For many parents, the woe of what to pack for school lunch may incite a little panic and dread. However, rethinking the soggy sandwich and embracing a bento box school lunch may get everyone excited about lunchtime again.
A bento box is a single portion boxed meal concept that originated in Japan. It is the traditional way children and adults alike eat lunch and it is a complete, nutritious way to approach a meal.
The brown paper bag with smooshed sandwiches, crushed potato chips and broken cookies is an unfortunate reality that many kids face. The beauty of the bento box school lunch is that the very nature of the container keeps all the food whole and organized.
By utilizing the compartments, you can assemble a variety of foods with different flavors, textures and nutrients. Plus, you can rely on the bento box itself to dictate which foods you pack; you don’t have to worry about accidentally forgetting anything, particularly if you’re packing lunch for more than one person.
Your Guide to Building the Perfect Bento Box Lunch
While we have had the bento-esque concept of pre-packaged lunch kits here in the United States for a while, the quality of the food and nutrition of these store-bought options pales in comparison to the well-rounded meals of our friends from across the world.
Traditional bento boxes contain four main types of food: carbs (potato or pasta), protein (fish, meat or eggs), vegetables (pickled or cooked) and fruits, and each compartment is earmarked for a specific one. By mimicking this balance, you can build any bento box to suit your own budget and preferences while mirroring the original intent of the bento – to create a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious meal that will keep your child full and focused throughout the day.
When choosing the components of your bento box, be sure to consider food safety; think about whether your child will be able to refrigerate his lunch or if you need a container with added insulation to keep food chilled.
It’s All About the Packaging
We eat with our eyes before food even touches our lips, and a well-organized lunch in a fun container is something any kid can get excited about.
When choosing a bento box, consider your child’s age, whether the box needs to be insulated or leakproof and how easily it can be cleaned. If you don’t want to buy a new lunch box, make your own bento box at home using muffin cups or other small tubs you have on hand to compartmentalize the different food items.
Whichever container you choose, opening a fully stocked bento box school lunch to find a variety of colors, textures and flavors may just transform the pickiest eater in your family!
Built-In Portion Control
With obesity being a national epidemic, one of the unintentional advantages of a bento box school lunch is that it inherently manages portion control. Only so much food will fit into its small compartments, which means as a parent you’ll be less inclined to over pack, and thus your child less inclined to overeat.
Choosing real, whole foods rather than those highly-processed or full of sugar will ensure that your child feels full and satisfied and prevent them from searching for snacks soon after.
Themed Bento Box Lunch Ideas
The beauty of the bento box is that its contents are only limited by your creativity. There is no need to stick to traditional Japanese but you can still stick to a theme to create a cohesive meal.
For example, look to certain countries’ cuisines for kid’s bento box ideas. Going Mexican? Start with a quesadilla, add some baked chips and salsa to dip and sweet plantains to finish. Love Mediterranean? Falafel, hummus, veggie sticks, tabbouleh, olives and grapes would make a well-rounded meal. Leftover meatballs from the night before? Pack them in with a side salad, string cheese and some berries. Find more inspiration here.
School lunches don’t have to be boring. A bento box school lunch will ensure that your child’s mealtime is not only nutritious but delicious!
Have you ever packed a bento box lunch? If not, would you give it a try? Tell us your creative ideas in the comments.
Now that lunch is covered, it’s time to think about dinner! AAA members can save 20% on personalized weekly meal plans with The Dinner Daily.