Elle started kindergarten this year and I wanted to pack her lunch instead of having her eat at the cafeteria. Our family eats mostly whole, unprocessed foods; I do fresh fruits and vegetables instead of buying the ones in a can. School lunches are okay, and I know they’re a lifesaver for kids who aren’t getting enough to eat at home, but we’re lucky and we have the luxury of eating good, healthy food. The grocery store is full of processed food in clever packaging with pictures of Curious George and the Disney princesses. This food is convenient, so it makes its way into many a school lunch. But it’s not healthy! I wanted to pack healthy food but not use 30 plastic baggies every week. Additionally, we don’t eat a lot of bread because I’m allergic to gluten, so I knew I wouldn’t be packing a sandwich every day. The perfect solution: the bento box!
This is a Japanese thing that’s become popular in America. Bento comes from a Japanese slang word that means convenient. It’s definitely not as convenient as throwing in a pack of Goldfish crackers and a super-sugary granola bar, but it’s more convenient than having an obese and unhealthy kid who eats Cheese Whiz as a food staple. The Japanese get very creative with it, making the food look like animals or cartoon characters. See what I mean…
I don’t take it quite that far. It’s enough for me that Elle is eating healthy! In the picture below we have grapes and dried apples, turkey, cheese cubes and cherry tomatoes, and Goldfish crackers. My husband bought the colored ones. I buy the Annie’s bunny version, you know, the healthier ones.
The box I chose is a Lunchbots brand stainless steel with 3 compartments that I ordered from Amazon. (Nope, they’re not paying me to say that.) I like the stainless steel, no yucky BPA plastic ones please. I’ve been surprised by how much food fits in here. It looks small but she has more than enough to eat every day. She usually finishes whatever is left of her lunch in the car after school. They don’t seal completely though, so no liquids! If you want to do liquids, get a plastic or Tupperware one with the seal top.
I’ve had a lot of fun thinking of foods to pack. Pinterest is the best source of inspiration. Just search for “bento” and you’ll find tons of great ideas. The three compartments make me pack a variety of things so she’s getting lots of nutrients in every lunch. Below we had turkey, cheese and cherry tomatoes, craisins, cashews and almonds, and strawberries.
So there you have it. Bento boxes are great for the planet because they’re re-usable and don’t require a bunch of plastic baggies. They allow me to pack whole, unprocessed foods instead of pre-packaged junk. Save the earth and get healthy with bento boxes!