Check out how to make a kids bento box that will keep your kiddo fueled and satisfied all day long.
Make room brown bags; there is a better way to lunch! Kids bento box lunches are the practical and trendy way to put mealtime struggles to rest.
Let’s face it; there is something mundane and uninspiring about the plain ol’ brown bag turkey sandwich routine. Not to mention, it’s a meal that’s not often associated with colorful ingredients. So, it’s out with the old and in the new. Learn how to make a bento box that incorporates color-filled foods for optimal growth and development.
What’s a Bento Box?
Bento is a Japanese meal served in a container with three or more compartments. In other words, it’s the ultimate lunchtime organizer. It also contains a neat appearance that helps appease children who are sensitive about their food touching. Plus, it helps prevents items from getting squished. Talk about a lunchtime hero!
While bento boxes were traditionally used to feed people in Japanese festivals or parties in the early 1300s, their role later shifted to carrying meals for travel or work. (1)
How to Make a Kids Bento Box
Each kids bento box compartment enables easy mealtime diversification. It forces parents or guardians to add various ingredients to lunch—ultimately contributing to a balanced meal.
To create the perfect box, aim to include a minimum of three different colors where each contains its own unique set of phytonutrients. Eat the rainbow colors to reap the health benefits of plant-based nutrition.
- Compartment #1: Fruits and/or vegetables
- Compartment #2: Protein (beans, meat, poultry, fish, dairy product, tofu, tempeh, etc.)
- Compartment #3: Carbohydrate (whole wheat bread/tortilla, brown rice, potato, corn, green peas)
Simple Bento Box Ideas for Kids
Need some help getting started? Check out these tasty, balanced, exciting, and colorful bento lunch box ideas for kids:
|If you are used to having this:||Try this instead!||Why is this better?|
|Turkey sandwich with turkey slices, cheese, and 2 slices of white bread Juice box||Compartment #1: A half* turkey sandwich with whole-grain bread |
Compartment #2: Baby carrots
Compartment #3: Green grapes
|Cut down on the oversized portion of bread and turkey. Switched to whole-grain bread for added fiber, nutrients, and protein.|
Added vegetables to provide more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants!
Replaced the juice with an actual fruit serving for added fiber and nutrients
|2 slices of pizza||Compartment #1: Whole-grain pita bread slices and sugar snap peas |
Compartment #2: Hummus
Compartment #3: Sliced strawberries with few cubed mozzarella cheese bites
|Reduced the serving of cheese and refined carbs (pizza crust).|
Switched to whole grain for added fiber and nutrients
Added healthy fats and protein via hummus.
Added vegetables and fruits for more fiber and nutrients.
|Peanut butter & jelly sandwich on white bread + a bag of graham crackers||Compartment #1: A half sandwich – peanut butter & all-fruit jam (or sliced banana) with whole-grain bread |
Compartment #2: Low-fat/fat-free yogurt topped with blueberries
Compartment #3: Vegetable skewer with soybeans (edamame) and cherry tomatoes
|Cut down on bread to make more room for other nutritious foods.|
Switched to whole grain for more fiber and nutrients.
Switched to all fruit jam to reduce sugar.
Replaced crackers with yogurt for calcium and protein.
Added vegetables and fruit for added fiber and nutrients.
*Depending on the age group, a whole sandwich offered with vegetables and fruit may be more appropriate.
Organizing and Selecting Your Ingredients
A little organization goes a long way! By prepping ingredients ahead of time, you can assemble your kiddo’s lunch in minutes.
While kids bento boxes include ingredient variety by nature, also remember to diversify your selections from day to day. After all, greater exposure to different foods and produce can help foster lifelong healthy eating habits.
Recipes for Bento Box Lunches
Take the guesswork out of lunch prep and try the recipes below!
Simple Fried Rice Bento Box Recipe
- leftover fried rice
- 1/4 cup frozen soybeans not shelled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup fruit cubes strawberries, grapes, pineapple
- 6 toothpicks or plastic skewers
- In a small saucepan, add 1-1/2 cup water and a dash of salt. Bring to boil.
- Add frozen soybeans and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 minutes.
- With a colander, strain the content.
- Allow to cool.
- If using toothpicks (make sure the child is old enough to prevent injury!), rinse them with water and roll them in your hands to ensure there are no splinters.
- Skewer cooled soybeans – about 5 per skewer.
- Skewer strawberry, pineapple, and then grape.
- Place vegetable fried rice in the largest compartment.
- Then, add fruits and soy kabobs to the remaining compartments.
- Carbs, Veggies & Protein: Vegetable & Egg Fried Rice (recipe below)
- Protein: Soybean skewer
- Fruits: Fruit kabob
Garlic Fried Rice Recipe
- 1 tablespoon vegetable/peanut/canola oil
- 2 eggs
- 1/8 cup green onions
- 1-2 teaspoon fresh ginger or ginger powder
- 3 cloves garlic or 2 teaspoon garlic paste
- 2/3 cup shredded carrots
- 2/3 cup broccoli florets
- 2/3 cup frozen peas
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- White pepper to taste
- In a small bowl, add thinly sliced green onions, minced ginger and garlic. Set aside.
- In a nonstick skillet over high heat, add peanut oil. Once the oil is heated, add eggs. Mix thoroughly.
- Add onion mixture. Mix until fully combined.
- Add carrots and broccoli. Stir continuously for 1 ½ minutes.
- Add sesame oil, rice, and green peas. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
- Cook mixture for 2-3 minutes.
- Add soy sauce and white pepper.
- Mix until combined.
- Cook for additional 1-2 more minutes.
- Serve and enjoy!
We’d love to see your kids bento box creations! Tag us on Instagram!