Where to Start?
First, we recommend breaking up the contents of your box into core food categories that you can mix and match with your faves! It doesn’t have to be fancy or make sense just as long as it’s a variety of foods your kids love! It’s important to note that traditional bento box fillers are enjoyed room-temp or cool. However insulated containers can easily be added to your spread to suit your family’s needs!
Main Protein: Star of the show–chicken, beef, pork, seafood or even tofu.
Carbs: This will be the main source of filler– rice, zucchini noodles, pasta, couscous, or even Gluten-Free options!
Sides: This is where you can bring on the veggies– green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, mixed veggies.
Fruits: Add a little splash of color and some sweetness– apples, grapes, orange slices, berries and chopped fruit are a great choice for these compact boxes!
Extras: These ingredients will add a pop of color to your box– cherry tomatoes, peeled carrots, sauces and toppings. (Or even add a boiled egg for extra protein!)
Secondly, Prep is your friend! Some bento boxes contain items such as fried tempura and sushi but simple meals are just as delicious! The key is presentation and compact deliciousness!
Remember, your Heartland freezer is like your own personal grocery store! Simply pick out what proteins and veggies you want to cook up the night before! And since defrost only takes 10 minutes this will allow you to batch prepare like a pro. Whip up easy sides like steamed rice and mixed veggies for the whole week! Create a stir fry with succulent Cheshire Pork and our crisp stir fry veggies! Once your personal bento buffet is created you can pack whatever you need to fuel the kids up for the day. (Remember to add an ice pack to the lunch bag for any items that need to stay cool! Some bento boxes have these attached!)
Finally, once your food is prepared, now comes the fun part. Arranging your box, you can do this in the morning or the night before! We recommend adding your protein or main dish first and building your box around that. Be sure to add your extra filler foods to any spaces that you see! Not only do you wanna load up the flavor and goodness but packing your box’s compartments tightly prevents the food from moving around during the day and disrupting your beautiful spread! Making a cute and “Instagram-worthy” box doesn’t have to be hard. All that matters is that it’s nutritious and your kids love it. Experiment with different types of combinations and get the kids involved by presenting the food in a whimsical way with fun food shapes in the process. The sky’s the limit!
We hope this quick start guide helps you on your way to building your own delicious and nutritious bento boxes. Here at Heartland we always say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. With just a little extra time, you can introduce your kids to a fun way to eat a more variety of foods. This will put them on the path of healthy eating all the while cultivating their love of food!