5 Clean Eating Bento Box Ideas
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The Bento Box “fad” is turning out to be more of a mainstay than a fly-by-night idea for Americans. All the hoopla that surrounded them when they first became popular here now seems to have evened out and is actually holding it’s own.
I never got into the idea much, maybe because at the time, Mini Chef was not in school yet. But now that he is, I’m starting to like the idea more and more. Why?
Because, not only are these a fabulous way for adults to pack 5-6 small meals per day, but also because kids like variety. They also like to eat small things. I remember as a young girl, I would pick the tiniest things I could find on my plate and eat those first. They were just more fun to eat! It’s the same with my little guy, and I have a feeling, it’s the same with most young children.
A Bento style lunch box allows me to pack a good variety of different foods for my little guy, which gives him choices. I give him mostly foods he knows and enjoys, but I also try to save one little section for something new. Even if he doesn’t eat it, it’s a small amount that I can eat later so it doesn’t go bad, and if he does try it, score one for MC trying something new!
You don’t need an actual, bonified Bento box either. These days, many major stores like Target or The Container Store carry versions of them. All you have to look for is a box with several compartments. Some of them stack, some of them are built in, and some of them fit together like a puzzle inside a single lunch box. It doesn’t really matter so long as you get a fair number of compartments.
Some folks swear by the metal ones, and some by the plastic ones. Just be sure that if you do buy the plastic variety, that you are buying one that is BPA free.
So here are some possible combinations I came up with. They are not the fancy, creative foods you typically see displayed in traditional Bento Boxes. Frankly, I just don’t have the time to invest in making my child’s banana wrap look like a fish riding a bicycle. If you do, more power to you!
Don’t think of this as a solid list, but more of a jumping off point for your own inspirations. I hope it helps! And remember, this doesn’t have to be difficult. Kids, for the most part, enjoy simple foods. So don’t make it more complicated than it has to be. And remember, these ideas work great for older kids and grownups too!
NOTE: Before anybody gets upset about the baby carrots, please know that they are perfectly fine. If you’ve read about the baby carrot / chlorine issue, just know that you get that much chlorine when you boil your pasta in tap water. Here’s an article for you to read more about it.
Compartment 1 – Spinach and carrots (I pack dressing on the side or in a small container that fits right in with the salad.
Compartment 2 – Blueberries / Clean Eating Goldfish crackers (Link will be active on 8/8)
Compartment 3 – Banana wrap (Sun butter works for this as well)
Compartment 1 – Cottage cheese with a tiny bit of honey, flaxseed (which I usually grind first) and fresh strawberries.
Compartment 2 – Carrots
Compartment 3 – Oranges
Compartment 1 – Pasta salad or leftovers from dinner the night before.
Compartment 2 – Cherry tomatoes
Compartment 3 – Grapes
Compartment 1 – Cherries and nut butter (seed butter works too)
Compartment 2 – Clean, whole grain crackers.
Compartment 3 – Leftover chicken kebobs with pineapple from the previous night’s dinner.
Compartment 1 – Cheese sandwich cut out with a cookie cutter for fun. I don’t usually remove the crust from his sandwich, but this is a fun treat on occasion.
Compartment 2 – Sliced kiwi
Compartment 3 – Carrots (yes, we do a lot of carrots in our lunches. They’re just so easy!)
This is the box I bought at Cost Plus. It’s BPA free. But if you can’t find it there, here it is on Amazon.com.
Have any ideas? Share them in a comment below! The more people who share here, the more ideas there will be for everyone.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE IDEAS ON WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR BENTO BOX!
Thank you for the great idea! I have never have seen this, but plan to purchase some. I am also very excited about week 4….meals that cook while I work. 🙂 I will be going back to teach soon and this will be handy! Love your site!!!!
Tammy – Thanks! Glad you found it useful! 😀
Just a note about the box pictured here…I bought a couple of them last year for my kids and they work well except that if the child opens them with the open compartment on top, all the grapes, blueberries, cherry tomatoes, etc. go flying! The other compartment had an internal “lid.” I solved the problem by drawing a smiley face with a sharpee on the side that should be facing them when they open the box. I told them to be sure the face was looking up before they opened e box 🙂 love the Bento trend. Kids love it too!
