Cute bentos are a great way to make healthy meals for kids. Pack them with the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables and, with a few food styling tricks, they turn into nutritious and edible food art!
Parents with growing young children know how important it is to inculcate good dietary habits from a young age. This includes eating more
vegetables and fruit, and drinking more
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.
Prepare a balanced meal using the guidelines from
My Healthy Plate. Include a variety of nutritious food such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables. Choose healthier cooking methods and oils for a nutrient-packed bento!
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 excited and involved in the process!
Make your bento a colourful one by including
different vegetables with contrasting colours such as broccoli and cherry tomatoes, or snow peas and corn. You get different nutrients from various fruit and vegetables and the vibrant and natural colours of these fresh ingredients add to the attractiveness of your bento.
Fruits come in different shapes and sizes making them perfect for dressing up your bento meals. Vegetables like potatoes and carrots can be cut into many shapes. You can also shape the rice into spheres or triangles, or cut your sandwiches into diamond shapes. If you are cooking pasta, why not use pasta of different shapes and colours, such as tri-colour fusilli, to spice things up?
Young kids may have trouble cutting up their food. Prepare the items in bite-sized. Experiment with different shapes as you downsize the food.
Try cooking food using different methods. For example, an egg can be hardboiled, scrambled or steamed to look and taste differently. Mixing wholegrains into white rice is another way to add texture and introduce wholegrains into your child’s diet. For a start, 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.
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 bento meals, and it requires minimal cooking or reheating before packing into the bento.
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. The capsicum ring gives your bento a colour boost, packs the ingredients neatly and also squeezes in more vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.
Use attractive containers and cutlery to complete the look of your cute kids’ 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. Also, choose air-tight boxes that prevent leakage if the bento is meant for lunch at school.
Related: Healthy Snacks for Children
Making a cute bento is about appealing to the senses. Even if you and your family aren’t into bentos, you can still dress up your meals to make healthy food more appealing to your family.
Use ingredients of different colours, try out different healthier cooking methods, add some natural garnishes (for example, a sprinkle of black pepper to a baked fish fillet) to your dishes and attractively plate your food to turn your ordinary home-cooked meal into an extraordinary one.
Remember, it is the eyes that feast on the food first!
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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