Your kids are picky and won’t eat their vegetables? Sounds like it’s time to think outside the box. Or maybe it’s time to think in it!
While getting your child to actually eat a healthy meal without a fuss seems like an endless war, here’s a creative solution that’s bound to be fun for you and your child. Get your kid to love lunch again with these creative, fun, and easy bento box meal ideas.
How to make a bento box
Meals inspired by the Japanese bento box are all the rage nowadays because they’re simple to prepare. But they’re also fun and creative, so your kids will actually be excited to eat their lunch.
Bento is the Japanese word for a boxed lunch. A bento is a container divided into compartments. Each of these contain small separate dishes that comprise a meal. You can purchase bento box-style containers easily online or at a discount retailer near you. Always be sure to cut up foods into small pieces to avoid a choking hazard.
What should you include in your child’s bento?
Experts recommend that you provide a variety of foods from all food groups to meet the energy and nutrient needs of your toddler. Bentos are set up to help you provide that assortment of foods with a balance of colors, flavors, and textures.
A bento box is easy to pack. Just include one of each of the following:
- protein: lean meat cuts, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, low-fat cheese, or beans
- grains: quinoa, rice, crackers, whole-wheat pasta, or whole-grain bread
- vegetables: cucumbers, carrot sticks, celery, or peppers
- fruit: grapes, watermelon, berries, or sliced apple
- snacks: trail mix, pretzels, or popcorn
The possibilities are endless, but here are some fresh ideas to get you started on your bento box journey.
11 bento box-inspired meals for your kid
1. Taco bento
Taco night is often a kid favorite, so they’re going to love this Mexican-inspired bento box.
Here’s what to include:
- lean ground turkey meat seasoned with your favorite taco seasoning
- whole-grain tortilla chips
- avocado, shredded lettuce, and cherry tomatoes (sliced in half to avoid a choking hazard)
- a few orange slices
- small corn muffin
2. Ants on a log bento
Incorporate this fun snack made of celery, peanut butter, and raisins arranged to look like ants sitting on a log into your next bento. Along with your healthy log, add in:
- cottage cheese
- a few slices of pita
3. Grilled chicken bento
Grilled lean meats are great for kids to get enough protein to build and maintain muscle and body tissue. This bento box is a good way to use up some leftover chicken from last night’s dinner. Mix and match ingredients like the following:
- grilled chicken cut up into small bites
- quinoa or rice
- fresh cucumber and carrots
- mango slices
- small oatmeal cookie
4. Rainbow bento
Make sure your kids are eating enough fruits and vegetables by having them taste the rainbow. Fill your bento box with the following assortment of colorful foods:
- strawberries (red)
- carrots (orange)
- yellow cherry tomatoes (yellow)
- snow peas (green)
- blueberries (blue)
- grapes (purple)
Then add a small sandwich on whole-wheat bread and your choice of meat, cheese, or eggs.
5. Rice and beans wrap bento
You make a wrap with just about anything. But if you’re looking for a way to use up the leftover rice and beans from last night’s dinner, this wrap will do the trick.
Here’s an idea of what to include in your rice and beans bento:
- black beans, brown rice, spinach, green onions, and cheddar cheese folded into a whole-wheat tortilla and cut in half
- sliced oranges
- a serving of chocolate pudding
6. Healthy pizza bento
A mini pizza doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Cut a piece of whole-wheat bread into a circle, or use an English muffin. Then top with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, and stick it into the toaster oven. Let it cool before putting it into the bento box.
You can include a few small slices of ham cut into circles like pepperoni and chopped up veggies on the side so your kid can add their own toppings. A side of fresh fruit and a small granola bar completes the bento.
7. Kebab bento
Your kid is sure to love having their boring old sandwich stacked onto a stick. Design your “kebab” by alternating small slices of:
- whole-wheat bread
- cubes of cheese
- rolled-up sliced meat
- cherry tomatoes
Include some apples, peanut butter, and crackers on the side for a healthy, satisfying snack.
8. Hummus bento
This bento box can be thrown together last minute without sacrificing nutrition:
- sliced whole-wheat pita
- carrot, cucumber, broccoli, and green pepper sticks for dipping
- pineapple chunks
- a small snack, like trail mix
9. Roll-up bento
Kids love this ingenious way to eat their meat and cheese. Simply cut up a piece of deli meat into strips. Layer with strips of cheese and then roll them up.
Add some whole-wheat crackers, some carrot sticks, strawberries, and a dollop of whipped cream, and you’re set!
10. Vegetarian “sushi” bento
Sushi doesn’t have to mean raw fish. Get creative with your “sushi” by wrapping cream cheese, cucumber, and carrot filling inside whole-wheat bread to resemble sushi.
Include some fresh berries, a handful of goldfish crackers, and cucumber or carrots to complete the bento box.
11. Thanksgiving bento
Your child will love the idea of having Thanksgiving any time of the year:
- sliced turkey
- mashed sweet potatoes
- steamed string beans
- side of cranberry sauce
- sautéed apples
Bento boxes are a healthy and practical way to get your kid to eat their lunch. Bento boxes are great because:
- they can be made ahead
- you can incorporate leftovers from last night’s dinner
- the stacks of food are visually appealing
- the compartments keep different types of foods from touching
- it makes it easy to control portions
- you can change what’s for lunch every day without breaking the bank
- your kid will be excited to find out what’s inside
Need a bento box to get you started? Order one so you’ll never run out of ideas for your kids’ lunch again.