Each year when school starts, parents start looking for healthy packed lunches their children will enjoy. They want lunch foods that are nutritious, relatively inexpensive and easy to prepare. They also hope their children will like their lunch food enough to eat it instead of trading it away for a pile of Little Debbie cakes. None of this is easy, which is why we’ve come up with a few suggestions of tools to help.
A bento box is a lunch box with multiple little compartments that fit together to make one, larger, container. Some bento boxes have a sandwich sized compartment, and some don’t. A bento box lunch can be made up of a hodgepodge of finger foods. The selection usually includes a protein (cubes of cheese, nuts, bitesize pieces of baked chicken, etc.), fruit and/or vegetable, and a source of complex carbohydrates such as a whole-grain muffin, fried brown rice or pasta.
In Japan, where the bento box originated, parents use tiny metal cookie cutters to cut fruits, vegetables and bread into attractive shapes. Some go so far as to combine the entire lunch into little pictures “painted” with the shapes and colors of the food. In Japan, entire websites and Instagram pages dedicated to bento box art.
If you think making a bologna sandwich is fast, try sliding pieces of ham onto a skewer interspersed with pineapple chunks. Or alternate cheese and grapes, or cantaloupe and strawberries on a wooden pick. There’s no plate or knife to wash, and the ingredients are only as limited as your imagination. Skewers can be found at Walmart or the Dollar Store.
Small thermos containers
One way to add interest, variety and nutrition to a meal is to include hot and cold items. This also makes it easier to put leftovers to good use. In winter you can pack hot soup or hot chocolate. In summer you can pack cold fruit salad or crisp fresh vegetables.
Single Serving Sauce or Dip Containers
Sauces and Dips can come right out of the bottle and go straight into your child’s lunch. Throw in a few cut fresh vegetables or toothpick skewers of fruit and you have a new and different side dish.
Lunch Box Collection
Just as many women don’t want to carry the same purse every day, children can get tired of carrying the same old lunchbox. One easy way to spice up lunch is to have a collection of different lunch boxes to switch out from time to time. While this can take up space, it can also give children a fun choice to inspire enthusiasm for “taking” over “buying”.
Lunch Box Blogs
Here are a few online resources designed to inspire…