In an attempt to eat more healthy foods, our family had been open to trying new things. Bento is our latest attempt at healthy lunches while at school or work. The girls have always been very good about "brown bagging" lunches. All through preschool, elementary and middle school they brought their lunch. On occasion they would buy lunch, but they would either get sick from it or question whether or not they were going to get sick. The school claimed to try to offer more healthy choices, but they replaced colas with high sugar vitamin waters, gatorades and lemonades. Now, all of these bottled "juices" were just as nutritionally poor as cola, just without the politically incorrect label of "soda".
The lunch food was and is horrendous. Frozen pizza, plastic mac and cheese, nacho chips with orange sauce. They have a bowl of fruit where kids can grab an apple or banana (one that many kids have already rifled through). The fruit is rarely at its prime and is their attempt to be healthy. Well, how hard is it for me to throw an apple in their lunch? Come on. If the school made their own lunches, actually cooked food rather than thawing it or "assembling" it, it might bear some resemblance to food. But, for a myriad of reasons they do not and will never again.
So, our option is to brown bag it.
The girls have been great about taking sandwiches, but I was hoping to give them something better.
Convenience food is convenient, not nutritious or healthy. There are times in life, where getting convenient food is a help, but as a norm it is not for us. So, what is it about convenience food that is so popular? Well, cleanup is little or easy (toss used papers and boxes in the trash). And there is no prep work or prep time. I don't even have to have anything on hand if I am purchasing food elsewhere or I can store bagged chips almost indefinitely.
So this is where Bentos come into the picture. Bentos are the box like trays that Japanese restaurants serve with lots of little things in each compartment. How fun!
I found the American version called Laptop Lunches. What is so convenient is that the lunch boxed has many compartments which allow for "a little of this a little of that" for lunch.
Above, we have a green salad (dressing is in the dark green container). Sliced chicken breast leftover from the dinner. Some homemade cookies and in the yellow container is some leftover rice. The girls take a bottle of water for lunch and here you have an easy, fairly convenient, very healthy lunch.
Here are the adaptations I had to make in order to make the Bento lunch successful in our house.
1. Prepare enough food for dinner to have leftovers. When I roast a chicken, I roast extra.
2. Train the girls to deposit the used bentos in the sink immediately upon arrival from school.
So, there is some prep, but not much. There is some cleaning, but not much. I like it. Sometimes the girls get sandwiches cut up and put in their bentos!