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Healthy You

How To: Bento Box Lunches

Monday, August 13, 2018 8:07 AM

Bento boxes help you pack a colorful meal that can also help with variety and portion control. You don’t have to spend too much time with bento boxes - although you can spend the extra time to make faces out of foods so they’re even more fun for kids. Even without faces, the bright colors and new presentation will excite kids – and adults! – for a healthy lunch.


Colleen Takagishi, MS, RDN, CSO, CDE, Diabetes Educator at NorthShore, shares tips to help you pack it up and begin:

  • Buy the right stuff. Get a bento box that fits your needs. You might need a different size bento box than what you purchase for your child. Make sure that they are microwave safe if you have something to warm up. Purchase “add-ons” such as a cold pack for anything that needs to be kept cool, silicon cups to keep runny things together or dividers for those who don’t like food touching.
  • Create a ratio. Just like with your plate, create the same ratio for the box. One suggested ratio is 2-2-1-1: two serving sizes of whole-grain carbohydrates, two servings of vegetables, one serving of protein and one serving of fruit.
  • Add colors. When you eat the rainbow, by including colorful vegetables and fruits, you are providing your body with nutrients to help grow and to fight diseases. It also makes the bento box look aesthetically pleasing, making it fun and exciting to eat.
  • Pack the foods tightly. This will help them from shifting during transit and spilling in to one another. Start by putting in the bulk food first – usually the carbs and protein – then the flexible foods such as vegetables and fruits then the accent pieces!
  • Plan ahead. When you have a list or game plan for the bento boxes, it makes it easier to prepare them. Even making them the night or weekend before can help make the process smooth and fun.

For tips and ideas on how to build a healthy meal in a bento box, check out the Perfect Plate infographic.