How to Get Creative With Bento Lunches

Have you heard of bento lunches and bento boxes?  If you have a child who is not keen to eat lunch as it is, decorating the food with special picks and creating themed snacks and parts to their lunch may be a way to get them to eat more.  It's time to encourage kids to play with their food!

What is Bento?

This fun idea originated in Japan, where bento began as a traditional way for people to pack full meals they could take with them to work or school.  The meals usually consist of rice, fish or meat, and cooked or pickled vegetables.  The container is usual rectangular with separate compartments for each dish.

Bento boxes are traditionally made of stainless steel, but you can also find plastic and even glass versions.  These food containers with an international flair are usually square and have internal compartments that allows you to keep your foods separate.  This gives you a great canvas to get creative with food.  Bento boxes come in different types and sizes, so it makes sense to get a variety of different ones.

Bento lunches are a way to come up with some fun and creative lunches for the kids (or yourself).  Cut the sandwiches in cute little shapes, make some fun roll-ups, and get creative with fresh fruit, raw veggies, cheese and whatever else you fancy as sides.

Related post: Go Beyond the Sandwich in School Lunches this Year

How do You Come Up with Ideas for Bento Lunches?

If you are ready to get even more creative, do a quick search online for bento lunch ideas.  You’ll find ideas from gourmet food to fun and quirky kid-friendly lunch ideas.  Who knew that you could shape rice and make it look like an adorable panda?  In fact, you can find entire Pinterest boards and Instagram accounts dedicated to creative bento boxes.

These are our favourite books for Bento lunch inspiration:

There are plenty of ideas online too:

13 Easy Bento Box Ideas for Kids
50 Bento Box Lunch Ideas
25+ Easy Bento Lunch Boxes for Kids

What's the Point of Bento?

What I like best about bento lunches is that it gives you the opportunity to pack several small, snack like items into one lunch.  That way children can pick and choose their way through their lunch, and you still know it makes a healthy meal all together.

Plus what child wouldn’t love a whole variety of colourful finger food for lunch?  Heck, you may even convince your picky eaters to try new fruits, veggies, cheeses and the likes if you cut them into cute little shapes.

Of course these fun and delicious lunches aren’t just for kids.  Order a couple of bento boxes and start packing your own lunch.  You can go as simple or gourmet as you like.  Or grab a few of your own favourite healthy snacks and call it lunch.  The possibilities are almost endless with bento box lunches.

What Do You Need to Make Fun Bento Lunches?

Even if you're not a parent who relishes being able to cut a carrot into a flower shape, bento is for you.  Simply invest in some cute cutters and a collection of picks and other accessories and you'll be able to make delicious bento lunches all year long.  You can whip up lunches that are fun and healthy in just a few minutes - no fancy knife work required!

The types of food to pop in those cute and fun bento lunches include:
  • Fruit: at least one type e.g. grapes, apple, satsuma, kiwi, berries, dried fruit, melon, watermelon
  • Raw veggies: at least one type e.g. tomatoes, carrot, sugar snap peas, mange tous, cucumber, avocado, pepper, 
  • Protein: houmous, hard-boiled eggs, a bean salad, meat, falafel, edamame beans, slice of tortilla, tuna, cheese, yogurt, vegan sausage rolls, tofu, nuts (if allowed), seeds
  • Wholegrain carb: bread or roll, pasta salad, tortilla, crackers, couscous salad, mini pretzels, tabbouleh, tortilla chips, savoury muffins
  • Something sweet: granola bar, blueberry muffin, banana bread, dried mango, yogurt, fig roll, slice of malt loaf, yogurt-covered raisins

Related post: Simple Tips for Making Packed Lunches Easy

Why You Should Use Bento Boxes

Bento boxes are simply lunch boxes that have different compartments in them.  They allow you to pack lunches that are well-balanced and nutritious by adding different food components to the compartments.

Here are some different reasons you should consider using these boxes for your kids' lunches:

1. They Help With Meal Planning

A great reason to consider using Bento boxes for your kid's lunches is because they can help with meal prepping and planning.  When you are prepping for your kids’ lunches during the week, you can place them straight into the lunch box, then put them in the fridge and keep them there until your son or daughter is ready to head off to school.  It makes it much more convenient and saves you a lot of time during the week.

2. You Can Control Portions

Bento boxes are also an ideal way to control portion sizes.  With individual compartments to fill portions stay small, and you are able to reduce how much you give your kids.  The boxes provide plenty of room for multiple food items, but they keep the portions to an appropriate amount.  That way, you know your kids are eating enough, but not too much and you aren’t wasting food.

3. It Helps You Create Well-Balanced Lunches

When you use Bento boxes or similar compartment lunch boxes with your kids lunches, they can also help you to prepare balanced meals. It is sometimes difficult for you to achieve the right balance of foods and ingredients in their lunches when you are also trying to provide foods your kids like, while trying to maintain proper nutrition. With the different compartments, you can put one food from each major food group into each compartment, and control portions at the same time.

4. They Keep Lunches Fresh

A benefit to keep in mind is that with the different compartments of a Bento box, it can help keep the lunches fresh.  You are able to put them together beforehand, but not have to worry about certain ingredients mixing together and spoiling the other components of the lunch.  These containers don’t allow food to touch, and they have airtight lids to keep everything fresh until it is time for your child to enjoy their lunch.

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All photos c/o Melissa at via Flickr

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