As every parent knows, getting little ones to eat their food can feel like a bit of a struggle. Kids can be notoriously fussy eaters, who might love a certain type of food one day and deem it 'yucky' the next or go through strange phases like not wanting to eat a particular colour of food! While a certain degree of food pickiness is totally normal, it can make preparing your child's school lunch box feel near impossible, especially if you want your little one to eat healthily. But we think the key to packing in more fruit and veg into your child's diet is to make the food look exciting, which is where these clever bento lunch box ideas come in. Designed to present different foods in an attractive way, bento boxes might just become your new family lunchtime go-to. They look dead impressive but with a bit of planning and practice, they're actually super easy to create. So if you're in need of some packed lunch inspiration, find out more about these fun bento lunch box ideas and recipes and see how lunchtimes can become fun again...
Bento boxes are all about combining different types of healthy foods in a box and in a fun way
What is a bento box?
The word bento comes from the Japanese word for boxed lunch, and is quite simply that. But forget your standard sandwich and packet of crisps – bento boxes are all about combining different types of healthy foods in a box and in a fun way. Children especially love bento boxes because they typically contain colourful foods and different textures that look so enticing.
What you'll need
A box and a bit of creativity are all you really need. For the box, nearly any type of medium-sized container will do but a brightly-coloured lunch box does add another element of fun. For some extra help to make fun shapes and cool designs, cookie cutters and silicone baking cups are particularly useful for separating wet foods from dry foods and keeping loose items like berries in one place.
Bento box tips
Include different types of foods, specifically carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables and fruit with lots of different textures. This will ensure your little one eats a balanced meal full of nutrients, plus doesn't get bored with their food.
Aim for cuteness. It might take a little more time and effort, but making adorable shapes and fun designs will make your child's lunch so much more appealing. And when their food looks more appealing then they're more likely to eat it – even if it's broccoli and sprouts! The cuter and funnier the lunch looks, the more your child will look forward to eating it. Some ideas for upping the cute factor in your bento box include chopping veggies up into smaller pieces, adding faces onto rice and cutting cheese and bread into star and heart shapes - little ones will love it!
Add lots of colour to your bento box. Kids are more likely to eat foods that look appetising so include colourful fruits and veggies like strawberries and carrots to your box. If you want to put two similar coloured foods into your box (corn and yellow peppers, for example), then separate them with another coloured food – it may sound silly but it works!
Pack everything in as tightly as possible. If you don't, then all your cute shapes and foods will jumble into one another and create an unappetising mess. If you've added all your big pieces but the box still isn't full, try including a few grapes or roll up some cheese slices to ensure that everything is neatly and tightly packed.
Bento box ideas
If you know your little one would never chomp down on a few stalks of steamed veg, then try sneaking it in like in this ham, broccoli & sweetcorn frittata recipe. Cut into rectangular strips or use a biscuit cutter to make fun shapes and use them as the protein portion of your bento box.
Packed full of veg, these butternut squash quesadillas can be cut up into triangles and then stacked for a bento-style dish.
Kids might not want to eat a handful of peas but we bet they'll have more fun munching on one of these colourful pea croquettes.
Meatballs are a firm family favourite and these turkey meatballs are so easy to make and tasty to eat. Keep them from rolling around the lunchbox by spearing them together with a colourful toothpick (but only for older kids who will know to remove the stick before eating!).
Keep this tomato and tuna pasta from seeping into other foods by scooping it into a silicone cupcake holder. Add some vegetable sticks and another cupcake holder of fruit and you're done!
For a crunchy treat, a few of these mixed veg crisps are just the trick. Made with parsnips, carrots and beetroot, they’re both savoury and sweet.