Healthy Children - January 2013


For a Kid-Friendly Lunch, Think Inside the Box

If you’re looking for a great way to stimulate your child’s creativity and encourage him or her to try new, healthy foods at lunchtime, consider buying or making a Bento box.

Bento boxes are compartmentalized lunch boxes that originated in Japan. The containers are designed to hold small portions of a variety of foods, often arranged in whimsical designs or patterns. The compartments’ sizes make them kid-friendly and easy to remove and clean, and Bento boxes are a favorite of moms who want to get their kids hooked on healthy eating.

“Making a Bento box lunch is a great way to involve your child in meal preparation, which increases the likelihood that he or she will try a new food,” says Marsha Flowers, MHS, RD, LD, clinical nutrition manager at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “The boxes are an easy way to ensure kids eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains, especially if they’re arranged in creative patterns or formed into shapes, such as star-shaped sandwiches, which can be made using cookie cutters.”

Bento boxes can be ordered from a variety of Web sites or found at many stores or markets. To make your own Bento box out of a regular plastic container, use baby carrots, celery or other vegetables as dividers to form compartments.

Try It at Home

“Putting together a healthy Bento box lunch that looks unique is simple, and kids like simplicity,” says Aaron Dudzik, executive chef at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Presentation is also important to kids, so colorful foods, such as cherry tomatoes or diced red bell peppers, are a staple of Bento box lunches.”

According to Chef Dudzik, a typical Bento box lunch could include:

  • celery sticks
  • fruit sushi (crust-less bread or tortillas rolled up with low-fat cream cheese and banana or pineapple)
  • grapes
  • protein sources like turkey, chicken or cheese
  • strawberries
  • whole-wheat crackers or pasta