Bento boxes have been commonplace in Japan for quite some time but are beginning to gain popularity in the U.S. as well. These are compartmentalized lunch boxes that typically house rice, meat or fish, and vegetables, but there are plenty of other ways to prepare a bento box for your child to bring to school with popular western lunch staples. In Japan, many moms dress up their children’s sandwiches with items shaped with cookie cutters and other ways to make lunches cute and exciting. Here are some ideas for bento box lunches for your kid and how to pack them up:
First – get a bento box!
While you can use any type of plastic or metal lunch box, part of the fun of a bento box is the compartments. You can order inexpensive bento boxes on Amazon or Groupon, and they’re usually available in fun colors your children will love. Some of my favorites are by Bentgo or Bentology.
How to pack a bento box:
Food blog Just One Cookbook specializes in Japanese cuisine and has laid out an efficient method of properly packing up a bento box. The tips include:
- Make the lunch nutritiously balanced and filling by using the big compartment for the carbohydrates, the second largest for protein and the two small ones for fruits and veggies.
- Pack everything tightly to keep the food from shuffling around during your child’s commute. Use sauce containers or cupcake wraps to corral items that tend to roll around.
- Separate wet and dry foods in different compartments.
- Unless the bento box has removable compartments, stray away from combinations of foods that taste best served cold and ones that have to be warmed up in the microwave. Use an ice pack if items should be chilled.
- Pretzel roll ups: Redbook has the solution if your child is tired of sandwiches. Nix the bread for ham and pretzels. Simply wrap pretzels with slices of ham and cheese. Serve with a side of fruit and some carrot sticks.
- Peanut butter wrap: Tortillas aren’t just for Mexican cuisine. Inhabitots’ bento box combination of a peanut butter banana wrap on a whole wheat tortilla, a fruit salad and dippable veggies will be a colorful favorite for your kids.
- Lunchable: Rather than buying a packaged lunch, go the cost-efficient route from Wendolonia and make your own. Include a stack of crackers and your child’s favorite lunch meat and cheese. Serve with some sliced apples and peanut butter dip and pieces of cucumber.
- Rainbow: Hello Bee made the cutest bento box designed to look like a rainbow. The stripes consisted of tomatoes, carrots, corn and peas, with a “pot of gold” made of cheese crackers. Swap these out for your kids’ favorite colorful vegetables.
- Pasta salad: This pasta salad bento from The Roxx Box is great for kids or adults. Simply fill the largest compartment with the pasta salad and grilled chicken, and pack the smaller containers with a veggie for a side and a fruit for dessert.