Posted: Aug 03, 2012 10:00 AM
Bento boxes are becoming more common every day and now mainstream retailers are stocking their shelves with fun and affordable options. Here’s what’s so great about them, why you should give them a try and some ideas for what to fill them with.

Why they're a great option

Over the past couple of years, bento boxes have grown in popularity, as they are appealing for several reasons:

  • They are eco-friendly, since they are reusable, thereby minimizing the use of plastic baggies, disposable containers and other lunch waste.
  • They are a perfect container for your kids to eat from. Simply lift the lid and your kids are ready to eat instead of having to unpack each individual item.
  • It's easy to adhere to the government's MyPlate recommendations when you have such a clear visual in front of you.
  • Picky eaters are more likely to try various new foods when they're presented in a fun and colorful way.

How to get started

If you're interested in packing bento boxes, you can start slowly by buying just a few items while you determine if it's a good option for your family.

As bento boxes are becoming more popular, the available options grow every day.

You can get started with just a handful of items:Bento box example

I also used a cupcake pick to add a little extra touch for my daughter's lunch. When she opened the lid and saw the bunny, she smiled from ear to ear.

Sample bento boxes

The large bento box contains:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Banana
  • Peanut butter and fig jam sandwich made with whole wheat bread
  • Snow peas
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Black Forest ham

The small bento box contains:

  • Sliced red bell peppers
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Black Forest ham
  • Strawberries

What to pack

The options for what to put in your child's bento box are endless. Here are some more ideas to get you started:


  • Whole grain crackers
  • Mini pretzels
  • Granola bars
  • Goldfish crackers or cheddar bunnies
  • Mini bagels
  • Pita bread
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Leftover pasta salad
  • Pancake or waffle strips
  • Dry cereal
  • Dinner rolls


  • Greek yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Cheese cubes or slices
  • Cottage cheese
  • Babybel cheese


  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Leftover meat from the previous night's dinner, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Chicken sausage
  • Deli meats like turkey or ham
  • Quesadilla wedges

Fruits and vegetables^

  • Apples slices (dip them in orange juice to keep from browning) 
  • Bell pepper strips
  • Bananas
  • Sliced grapes
  • Clementine wedges
  • Applesauce
  • Raisins

  • Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries
  • Carrot sticks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Cucumber strips or slices
  • Celery
  • Edamame

Kids love to graze
and are delighted by fun foods. A bento box is the perfect vehicle for you to offer them a range of options from which to choose. You might just be surprised by how much they eat.

More about food

Fun sandwich ideas for kids
Going gluten-free
Eat a rainbow every day