I try to make sure my girls are out and about as much as possible; enjoying the outdoors, exercising, and socialising with other little ones. One of the difficulties with outdoor kids activities, however, is finding nutritious food. With the foodie movement on the rise, it amazes me that sports centres, play parks, and swimming pools don’t do more to provide healthy, interesting meal options at their canteens. I am less than impressed when my daughter comes home $7 poorer, with nothing but hot chips and fairy floss in her tummy. So I decided to start packing my kids’ lunches, and with my recent discovery of Japanese bento there isn’t a boring paper bag or soggy sandwich in sight!
Bento is the Japanese art of serving single-portions of various foods in a cute little take-away container known as a bento box. The traditional Japanese kind usually incorporates rice, fish, and pickles, but feel free to get creative! The beautiful thing about bento is that the presentation makes even the simplest food seem like an exciting treat, and your child is given the opportunity to put together their own meal exactly how they want it at lunch time.
You’ll be able to give your kids plenty of options if they’re feeling fussy, and they’ll enjoy packing their lunch with you in the morning before they head out, not to mention “assembling” and devouring it later! My favourite feature of the bento box is definitely its practicality – chopped foods won’t get soggy or go all over the place, and you can keep sweets and savouries separate.
To get you started, here are some ideas for your kids’ bento lunch:
- Chopped apple pieces mixed with sultanas
- Cucumber and cream cheese sandwich triangles
- Raw vegetable logs with peanut butter (my kids particularly love carrot!)
- Avocado slices
- Cooked chickpeas with cucumber pieces
- Granola squares (just chop up a muesli bar into bite sized pieces!)
To keep my kids’ lunches fresh, I like to follow the Japanese example and keep seasonings and sauces separate. My kids love cooking and especially squeezing their own lemon “dressing” onto their chickpeas, or adding a bit of Greek yoghurt to their apple pieces. To keep sauces and sides from mixing, try placing them in mini rubber cupcake holders before putting them in their bento compartment.
You can pick up a proper bento box from most department stores, or you can make your own with different sized Tupperware containers. You’ll feel great knowing your kids are getting tasty, nutritious food, and they’ll love the endless options and “grown up” feel of putting together their own meal!