cute looking bento in tupperware

Healthy Kids Bento

Parents with growing children know how important it is to inculcate good dietary habits from young. This includes eating more wholegrains, vegetables and fruit, and drinking more plain water.

But children can be picky eaters. They do not always agree with adults when it comes to healthy food choices. One way to encourage healthy eating habits is to creatively package your kid’s meal into a cute bento, or a meal packed in a box. 

Related: When the Dinner Table is a Battlefield

8 Easy Tips to Create Nutritious and Cute Bentos

mum creating star shaped dough cutouts for her bento set

  1. Prepare a balanced meal using the guidelines from My Healthy Plate. Include a variety of nutritious food such as wholegrains, fruit and veggies. Choose healthier cooking methods and oils for a nutrient-packed bento!
  2. my healthy plate
  3. Fire up the imagination! How about transforming the food items into your child’s favourite character or animal using tools such as moulds and cutters? You can even get your kids to help shape that bunny head or chubby teddy. That is sure to get them really excited!
  4. dough moulds in airplane, car and boat shapes for kids
  5. Vary colours and shapes. Who doesn’t love colours? Make your bento a colourful one by including different vegetables with contrasting colours such as broccoli and cherry tomato, or snow peas and corn. Not only do you get different nutrients from various fruit and veggies, the vibrant and natural colours of these fresh ingredients add to the attractiveness of your bento.
    chequered blue and white tablecloth with vegetables and fruits arranged like different animals
    Fruit come in different shapes and sizes, perfect to dress up your bento with. Vegetables like potatoes and carrots can be cut into many shapes. You can also shape rice into spheres or triangles, or cut your sandwiches into diamond shapes, for instance. If you are cooking pasta, why not use pasta of different shapes and colours, such as tri-colour fusilli, to spice things up?
  6. Bite sized is the right size. Young kids may have trouble cutting up their food so it helps if most of the food items are already in bite sizes. Again, you can experiment with different shapes as you downsize the food.
  7. Play with different textures. Try cooking food using different methods. For example, an egg can be hardboiled, scrambled or steamed to look and taste differently. Or, be bold and mix in some wholegrains into the usual polished white rice — for a start, you could replace 20% of white rice with wholesome grains such as brown rice, red cargo rice, oats or even purple rice for more texture and colours in your bento.
  8. bowl of brown rice on a white background 
  9. Freeze in small batches to save preparation time. Some types of food such as curries, dumplings and chicken wings can be prepared in bulk, portioned out and frozen in advance. This saves preparation time since small portions of the prepared food can be used in different bentos and it requires minimal cooking or reheating before packing into the bento.
    prepared healthy food frozen in batches
  10. ​​Arrange the items neatly and tightly. An easy trick is to use food separators such as silicon cups or pretty skewers to hold the carefully positioned food items in place. These accessories also add colour and cuteness to the bento. Sometimes, food can be used as holders too. For example, use a “ring” of sweet capsicum to form a fence around a sunny-side-up or rice. Not only does it give your bento a colour boost, it packs the ingredients neatly and squeezes in more vitamins, minerals and of course dietary fibre for a nutritious punch!
  11. a completed bento in tupperware
  12. Use attractive containers and cutlery to complete the look of your cute bento. Any wonder why crockery and cutlery for kids always come in attractive colours and with cute designs? The same principle applies to your bento boxes. In addition, choose air-tight boxes that prevent leakage if the bento is meant for lunch at school.
green and blue colorful curved fork and spoon

Related: Healthy Snacks for Kids

“Dress Up” Your Other Meals Too

colorful stir fry with lots of vegetables

Making a cute bento is about appealing to the senses. Even if you aren’t into bentos, you can still try to dress up your meals to make them more appealing to your family. Simple tips such as using ingredients of different colours, trying out different healthier cooking methods, adding some natural garnishes (for example, a sprinkle of black pepper to a baked fish fillet) to your dishes and plating your food in an attractive way are tricks to turn your ordinary home-cooked meal into an extraordinary one.

Remember, it is the eyes that feast on the food first!

Read these next: