Have you heard of Bento lunches and Bento Boxes? They are a trendy little addition to packed lunches with their origins tracing back to Japan. Bento is a traditional way for Japanese to pack single serving sized meals that they then take with them to work or school. The boxes themselves are usually rectangular with compartments for each dish. Kind of like a TV Dinner tray only washable and reusable. In Japan, the lunches usually consist of rice, fish or meat, and cooked or pickled vegetables.
I had never heard of them either, until I started looking for different ideas for lunches to send with my granddaughters to school. Although, about 15 years or so ago, when we moved my in-laws in with us, I found something very similar to what I’m describing, that I used for my mother-in-law. My father-in-law had had a stroke and she had Alzheimer’s and I was working and didn’t get home in time to cook dinner for her. So I would put the leftovers from my hubby’s and my dinner into these containers and put them in the fridge. That way Dad could just pull them out and put them in the microwave to heat them up.
Traditional Bento boxes are made of stainless steel, but you can find BPA free plastic ones and even glass versions, but I wouldn’t recommend glass for kids lunches. These food containers with an international flair are usually square, but some are rectangle, and have internal compartments that allows you to keep your food separate. This gives you a great canvas to get creative with food.
And yes, with Bento boxes it’s ok to play with the food and 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 the likes as sides.
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? You’ll find entire Pinterest boards and Instagram accounts dedicated to creative bento boxes.
Of course there’s no need to go all out. You can make delicious and eye-pleasing bento lunches by taking just a little care with how you place the food in the boxes and taking advantage of simple little tricks like pouring little gluten-free crackers or raisins into paper or silicon cupcake liners.
What I like best about bento lunches is that it gives you the opportunity to pack several small, snack like items into one lunch. Your child will have fun picking and choosing for lunch and you know he will still get a healthy meal. Plus what child doesn’t love a bunch of colorful 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’d like. Or grab a few of your own favourite healthy snacks and call it lunch. The possibilities are almost endless with bento box lunches.