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Bento Box Brainstorm! 37 Ideas for Kids' Lunches

Bento Box Brainstorm! 37 Ideas for Kids' Lunches

If you're not familiar with bento boxes, they're akin to reusable plastic to-go containers with multiple compartments to keep a variety of foods separated. In Japanese culture, they're traditionally filled with home-packed meals of cold rice or noodles, pickled or cooked vegetables, condiments, etc. 

Now that the trend has picked up steam in the United States, manufacturers have capitalized on the interest, creating durable, compartmentalized meal boxes in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes and style. We recommend looking for versions that are:

• leakproof

• dishwasher-safe

• microwavable (or have one removable piece that can be microwaved)

• able to fit an ice pack

• customizable inside (e.g., designed to fit a wide variety of foods)

As for what to include, focus on nutrition, variety and food safety (e.g., keeping perishable items cold). Here are 37 ideas to get you started!

1. bite-sized fruits (or small fruits, such as Cuties)

2. chopped vegetables (or small vegetables, such as baby carrots or cherry tomatoes)

3. cheese sticks or cubes

4. crackers or Goldfish

5. dumplings/potstickers

6. cold cuts (e.g., rolled ham, turkey, salami)

7. tofu

8. cold sticky rice

9. cold Asian noodles

10. guacamole

11. sushi (without raw fish)

12. hard-boiled eggs

13. pickled items

14. pre-cooked cold chicken

15. quinoa

16. smoked salmon

17. wontons

18. croquettes/potato cakes

19. edamame

20. sandwich roll-ups/pinwheels

21. olives

22. nuts (if the school allows)

23. raisins and other dried fruits

24. tortilla chips

25. bean dips

26. hummus

27. cold salads (e.g., pasta salads)

28. pretzels

29. veggie chips or sticks

30. pita or Naan bread (sliced or quartered)

31. shrimp (if allowed by the school)

32. seeds

33. tempeh

34. cous cous

35. chick peas

36. peanut butter (if allowed) 

37. tabouli 

BONUS: Don't forget condiments (with lids!), such as soy sauce, Italian dressing or pickled ginger!