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Building a Better Lunch

The one thing I never looked forward to during back-to-school time for my kiddos was coming up with clever and somewhat healthy lunches that my kids would actually eat.  I did not like falling into the pattern of same ol’, same ol’ for lunch every day, but sure enough, as the school days progressed and we got busier and busier, it was back to the old standby – PB&J and applesauce. This year, we’ll be homeschooling by two older boys again, but I am sending my baby girl to preschool, so it’s back to the lunch dilemma.

Enter the Bento Box:

[Polar bear, Froggy, Hello Kitty, Laptop Lunches]

I know it’s not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination, but duh! This is perfect for kids’ lunches. Plus, they’re more friendly to the environment (ugh, no more plastic baggies) and allow for healthier portions and food choices. I plan to start doing these bento box lunches with my homeschool boys as well–I see no reason why they can’t put together their own creative lunch combinations while I’m packing for baby girl and this way, we don’t have to stop our lessons in the middle of the day to try and figure out what we’re having for lunch.

To help you plan your own bento box lunches, I’ve come up with a couple of ideas for you:

The “Looks Like Sushi But it’s Not” Box:
- Pinwheels – Spread a small amount of lowfat cream cheese onto a tortilla. Add in some shredded cucumbers and carrots then layer with a slice of lean ham or turkey lunch meat. Roll up the tortilla and cut into thin slices.
- grapes
- small carrot sticks
- almonds

The “Better PB&J” Box
- Make a regular PBJ sandwich, but be sure to use whole grain bread and sprinkle on some ground flaxseed onto the peanut butter side before putting the sandwich together. Cut sandwich into fun shapes using cookie cutters.
- yogurt
- frozen raspberries (keeps yogurt cool)
- granola

The “Fiesta” Box
- Salsa made from strained black beans and canned corn
- Pita chips
- mango cubes
- sliced avocado
- lime wedges
- monterrey jack cheese cubes

The “Taste of Italy” Box
- Olives (pitted)
- Mozzarella balls
- Grape tomatoes
- Slice of garlic toast (whole grain bread)
- Strawberries
- Fat Free whip cream

When you’re getting ready to do the grocery shopping for the week, take a few minutes to fill out this “5 days of BentoBox” lunches worksheet – you can even use it for the grown ups of the family, too.

(Click the picture for an 11×8.5 printable version)

Or, if you’re really feeling brave, work with your children and let them draw in their own bento creations (again, click the pic for a printable version):

And as always, feel free to share your lunch creations in your comments!

About Michele


Michele is a former marketing guru turned child and family photographer in Austin, TX. She is surrounded by three energetic kids at home and a husband who works tirelessly to keep them all educated and fed. Much like her life, Michele's work is chameleon-like... always changing with her mood and inspiration. Her mind is constantly abuzz with new concepts, but thankfully, she is regularly reminded by her kids to slow down and enjoy life's simplest moments. Michele is the owner and photographer of Pinkle Toes Photography and she also provides resources and templates for photographers all over the world via Pinkle Toes 4 Photographers.

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  • Ara

    You could also use stainless steel square tiffin container. I guarantee that it\’s a good container for this kind of packed lunch. Plus, with its quality, durability and design you can say no more for it has 100% BPA free which you don\’t have to worry about. It is eco-friendly, and long lasting kitchen ware. For details please visit <a href=\"http://www.happytiffin.com/square-tiffins.html\">happy tiffin</a> site.

  • Ara

    You could also use stainless steel square tiffin container. I guarantee that it’s a good container for this kind of packed lunch. Plus, with its quality, durability and design you can say no more for it has 100% BPA free which you don’t have to worry about. It is eco-friendly, and long lasting kitchen ware. For details please visit happy tiffin site.

  • http://pameleen.blogspot.com Meghyn

    I adore this idea! And I love the print out.

  • Kate

    My kid isn’t old enough for this yet but it still makes me want to get a box and make a mini lunch for her. Thanks for all your hard work researching…this post is perfect!

  • http://www.overcomingbusy.com Marci@OvercomingBusy

    What great ideas! These are even good for homeschool families. We like to take picnics and take our lunches when we go on field trips. What a great way to keep lunch interesting!

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  • http://www.sabrinakphotography.com sabrina

    Thank you for the ideas! My big guy is starting MDO in two weeks and I definitely need ideas!

  • Mara

    Great post and ideas! thanks so much!

  • http://www.joycesmithphotography.com Joyce Smith

    Love this! We’ve been using bentos for a while and they are so fun. We have a panda box just like the frog one pictured above–so cute!

  • http://www.emericphotography.com Jessie Emeric

    such a fun idea! lunches are so hard for me to think of…My little guys starts half day kinder so no packed lunch this year, but i’ll be putting these together for a good lunch before heading to school :)

  • http://www.ilovenotcamping.blogspot.com jessica

    my little guy isn’t even near school yet, but i am tucking this away for the future…love the practicality of it.

  • http://www.tflophotography.blogspot.com Tina

    We will DEFINITELY be using these ideas! Thanks a ton :)

  • http://www.angiewarren.com Angie

    Michele, I can’t thank you enough for this. My D starts school next Wednesday and boy do I ever need this! I am so excited to plan out our week with your download, thanks mucho :)