Let’s face it: mornings are hectic. Packing a healthy lunch for your kids can add to the frustration, especially if you don’t know where to start or if you have picky eaters. But as moms, we know a healthy lunch is essential to keeping our kids fueled all day the nutritious way.
Bento boxes are all the craze, allowing for easier lunch prep without wasting multiple baggies. As an added bonus, the individual compartments help remind us of correct portion sizes. But what are some healthy bento box ideas your kids will love?
Produce for Kids, a philanthropically based organization dedicated to creating a healthier generation, offers several bento box ideas which use traditional recipes we all know swapped with healthy ingredients. On top of being easy to make and delicious, all the recipes are approved by Produce for Kids’ registered dietitian. Following are 13 kid-approved bento box ideas from the Produce for Kids kitchen.
Tip: Map out lunch boxes on Sundays with the help of your kids. This gets them involved in healthy eating choices, and allows you to make select items ahead of time to make weekday mornings a little less hectic.
1. Southwestern Pasta Salad Bento Box
With fiber-filled beans and protein-packed cheese, this flavorful meal is bound to become an instant favorite. Pack it in a lunchbox with a few healthy sides for a nutritious and satisfying meal. Get the Southwestern Pasta Salad Bento Box recipe.
2. Fun Bento Fun-Due Bento Box
This bento box is all about dipping. Fruit is paired with Greek yogurt mixed with sunflower seed butter, agave and cinnamon and the veggies are paired with ranch dressing. Add mini sandwich skewers to the mix and it makes for a full nutrition-packed lunch. Get the Fun Bento Fun-Due Bento Box recipe.
3. Butterfly Bento Box
This cute butterfly bento box will liven up any kid’s lunchtime. The butterfly sandwich substitutes a sliced banana for jelly, paired with peanut butter or sunflower seed butter. Use a cookie cutter for fruits and veggies, like a star for cucumbers, to add even more fun to lunchtime. Get the Butterfly Bento Box recipe.
4. Brown Bear Bento Box
The title characters from Eric Carle’s beloved children’s book Brown Bear inspired this fun-filled bento box. Your kids will be the talk of the lunchroom with these graham crackers topped with soy butter and cute bear faces made of blueberries and banana. Pair the mini brown bears with colorful fruit and veggies. Get the Brown Bear Bento Box recipe.
5. Italian Orzo Pasta Salad
This pasta salad is perfect for Sunday prep as it can be prepared up to three days in advance. It keeps well, making it a great option for lunchboxes, picnics, travel or a side for a weekday’s family dinner. Add 2 Tbsp. chopped kalamata olives for a little tang or sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. crumbled feta for a creamier dish. Pair with fruit, cheese and pistachios. Get the Italian Orzo Pasta Salad recipe.
6. Easy Lunch Stackers Bento Box
Kids will love using their creativity to build their own stackers with whole wheat crackers, cheese, meat and veggies. This is the perfect alternative for anyone in a sandwich rut. For an added boost, pair with a banana and more veggies and dip. Get the Easy Lunch Stackers Bento Box recipe.
7. Under the Sea Bento Box
Any ocean-loving kid will be excited about this combo. Use peanut butter or sunflower seed butter and then add sliced strawberries and bananas. For the dolphin cut out, head to your local housewares store for a cookie or sandwich cutter. Pair it up with clementine sail boats topped with a favorite cheese for the sail. Cucumbers cut as star fish and a side of snap peas complete the combo. Get the Under the Sea Bento Box recipe.
8. Sandwich Kebobs Bento Box
This easy bento box is a new spin on the traditional sandwich and chips lunch, plus it gets your kids to try something new! They won’t even know they like beets until they taste them as potato chips. Kebobs are a great way to deconstruct a typical sandwich to add some extra fun for your kids at the lunch table. Get the Sandwich Kebobs Bento Box recipe.
9. Apple Zucchini Mini Muffin Bento Box
These mini muffins are perfect for making in batches for the whole family’s lunches. Kids will love opening their lunchboxes and seeing these yummy mini muffins. Better yet, you’ll love that they’re packed with healthy ingredients like apples, zucchini and Greek yogurt. Get the Apple Zucchini Mini Muffin Bento Box recipe.
10. Turkey Hummus Pinwheels Bento Box
This is the ideal lunch for any parent who might be stuck in the sandwich rut. Roll up your child’s favorite sandwich toppings into a wrap and cut into pinwheels. When turkey and hummus don’t sound appealing, customize this recipe with your favorite lunchmeat, cheese, spreads and veggies! Snap peas make the perfect side. Get the Turkey Hummus Pinwheels Bento Box recipe.
11. Easy Picnic Bento Box with Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad
The traditional chicken salad gets a makeover in this bento box using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise and by adding seedless grapes for extra flavor. Pair the chicken salad with the always popular ants on a log, a side of whole wheat crackers and strawberries. Get the Easy Picnic Bento Box recipe.
12. Taco Bento Box
Perfect lunch for a Taco Tuesday! Kids will love assembling their own taco and will surely be the envy of the lunchroom. Place toppings in cupcake liners to limit the mess, and swap choices out each week or stick with what they love. Pair with a fruit and granola bar to make it a well-rounded lunch. Get the Taco Bento Box recipe.
13. Superhero Bento Box
Even superheroes need a healthy lunch! This sandwich is made on a whole wheat sandwich round and cut with a bat-shaped cookie cutter. With a star cookie cutter, you can also create fun sides out of different veggies to add extra superhero flair. Get the Superhero Bento Box recipe.
Inspired to create your own bento box combination?
Use the following guide from Produce for Kids with bento box compartment suggestions by food group.