Trends come and go, and as far as healthy eating is concerned they’re definitely a dime a dozen. Some deserve more of a spotlight than others and in fact, some are so worthy that they become the norm.
Bento lunchboxes are one of a handful of current health food trends here to stay. What’s more, the Japanese word bento literally translates to boxed lunch, and they have quickly found their way into school bags across Australia.
What’s a bento?
Traditionally a bento box is a Japanese lunchbox where ingredients and elements are kept separate and designed to be consumed individually. It’s only natural that Australia would adopt it as our own after realizing the clear benefits it has in getting our kids to eat healthy.
Nutritionist Tammie Needham believes that “little hands need little food” and that this is the key for kids holding interest in their food. She goes on to point out that “It’s easier for kids if things are in little compartments [as] they can choose to eat one thing at a time.”
Divide and conquer
Bento boxes seem to offer a new solution to the age-old problem of getting your kids to eat their packed lunch. Separating each element of the lunch adds a level of interactivity and play to lunchtime, and increases your chances of creating a magic lunchbox. (Leaves home full, comes home empty. Just like magic)
According to Nutrition Australia the four components in a healthy lunch box are:
- Main item. Sandwich/roll/wrap, pasta, soup. Make sure you choose wholegrain, and add some protein (eg chicken) to help them feel full for longer, allowing them to concentrate on learning.
- Fruit/Vegetable snack. Whole fruit, carrot and celery sticks, sugar snap peas, fruit in natural juice (not syrup).
- Second snack based on core food. Yoghurt, boiled egg, can of tuna, savoury muffin, mini frittata.
- Tap water from a reusable bottle is best.
Stick the “Pick and Mix” poster on your fridge to remind you of ideas when putting together the bento box
A bento box makes these elements simple to manage. Main item fits the largest compartment and snacks in the smaller compartments. It reinforces the food pyramid every day and cleverly teaches your kids basic nutrition without having to force it down their throats.
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Stay on trend
Bento lunchboxes are not just for kids. All these lunch benefits and guidance also apply to adults who might not always eat as healthy as they know they should.
Food trends have put an increased focus on healthy eating and interesting food and bento boxes provide not only a new way to bring lunch but an effective way to make sure you’re eating healthy.
Style versus function
One of the great things about bento boxes is a certain amount of artistic license that they gift. If you’re a parent who enjoys preparing interesting lunches for your kids, bento boxes open up whole new avenues to arrange and display lunches. And remember the young audience you are catering toward. Nutrition Australia advise to make sure that kids are involved in the preparation and selection of their own lunchbox, which includes taking them shopping for their favourite fruit and veggies.
Of course not everyone has time to create a masterpiece every morning. Another great thing about bento boxes is that they don’t discriminate. Bite size bits in a reusable container can make even the most boring lunches come alive. Just chop up some elements into digestible chunks and you’ll be amazed at how manageable it can be (and how good it looks!).
Bento boxes also serve a great environmental purpose. By packing food into a reusable container you are avoiding the inevitable waste that comes with food wrap, zip lock bags, and plastic bags. The less plastic involved in your kid’s lunch, the better for them and the better for the planet.
Bento to go?
So when it comes to bento boxes, it’s not really a question of whether this trend will last, but rather, why it hasn’t caught on sooner? They’re stylish, better for the environment and a great way to keep your kids eating healthy every day. If you haven’t already maybe it’s a good time to give it a go.