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A Bento Box Could Help Make You – Or Your Child – A Healthy Eater

September 25, 2023

September brings a familiar scene – busy parents filling lunch boxes with sandwiches, snacks and fruits.

But could the lunch box you choose help create healthier eating habits?

Enter bento boxes. These handy lunch containers have divided sections that naturally encourage portion control, preventing overindulgence and promoting balanced meals.

“These containers have gained popularity not only for their aesthetic appeal, but also for their ability to encourage healthy eating habits,” says Shannon Haynes, dietitian at Backus Hospital. “They play a pivotal role in promoting balanced nutrition.”

Here’s why you should consider investing in a bento box for your children (or for yourself!).

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Bento boxes encourage variety.

Many of us – children included – like grazing on a few flavors at once. That’s the beauty of the bento box approach to lunch, Haynes says.

“Bento boxes make it easy to incorporate a variety of textures and flavors into a single meal. Not only does this variety make lunchtime exciting, it also exposes children to different food types. This expands their palate and makes them more receptive to healthier options,” she explains.

> Related: Nutrition Smack Down: Which Protein Is the Healthiest?

The interactive nature of bento boxes can also make healthy eating fun for kids.

When children have a hand in packing their lunches, Haynes says they are more likely to eat what they selected. Consider involving your children in lunch preparation:

  1. Let them choose their favorite fruits, vegetables and protein sources to tuck in their bento box. Let them have fun with cookie cutters and such to turn the food into appealing patterns and shapes.
  2. Use the time to teach your children about the importance of a balanced diet and the nutritional benefits of different foods and food groups.

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4 food groups that make up a healthy lunch.

These boxes are ideal for incorporating options from different food groups for a balanced lunch. Haynes suggests including something from each of these groups:

  1. Protein: grilled chicken, deli meat, cheese stick, tofu or a hard-boiled egg.
  2. Vegetables: choose colorful veggies such as cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks or cucumber slices.
  3. Whole grains: whole-grain crackers, brown rice cakes or whole wheat pasta.
  4. Fruits: fresh apple slices or grapes provide a natural sweetness.

Think beyond school lunches.

The school cafeteria isn’t the only place for kids to enjoy meals in their bento boxes. They come in different sizes and are perfect to taken almost anywhere.

“They are perfect for picnics, family outings and even adult work lunches. The versatility of bento boxes makes them a valuable addition to any kitchen,” Haynes says.