A brand new bento box is a bit like a blank canvas. If you don’t have a plan, you might find yourself staring aimlessly at the empty compartments. There are countless ways to create a bento box lunch for even the pickiest eaters—but where do you start?
We’re here to help with easy bento box lunch ideas for your kids and toddlers. Straight from the b.box community, these lunches are designed to be easy to shop for, easy to assemble, and easy for your kids to love.
What else can you find in this article?
- What is a bento lunch box?
- How to pack a bento box
- Bento box lunch ideas for kids
- Bento box lunch ideas for toddlers
- A list of our favorite bento items
- What about the adults?
- Buying a bento box
what is a bento lunch box?
A bento lunch box features compartments perfectly sized to fit single-portion foods. Originating in Japan, a bento box makes portable, well-balanced meals easier for everyone—including your kids.
With a bento box, you can say goodbye to single-use plastic bags while making sure your children eat a variety of nourishing foods. Plus, these lunchboxes are easy and fun for kids to use, which can help picky eaters.
how to pack a bento box
What should you put in your bento lunch box? And how do you keep it cool?
There aren’t many hard and fast rules for packing a bento box, but here are some tips:
- Decide on a main dish. Use your leftovers for an easy next-day meal, or choose your favorite deli meats, cheeses, breads, or bagels.
- Stock up on fruits, vegetables, and other side items to use throughout the week.
- Pick out a couple of treats like chocolate chip granola balls or animal crackers.
- Pack your bento box with an ice pack to keep food cool—some people pack their bento within another lunch bag, placing an ice pack in between. Or, you can purchase a bento box that includes an ice pack.
Swipe the well-balanced, easy-to-put-together bento box recipes below, or mix and match with our list of main dishes and sides.
bento box lunch ideas for kids
Your school-aged kids will love the variety—and you’ll love the ease of using one container for all their food (no more plastic or wondering where your Tupperware went!). Here are a few community favorites:
1) croissant sandwich with fruit and yogurt
lunch by @lunchlifemama
Grab a pack of croissants from your local grocery store or bakery and fill them with your kid’s favorites. You can’t go wrong with a croissant sandwich, but here are some of our favorite combinations:
- Provolone and turkey
- Cream cheese and cucumber
- Ham and mayo
Pair with a serving of fruit and a yogurt pouch. With a full-sized bento box, there’s still room for a treat!
2) chicken remix
The easiest way to prepare a bento box is to use what you made for dinner. Use your chicken leftovers to create a chicken salad sandwich or chicken pasta salad.
Serve with fresh vegetables, fruit, and yogurt.
3) star-spangled bagel with protein
A bagel with cream cheese and fruit is a tasty alternative to a traditional sandwich. Pair with crackers and pepperoni for an extra source of protein, plus some fruits and veggies. This b.box community member also added hummus—another delicious source of protein.
4) fried rice with fruits and veggies
Let’s use more leftovers! Fried rice is an easy catch-all. Use any chicken, vegetables, and—of course—rice you have on hand to make a new meal. It’s even recommended to use chilled rice when frying to avoid an overly mushy texture, so leftovers are perfect.
Note: Fried rice is okay to eat chilled, as long it’s been properly refrigerated and stored—so don’t forget that ice pack!
5) flatbread pizza with fruits, veggies, and crackers
Make meal prep a family affair by preparing a flatbread pizza with sauce, cheese, and your favorite toppings. This pizza features ham, but you can get creative with banana peppers, broccoli, or other vegetables you have on hand.
Serve with fruit, vegetable slices, and crackers. This community member has included a muffin as a treat.
bento box lunch ideas for toddlers
Toddlers can enjoy many of the same foods as their older friends and siblings—they just need smaller or modified portions. If you’re packing a lunch for daycare, you’ll need to meet state nutrition guidelines, which often require one item from each food group. You can use a mini bento box to serve smaller lunches for younger stomachs while still meeting these guidelines.
1) peanut butter (or sun butter) roll-ups with yogurt and crackers
2) go bananas for yellow
Your toddler will love a color-themed lunch! This b.box community member has dressed up banana slices with nutella and tortillas. Serve corn, yellow veggie sticks or potato straws, and yellow fruit (like pineapple) on the side. To complete the fun, serve a “y” shaped slice of cheese with crackers.
3) pinwheels with fruit, yogurt, and veggie straws
Note: Grapes are a choking hazard and should be sliced lengthwise into quarters for children four and younger.
Roll up your choice of deli meat and cheese inside a tortilla. Pair with fruit, cucumber slices, and veggie straws. This community member got festive and turned her pinwheels into a Christmas tree!
4) chicken wings and tortellini noodles
More leftovers? Yes, please. Chicken wings are great for young eaters. Large foods allow children to control the size of their bites, which tends to reduce choking risks. This community member has served up their chicken wings with a side of tortellini noodles (served with a splash of oil and a pinch of salt), fruit, and an avocado!
Tip: Splash lime juice on your avocado to prevent browning.
bento lunch box ideas to mix and match:
Shake things up by using this list to mix and match with different bento lunch box food ideas:
- Croissants with your choice of cheese, meat, or fruits and vegetables
- Ham and cheese sandwich
- Peanut butter (or sun butter) roll-ups
- Pinwheel sandwiches
- Bagels with cream cheese and fruit
- Faux sushi (or the real deal!)
- Chicken fried rice
- Chicken salad
- Chicken wings
- Tortellini noodles with olive oil and salt
- Savory muffins
- Pasta salad with protein
- Crackers, cheese, and pepperoni
- Whole fruits like bananas and apples
- Sliced grapes
- Avocados with lime juice
- Shredded carrots
- Cucumber slices
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Roasted chickpeas
- Yogurt pouch
- Yogurt parfait
- Veggie straws
- Chocolate-covered pretzels
- Granola balls
- Chocolate chips
- Animal crackers
- Banana chips
what about bento box lunch ideas for adults?
Your kids shouldn’t have all the fun. You can pack a bento box for yourself with many of the same ingredients. You might choose to include salad, pickled vegetables, sushi, or rice balls—all of which are original bento box staples.
Where to buy a bento box
As bento boxes become more popular, they also become easier to find. You can purchase bento boxes online or in many big box retailers. In general, the best bento boxes for kids have at least some of these features:
Large, adjustable, and leakproof compartments
Your bento box should have at least one compartment large enough to hold a sandwich or sushi roll, and the compartments shouldn’t leak (no yogurt messes, please!). Bonus points for compartments that can adjust with a removable divider.
You won’t be at school with your child, so they should be able to open the lunchbox themselves. Look for easy-to-open boxes with kid-friendly grips.
BPA, Phthalate, and PVC free
Food will touch this lunchbox, so toxins shouldn’t. Look for bento boxes made without BPA, phthalates, and PVC.
Psst… b.box lunchboxes check off all of the above.
Meet b.box for kids
Founded by two moms on a mission to make mealtimes easier, b.box for kids offers parents jumbo and mini-sized bento boxes. Large, leakproof compartments hold sandwiches and whole fruits, while the removable divider helps you adjust the size of your compartments. Keep your food fresh with the included ice pack and shop the accessories to help foster independent, fulfilling meals.
We’d love to keep going, but we’ll step back and let you shop, instead.