Laura – Great tip! Thanks! 😀
Hi Tiffany – First, I just want to tell you that I’ve been following your blog and recipes for a while now. In fact, your name, The Gracious Pantry, is a household entity in our home because even my 9-year old son always tells me whenever I’m looking for a new recipe to go check out The Gracious Pantry. You have great ideas and articles. We’re trying to get back into clean eating because we kind of fell off the wagon this summer and I wondered if you could recommend good, clean whole wheat crackers (as similar to Wheat Thins as possible) and bread for kids who will not eat wheat or whole grain because my little guy has sensory issues and does not like the grainy textures.
Laurie – Thanks! The only crack I know of that comes even remotely close is Ak-Mak crackers. You can find them at most grocery stores I believe. As for bread, have you tried making your own? I have a few bread recipes on my site that might work. Either the friendship bread or the sandwich bread. They are dense, but not overly grainy.
I have never heard of Bento Boxes until this post so I’m glad you posted this! I definitely think they are a great way to handle portion control! I’m going to have to take a trip to Target and see what I can find 🙂
Emma H – They are a great way to go! Portion control is why I like them so much. 🙂
I am constantly in search of creative things to eat at lunch. Thanks for the inspiration for clean eats at lunch.
Also I have that same container I purchased mine at Old Navy, if you would believe it! But I have also seen that container along with many others in the same line at the Container Store.
Sarah G – Good to know! Thank you! 😀
We have the same bento…got ours a little over a year ago at Old Navy, believe it or not. They have a lot of the sistema items. My kiddo loves his. We usually do sandwiches and fruit or carrots. I am wanting to change things up tho. So thanks for the ideas.
Tanya – My pleasure! I’m still looking for a good stainless steel version, but until I do, the Sistema is a great option!
Thanks for sharing. The Bento boxes are a great idea for picky eaters like my son.
Nicole – Ya! They are a great way to go!
Lunchbots are great if you are after stainless steel. They do tins with 2, 3 & 4 compartments and little round dip tins.
Avril – Thanks! I’ve never heard of them but will definitely look them up. 🙂
If you are willing to spluge… Here is a stainless steel bento style lunch box. The link is a girl’s pattern but I’m sure there is a boy’s pattern too! I suppose it has to last a long time for someone to spend $70 on it 😉 I teach preschool and one of the children came in over the summer for camp with this lunch box! I thought it was awesome… didn’t realize how much it would cost though! But to each his own 🙂
Kate – Thanks! It’s darling! A little beyond my budget, but just darling! 🙂
I found these too… a little more affordable!
Kate – Wow! Those are awesome! Thank you! 😀
You’re welcome 😉
And thank you for introducing my family and I to clean eating in a delicious way!!
Kate – My pleasure! 😀
Oh my gosh, I think you can read my mind! I went on a Bento box kick packing my own lunch last year and then totally forgot about it. I had some wonderful shrimp and avocado to pack for lunch and remembered the Bento – hooray! I love having little compartments for everything. The Bento box forces you to be a little creative and have variety in your lunch.
I have a really cool Lock & Lock Bento that consists of two pieces that stack on top of each other and fit into a thermal carrying tote, complete with chopsticks. It’s awesome. Thanks, Tiffany!
Jacqui – My pleasure! I love them because they also give you portion control!
Just a word to the wise, kids do not wash their hands before eating at school. It’s a fact. I’ve worked in schools for 30 years and it just does not happen. Sooooo, I would suggest that you include some wipes in the a zip lock just to be safe. The kids are rushed in to eat and out again they hardly have time to eat. Taking the extra minutes to wash hands probably won’t happen unless their teacher makes the whole class wash and that’s not going to happen either. I wonder when the schools will figure out that attendance would improve if the kids would wash before eating. Even a squirt of hand sanitizer at the cash register would be helpful.
Georgia – Such a great tip! Thank you!
I found this site had some great idea’s but my problem is my 8year has tree nuts and a dairy allergy- I normally give her a veggie snack or fruit along with a fun snack . but I am trying to eliminate that fun snack daily – so finding snack and lunch idea’s are hard do you have any suggestions.
Angela – I have both a nut-free section and a dairy-free section on my blog here. Click the recipe index link above.