some fresh fruit to finish it off. An extra burger patty or scoop of mac & cheese will fit right in. Did you saute some green beans or steam some sweet potato? In they go! Just a few pieces of a variety of foods, and you’ll end up with a colorful, nutritious and healthy meal sure to satisfy your little ones’ midday appetite. And that’s enough to put a smile on your face too!

For more ideas and suggestions, please visit Happy Little Bento, where I’m happy to share my kids’ daily bento with you!

-Guest Blogger: Sheri of Happy Little Bento

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