Are Bento the Solution to the Great Packed Lunch Dilemma?

By | March 4, 2012

This is a sponsored guest post

As most parents know, it can sometimes be difficult to get your kids to finish or, in some cases, even start eating their packed lunches. It can be disheartening and also worrying when the majority of food is returned uneaten; knowing your kids are intentionally going hungry is never a good thing. However, the recent bento craze has helped many a parent – myself included – with this problem. Although ostensibly originating in Japan, the term “bento” is actually derived from ancient Chinese slang meaning “convenient”. However, bento are an undeniably Japanese phenomenon at heart, with them appearing everywhere from train stations (known as ekiben) to fancy restaurants. But what are the pros of giving your kids – or even yourself – bento boxes?

  • They are healthy

Of course, this depends on what you put in them. However, most suggested staple bento ingredients tend to be quite healthy, for example rice accompanied by fish and vegetables. You can also easily include treats in bento boxes, however; the compartments that many of them have – which can be emulated by including silicone cupcake cases if necessary – mean that space requirements make you think twice before putting in too much.

  • They are fun

Perhaps the most famous variety of bento is the kyaraben, or character bento. This refers to the often incredibly elaborate bento made in the shape of various animals, people and cartoon characters, originally made in order to encourage children to be interested in and eat their food (and it tends to work!). Bento are also an excellent way to persuade kids to eat food they might not normally dream of eating; eating vegetables is always more fun when they form part of your favourite character, after all.

  • They are cheap

Certainly cheaper than store-bought sandwiches, the contents of a typical bento can be made for very little (if you don’t believe me, try working out how much it cost to make your bento them comparing it to something found on a takeaway menu). Additionally, many a delicious bento can be made partially or even fully from leftovers.

  • They are convenient

Bento can be prepared either partly or fully in advance. It is often suggested that staple foods such as rice are made and then frozen until they are needed, while it is easy to whip up one quickly in the morning if you didn’t have time or otherwise forget to do so the night before.

[This is a guest post]



Corinne on March 5, 2012 at 11:30 am.

I’ve had Bento boxes when I’ve been out for a lunch of Japanese food but never though about using them for the kids lunches, my teen would love it.
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Penny on May 18, 2012 at 5:35 am.

I started making bento for myself a few weeks ago. Eco-friendly and appealing (I always love foods in separate miniature portions). The divided sections make it seem natural to plan to include fresh fruits and vegetables instead of a bag of chips. I can make the bentos attractive even with simple choices, just by using lots of color. Bentos are a keeper!