Cooking and packing lunch for children can be tricky at times. They have a short attention span, they’re easily bored, and they can often be picky eaters — especially when it comes to veggies. Moreover, lunchtime at school can be a tricky time for everyone. Your child might want to quickly finish off their meal and enjoy their free time.
If you are a parent who struggles with cooking lunch for your children or is lost for ideas to make your children’s lunch box interesting, this post is for you. Read on as we tell you some amazing bento box lunch ideas — recipes that you can whip up in no time.
What Is A Bento Box?
A bento box is a Japanese-style lunch packed in a neat and elegant box, often with compartments. It can be carried to school or work and generally contains a light meal. Bento meals are common in Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, and some South Asian countries. The concept is catching on fast in other countries too.
Here are some bento box lunch ideas to make your child’s lunch interesting and nutritious. You could try any of these recipes or take inspiration from them and get creative.
30 Bento Box Lunch Ideas For Kids
1. Pasta salad box
Pasta salad is an ideal meal for kids because it is extremely delicious and versatile. It’s easy to prepare and can be served cold. You can add pasta as the base and place some beans and cheese on top of it. Add vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, which are a good source of vitamins, and round the meal out with something crispy — we recommend tortilla chips and sliced fruit to finish on a sweet but healthy note. This meal is a good source of carbohydrates, proteins, and energy.
2. Sticks and dip box
While this sounds like something you would find on a snack platter at a party, this meal is surprisingly healthy and nutritious. A mix of salami sticks and cheese sticks with bean or guacamole dip will be delicious and easy to eat. It also has a nice mix of textures. You can add some crackers to act as a nice side, along with a veggie roll or fruit bar.
3. Tuna sandwich and greens box
A staple of many lunches, tuna sandwiches contain high protein and carbs and taste delicious if mixed with mayo and cheese. You may add some greens, such as zucchini, nuts, and maybe some cherries to round it out.
4. Deli meat and salad box
Deli meats are a great source of protein and tasty as well. Slices of these as per your kid’s preference alongside something with fiber, such as a bean salad, is a healthy meal on its own. But to keep things interesting and add texture, we recommend you mix some nuts and scrambled eggs.
5. Chicken salad box
Chicken salad is a healthy staple that you can incorporate into your child’s bento box. You can even use leftover chicken from dinner and spice it up with some interesting sides. Some lettuce, sliced gherkins, and seasoning of choice makes for a light but filling meal.
6. Spaghetti and meatballs box
Meatballs are extremely versatile and go well with almost anything. You can add some spaghetti and peas to make a wholesome dish and add some broccoli and fruit to finish off the meal on a crunchy, sweet note. You can always use leftovers from last night’s dinner to quickly whip up this meal.
7. Grilled cheese sandwich box
The best thing about grilled cheese sandwiches is that they don’t need to be served fresh and usually remain fresh even up to the next day. You can make this a clubhouse-like sandwich with three layers of bread and cheese between them. Grill these together with mayonnaise or dressing as per preference. Add some nuts and fruit on the side, and you have a filling, hearty meal that takes hardly any time to make.
8. Pancake box
While pancakes are mostly enjoyed at breakfast, it can also double as a great lunch. You can add a kick of protein to it using peanut butter instead of normal butter. Pancakes are typically enjoyed with syrup, but you can replace that with a healthier alternative, such as honey or fruits. Strawberries or blueberries go well with pancakes, and kids love them.
9. Quesadilla meal box
Quesadilla is another delicious lunch option that you can prepare ahead of time or make it using leftover dinner. You can put a slice of cheese inside a soft taco shell and grill till it melts. Serve this with salsa and guacamole dip, and add some nacho chips on the side to make it an authentic Mexican meal.
10. Chocolate spread sandwich box
Kids love chocolate, and it’s sure to be a pleasant surprise for them when they open their lunchbox and find this meal inside it. Use hazelnut chocolate spreads (either homemade or store-bought options, such as Nutella) between two slices of bread and add some salty crisps on the side. Sliced fruits also go well with a chocolate spread; thus, you can put some sliced bananas and strawberries inside the sandwich.
11. Cracker and cheese box
Crackers are usually a snack to munch on, but with the right ingredients, you can make it a healthy, filling lunch as well. Put some peanut butter between two crackers for that protein punch and serve with sliced cucumber and cheese for variety. A fibrous filling fruit in the form of bananas also complements peanut butter really well and would make a good addition.
12. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich box
There’s a reason peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have been a classic for ages. Both parents and kids love them! They’re filling, easy to prepare, and combined with the right sides, they can be healthy as well. Alongside the sandwiches, you can add some fruits, crackers, and steamed vegetables.
13. Chicken pasta box
Chicken and cheese go well with almost anything, and pasta is no exception. Lightly cook some pasta in oil and top it off with some grated cheese. This stays fresh for up to two days if you keep it refrigerated. When you’re packing your kid’s lunchbox, all you need to do is add the pasta, some cherry tomatoes, and maybe something crunchy. Crisps complement pasta really well as they add some texture. Peach slices will help make this a complete meal.
14. Fruit parfait box
While this is usually a dessert, it can be the centerpiece of a healthy meal with the right pairings. The key here is to use some high-protein flavored yogurt. Toss in some berry fruits, such as blueberries or raspberries, and serve alongside a small portion of chocolate chips and salty pretzels to make let your child experience a delicious roller coaster of flavors.
15. Yogurt dip box
Yogurt is a great healthy snack on its own, but it’s best complemented with other foods as a dip. You can add some salted pretzels and sour green apples to offset the yogurt’s sweetness (we recommend vanilla or cinnamon flavor). Strawberries, chocolate chips, and roasted rhubarbs are also great with this dish!
