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Beyond the PB&J: Bento Box Lunch Ideas and Tips

Sometimes I find myself banging my head against the wall trying to come up with lunch ideas for the kids. So when Sarah Platanitis, food writer and blogger over at Sarah in the Kitchen sent these great tips for bento-box style lunches, I knew I had to pass them along. If you’re unfamiliar, bentos are Japanese boxed lunches that are convenient and perfectly portioned with rice, protein, fruits and vegetables. They’re great because picky eaters may be more likely to try new foods when they’re cutely arranged in brightly colored reusable containers, Sarah says. Plus, they’re budget-friendly and easy to make since ingredients can be leftovers, made ahead of time and frozen for later. They can also be easily adapted for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and allergy-friendly eaters. Read on for bento-box tips from Sarah!

Credit: Rubbermaid Products, Flickr

Credit: Rubbermaid Products, Flickr

Bento Box Lunch Tips

1. Make it tasty. Pick four to six well-balanced ingredients. For school lunches, consider less perishable foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, rice or noodles, a variety of fruits and raw vegetables. Crackers and semi-firm or hard cheeses, cow or goat milk styles travel well.

2. Keep it simple. Bento makers can get very creative and spend scads of time making intricately crafted works of art. Keep your assembly time, however, to 20 minutes or less. Even the most plain and simple bento can be delightful.

3. Make it safe. Pick foods that keep best at room temperature. Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy and egg products need refrigeration or they can spoil and cause food poisoning. Help perishable items with an insulated lunch bag, a cold pack or a frozen juice carton.

4. Have fun. An easy way to make ingredients eye-catching with minimal effort is to make shapes with tiny cookie cutters that you can find in the cake-decorating department of craft stores. There you can also find reusable silicone baking cups in exciting colors and petite containers for moist ingredients. Get some darling paper notes to send words of encouragement.

Read on for two bento-box lunch ideas!

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