Bento boxes for children’s lunches
I’m really loving the current flurry of bento boxes in the shops – they’re such a lovely idea for kids’ lunchboxes.
Brilliant for picnics and packed lunches, they come with in-built containers for small servings of foods like veggies, cheese, fruit or nuts. Having given some a whirl for the purposes of review, I can vouch that they don’t just look good. They also offer help in serving up healthy meals for your kids too.
Why bento boxes work for picky eaters and toddlers
1. They help you stay in control of portion sizes for your child
2. The meal looks more beautiful so can tempt fussy eaters
Of course you can prettify food on a plate too, but there’s something about filling little boxes with food….
3. You can monitor at a glance how much your child has eaten
4. The boxes encourage you to serve up a range of food groups at one meal
Another bonus is that you’ll save money on cling film and kitchen foil – the small sections make it easy to serve up a few Brazil nuts or a couple of pieces of cucumber and carrot, with no need to bother wrapping food individually.
With the help of my three kids, I put three bento boxes through their paces:
This one has taken Australia and the US by storm and recently arrived on these shores.
It’s sturdy – actually quite heavy for a lunchbox – and each of the little portion containers is marked with an illustration for guidance on a balanced meal. There are five slots – dairy, grains, protein, fruit, vegetables – and if packed according to the drawings, the makers claim it will offer a nutritionally balanced meal for a child aged between three and eight years.
My five-year-old and three-year-old tried this, and it was a huge hit. Regular readers will know that my toddler can be a fussy eater, but at a picnic lunch, he chomped his way through most of the box.
I think the portion sizes were perfect for him and the variety of food makes it fun. For my five-year-old, I filled two of the compartments with her wraps and the rest with a variety of food, so she was satisfied too.
1. I absolutely love how there’s only one lid. It means it’s easier to wash up and nothing can break off. I wasn’t sure if each section would be secure but I put the box through its paces, turning it upside down and giving it a shake but when I opened it, everything was still in its proper place. Most impressive. I also later tried putting yoghurt in one of the containers and that was fine too.
2. I found the portion size guide surprisingly helpful. I was quite astonished at how little pasta you need to fill the grains box, for example.
3. It reminds you to serve up lots of different food groups at one meal.
4. The container is dishwasher-proof.
1. The price. At £24.95, it’s a hefty cost, particularly if you have more than one child and want them to have the same lunchboxes to avoid squabbles. Apparently, it’s more expensive because of the silicone lining in the lid, preventing the food from leaking between compartments.
2. Lots of chopping. You’ll have to chop things so they’re small enough to squeeze the lid on.
3. The exterior is not dishwasher-proof. You can’t put the outer box in the dishwasher as it can affect the seals.
Munchkin’s Click Lock Bento Mealtime Set
This box contains a large section – for sandwiches or salad – and then two small compartments, each 125ml in size and with a detachable lid, which I used for fruit and vegetables.
There’s also a big lid for the main section too so it would be good for a salad. But you don’t need the lids to attach the main Click Lock lid.
This was my five-year-old’s favourite container. She loved it because of all the lids, and the fork and spoon.
1. It’s great for a salad as there’s lots of space. I think grown-ups do use it because of this too.
2. It’s versatile as you can remove the little containers. This means they can become snack boxes for other outings.
3. Microwave, dishwasher and freezer-proof.
1. The detachable lids. They’ll be easily lost and they’re an extra fiddly thing to wash up.
2. Only three different food slots. It doesn’t encourage you to go for variety.
Polar Gear Bento Lunch Box
This is a double decker of a bento box. It has a bottom layer to put your salad or sandwich in, topped with a white tray with a fork and spoon resting in it. Then there’s a container to slot on top with two compartments, one smaller than the other.
This bento box was my eight-year-old’s favourite. She loved the style and the purple colour – it comes in black, turquoise and pink too – and it would be perfect for her couscous salad.
1. It’s not specifically a kids’ box, so it would be perfect for me at work too.
2. Dishwasher and microwave-proof.
3. Perfect for a salad
1. It doesn’t fit into a standard square lunchbox container
2. It only has a few slots so you’ve got to remember to add variety to the lunch yourself
3. Keep tabs on the cutlery. They can get lost easily as they just slosh around in the white tray.
DISCLOSURE: I received these bento boxes free for review purposes.