16. Chicken club sandwich box
A chicken sandwich is probably one of the most versatile sandwiches out there, and it is easy to prepare and eat. Some grilled chicken paired with mayonnaise and cheese is a great meal in itself, but we recommend you add some carrot sticks and peanut butter as a nice side dish. To finish it off, you can include some berries or grapes to add an element of sweetness, making it feel like a complete meal.
17. Mac and cheese box
Macaroni and cheese is an all-American classic dish that can be had at any meal. You can add some chicken nuggets or diced hotdogs to add some protein in there and make it a filling and healthy meal. This is best served with some crisps and fruits on the side to hit all the flavor profiles you would expect from a full meal.
18. Hummus wrap box
Hummus is the go-to option for many vegans when it comes to a light snack, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be as delicious as some of the other options mentioned here. A veggie wrap filled with hummus alongside some thinly sliced cheese and bell pepper can make the dish burst with Mediterranean flavors.
19. Hot dog box
Hot dogs have a reputation as something to be eaten fresh, right off the stand. They even have “hot” in the name! But they taste good even when served cold and even without the bun! You can make a fun dipping platter for your child if you include some hot dogs with ketchup or barbecue sauce or tabasco sauce. Complement these with other dipping foods, such as cheese crackers or celery sticks, to give the meal a lot of texture. This is best rounded off with a granola bar or chocolate protein bar.
20. Dipping platter box
You can get creative and make a light and healthy snack for your child’s lunch with some basic ingredients. Sliced apples and peaches, baby carrots, and even cherry tomatoes go really well with many dips, such as caramel. Add cheese, potato fry, and something crunchy, and you have a full-fledged dipping platter that’s easy to prepare and even easier to eat.
21. Mexican delight box
Mexican food is often associated with tacos or quesadillas, but it has a lot of depth beyond that. You can incorporate a healthy meal of rice and beans and combine it with some celery and carrot sticks, with guacamole/salsa dip on the side. Round this off with some grapes or sliced melons to balance the spice, and you have a delightful meal on your hands.
22. Quinoa mix box
Quinoa has rapidly been catching on across the world as a healthy alternative to white rice. You can whip up some quinoa salad in no time with some sausages, sliced veggies, and a light dressing. This is best served with tart fruits in the form of sliced kiwis or tangerines, and you can also add some dried fruit strips and chocolate-covered raisins to go with it.
23. Authentic Japanese style bento box
You can go the traditional way with a bento box by incorporating some of the classic ingredients that many Japanese bento boxes have. Make a nice teriyaki chicken (or use the leftover from dinner) and pack it with some steamed or sticky rice for the “main course.” Toss in some crab cakes, egg salad, and some fruits to make your child drool.
24. Tempura style box
Tempura flour is great for keeping fried food crisp, healthy, and light. This works incredibly well if you use Asian flavors. You could shallow fry some chicken or pork and then pair it with some jasmine rice for a full meal. To make it more interesting, you could add some colorful fruits and veggies, such as broccoli, kiwi, and oranges.
25. Stacker box
A stacker is basically a sandwich you create on the go, and something kids love to experiment with! So give them some fun, nutritious ingredients to play with and watch them make their own delicious bites. Some good ideas to include in a stacker box can be sliced tomatoes or cucumbers, crackers, cheese slices, and deli meats. Your kids can eat them in whatever order they want and make their own sandwiches if they’re bored with traditional sandwich lunches.
26. Kebab box
Kebabs are an ideal lunchbox food. They’re easy to eat, non-messy, and easy to prepare. You can also get extremely creative with them as you go along and use virtually any ingredient from your kitchen. Melon, cherry tomatoes, cheese, and crackers on either side make for an appetizing and filling skewer. This is also a chance to sneak in ingredients that your kid isn’t usually a fan of — usually broccoli or beets. The kebab’s taste will distract them from those veggies while keeping the overall meal healthy and delicious.
27. Taco box
Tacos are right up there with hotdogs as popular street food, but they can also be healthy depending on what you put it in. Put some soft tacos in the box alongside some cooked rice, beans, cheese, and steamed corn. This lets your kid make their own tacos at lunchtime! Adding salsa and guacamole will help them experiment and have fun with their food. You could also add a fruit wrap or protein bar to round out the dish.
28. Dunker box
Let’s face it, kids love fried food, and we can let them indulge that craving occasionally. The trick is to make them eat healthy food alongside it. You could pack some shallow fried chicken nugget, potato smilies, and some dipping sauces. When they’re done with the fried, greasy parts, they will crave something different in texture, for which you can add some sliced cucumber or baby carrots with a yogurt-based dip and a fruit rollup.
29. Egg salad box
Running out of ideas for a creative lunch? Good old egg salad comes to the rescue every time. You can quickly boil some eggs while you prepare the other ingredients. Incorporating some lettuce, veggies, and salad dressing will round out your egg salad. You can also include some berry fruits or chocolate chips to make a satisfying dessert to a protein-filled meal.
30. Creative cuts box
Kids can often be easily distracted and easily bored. But something as simple as repackaging a familiar dish differently can change their minds. Try cutting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in creative shapes such as stars or animals. You could include fruit skewers with a mix of tart and sweet fruits, such as tangerines, berries, and kiwis. You could even cut their least favorite veggies in the shapes of animals or make fruit scoops out of melons to make them more interesting and easy to eat.
These bento box ideas are relatively low effort. They’re easy to make right before school and can be a good way to incorporate healthy fruits and veggies and even leftovers from dinner. We hope these ideas give you the inspiration to make your child’s lunch yummy and exciting.