The school year has begun and, again, parents are torn between packing a lunch that the kids will eat and packing a lunch that is healthy for them. Luckily, now you don’t have to choose between the two - just bento!
Bento is a Japanese method of packing lunches into a box in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and healthy. A traditional bento box has several guidelines, such as the 5-color rule stating that you should have foods of five different colors that give you different types of vitamins and minerals. For me, when I pack a bento for my kids, I try to have 3 colors, usually for breakfast or a snack.
Here some creative ideas of what you can pack. Regarding amounts, I decide how much to pack based on how much my child ate in the morning and how long will pass until the next meal.
One of the most important guidelines in creating a bento box is to pack everything tightly so that it doesn’t move. I also like to line the box with lettuce because it both looks more “packed” and because most of the dishes inside move less on the lettuce than on the plastic.
Who who who doesn’t like an owl?
For this bento, all you need is bread, cheese, carrots, and some additional side dishes to your child’s liking. To create the owl:
- Use a bowl and a knife to cut out 2 slices of bread and a slice of cheese.
- Use a small, round cookie cutter to cut out the eyes from another slice of cheese.
- Create the wings from leftover cheese from the eyes.
- Cut out two squares of cheese and removed small triangles to create the feet.
- Cut up the carrots as branches and place the feet on top of both the body and the branches.
- Add any vegetables and fruit that your child likes. For the fruit cup, slice up grapes (if your child is under 6), arrange them like a flower, and place a pitted cherry in the middle. You don’t need a flower-shaped cup - you can use a regular, silicone cupcake mold.
Hungry, Hungry Dino
All you really need is a large dinosaur-shaped cookie cutter for this bento. You can put any filling you’d like in the sandwich. Since I added vegetables to the meal, I selected a filling that was salty and not sweet (chances are that a kid won’t eat a jam sandwich with broccoli on the side).
- Use a large cutter to cut out the bread (and cheese). Cut each piece on its own and then assemble for optimal cutting. Use a piece of corn or a pea for the eye.
- Use green beans and broccoli to create trees and a few pieces of corn (if you’d like).
- Use a small cookie cutter to shape fruit and vegetables and arrange in silicone cups that fit in the holes left in the box.
Let’s Talk about Minions
The Minions. A smash hit, starring in their own film, (and also from the Despicable Me movies) is a favorite, and their yellow coloring gives us many options for kids who would rather not eat a sandwich. For this meal, you need eggs, a bit of cheese, and nori (edible seaweed).
- Make an omelette and fold it into a rectangle while still in the pan.
- Remove and cut into two pieces.
- Cut out two long strips of nori for the glasses and attach them immediately. The warmth of the omelette will help them stick without any additions. If your egg has already cooled, use a small dab of mayonnaise to glue it on.
- Cut out 3 medium nori circles for the eyes and 3 tiny ones for the eyeballs. Place the large ones on the strip you placed earlier.
- Use a straw to cut out small pieces of cheese for the eyeballs. Gently flatten them between your fingers and place on the nori circles, then top with the small ones.
- Use leftover nori to cut out the mouth in any shape you want and a few strips of hair.
- Fill the rest of the box with fruit and vegetables that your child likes.
Have a wonderful and healthy school year!
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