Bento Lunches For School Kids: How to Get Started
Send the Kids Back to School with Homemade Lunches
So maybe you’ve never heard of “Bento Boxes” and don’t know exactly what they are. I have pinned a really great image here that can give you more of a background on traditional bento boxes. Or perhaps, like me, you are familiar with them only from the amazing photos you find on Pinterest.
Bento Lunches For School Kids – How to Get Started:
#1. Confession: I don’t get crazy like the “professional bento moms”, nope I’m a crazy busy person and making my children’s cheese look like Mario is just not going to happen, even if I possessed that level of bento skillz. Instead I strive for a healthy balanced lunch that will follow our “Food Rules“. We don’t eat processed foods, and if we have meat, it’s organic and grass fed. I do not use dyes or candy to vamp up food, it just doesn’t fit our healthy eating habits. I read labels and rely less on what the packaging tells me about how healthy it is. I believe our kids are overfed and undernourished.
The point is: don’t feel the pressure to be a “professional bento mom”. If you find yourself really enjoying “designing” them, that is great. I say do what you enjoy! If you’re not quite Martha, no worries; you are already doing enough by providing a healthy lunch for your loved ones! I’m half Martha and half Marissa Mayer myself, and my kids need to fend off would be food-jackers daily with the plan lunches I send with them to school. You can check out accessories for fun bento lunches at amazon.
Here is a look at a day of lunches I did the week following Easter. Because we had so many hard-boiled eggs, I wanted to make sure they did not go to waste. Leftovers are very bento friendly!
In my home with our eating habits, I arrange my bentos like so: one protein, one carbohydrate, and two fruits or veggies. We only have animal proteins 2-3 times a week so I use other healthier sources of proteins like nuts. I use almonds often, almonds have so many healthy benefits like, lower ‘bad’ cholesterol, build strong bones and teeth, lower the rise in blood sugar and insulin after meals, help provide good brain function (source), also these nuts are rich in vitamin B12 and zinc, both of which are thought to be mood enhancers (source) that are known to help fight depression the natural way! You can find them at WinCo Foods in the bulk foods section for a reasonable price.
Bento is an easy way to go green. Lets face it, I’m am not the “greenist” person. But what I do know is we lessen our impact on the environment by packing a healthy lunch in a reusable container. I think the best part is you have control of lunch. This is a big hurdle if you have a child with food allergies, most children now-a-days suffer from some sort of food allergy. Bento is also a great way to get your kids to try new foods!
Here are some Bento lunch ideas:
- Baby Bell Cheese Wheels – they keep well because of the wax coating and they are “real” cheese.
- Stuffed Pita Bread – I stuff with PB&J, horizon organic cream cheese and good quality salami, bananas, honey and nuts, salad greens with a side of Balsamic Vinaigrette.
- Homemade Zucchini or Banana Bread
- Homemade Muffins – I like Gluten Free Banana Muffins or any kind you can bake from home (ditch the box mixes that have a host of nasty ingredients, what you’re trying to avoid)
- Rice Crackers – Almond Breeze has a good selection of GF crackers
- Nuts – nuts are great (if your child is not allergic)
- Hard Boiled Egg – I boil a few farm fresh eggs a week for bentos or after school snacks.
- Banana Hot Dogs – Created by Recess CEO Toni Spilsbury, it’s a whole grain hot dog bun with PB&J then stuffed with a whole banana and topped with raw local honey (great for seasonal allergies) and shelled sunflower seeds.
- Fruits & Veggies – Organic & seasonal is what I use to avoid GMO’s and pesticide sprays. Mellon balls are good, cuties (mini tangerines), carrots, celery, I cut bananas in half and leave on the peel, cucumbers, peas, apples (dip in pineapple juice to keep fresh), blueberries, grapes, orange slices, pineapple or strawberries. The list is endless.
- Rice – I make rice balls with a side of soy sauce. The days I do rice balls it is a leftover and I also include the chicken or meatballs I made with it.
- Turkey Meatballs – I also make eggplant meatballs and add them to lunches.
- Popcorn – I buy in bulk from WinCo Foods and then pop myself and add toppings like lime and sea salt.
- Rice Noodles – There are a lot of unhealthy noodles out there, rice noodles seem to be the best choice I’ve come across.
- Hot Dogs – Like Hebrew National brand.
- Hummus & Pita Chips – I make my own hummus or buy from my local farmers market.
- Baked Potato – My kids like salt & pepper and maybe some cheese on theirs, so this is an option.
- Tortillas Sands – I will make homemade tortillas and make sandwiches from them. PB&J and cream cheese with salami are the top runners around here.
- Quesadillas – I get asked for these every so often.
- Tortellini Noodles – These are good finer foods, pack a side of red sauce. I make all my sauces fresh so I use this as a leftover bento idea
- Homemade Pizza – I make flatbread pizza or homemade “chicken wing” pizza. Margarita pizza is also a big hit.
- Fried Rice – Or Spanish rice works.
- Sausage – Link sausage (or sliced) works great with cheese and rice.
- Stuffed Tomato – I like to stuff large grilled tomatoes with tuna salad.
I hope this helps you get started making bento lunches from home. You can follow my Bento Pin board for more ideas and see what the “professional bento moms” are doing.