Bento lunch boxes: healthy eating options for kids

Bento lunch boxes: healthy eating options for kids
Bento lunch box

Today was Lilia's first day of second grade and I was determined this year to make her a better lunch. For the most part, we eat pretty healthy at home, but making a lunch we both agreed on was typically a struggle.

Maybe some would say she's picky and maybe that's true. However, she does love raw kale and she just ate a tomato from the garden like an apple, which I never would have done as a kid so at least vegetables aren't a total loss.

That being said, she wanted me to make her a Nutella sandwich for school every day last year. That was not going to happen. Okay, it happened once. Or ten times.

Moving on, I'm not making those sandwiches anymore, which Fran and I have deemed a candy bar sandwich. When you're surviving on air and water most of the day, your main sustenance should not be chocolate hazelnut spread.

Plus, there's the whole nut thing at school, which is frowned upon these days. Even the better reason to leave the Nutella for the occasional treat.

Enter, the bento. Serving food bento style has a very long tradition in Japanese culture. They are a single serve box either found in takeout or prepared at home.

You might have eaten bento style in a restaurant here in the states. They are especially popular in Japanese restaurants and are an elegant way to try different dishes.

Now, these bento lunch boxes have been making a big appearance on the school lunch scene. Well, at least from what I've seen on Pinterest and family blogs.

I was sold on giving them a try. I think I was attracted to the cute pictures of a rainbow of foods organized to the likes of cartoon characters or animals.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. I'm going from making a Nutella sandwich to a bento. Baby steps. I'll leave the fancy stuff to the experts.

I couldn't find anything at the store so Lilia and I picked out a bento lunch box online. When we opened it up, it seemed very small. I'm used to the big 'ole lunchbox that can hold a thermos and a lot of food. Then I realized, she doesn't eat most of the food I put in her lunch and it typically gets tossed instead.

Today's bento lunch box had grapes in the bottom compartment. The middle compartment held black beans and 2 corn tortilla quesadillas cut into pieces. The bag had room for an apple for her snack.

No fancy cartoon characters, but it's a start

No fancy cartoon characters, but it's a start

Those little compartments worked out really well and they actually held much more than I thought they would. The foods laid out on a plate looked like a tasty meal fit for a kid. Actually, the serving sizes are pretty spot on for an adult as well.

There is definitely room for creativity. Tomorrow might be tofu, rice and edamame, the next could be turkey and cheese roll ups. One thing is for sure, candy bar sandwiches are out the door.

For some serious bento lunch box creations, check out these articles:

How to Make a Bento Box for Kids

20 Easy Bento Lunch Boxes

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