With this creative take on back-to-school lunches, kids will look forward to exploring their lunchbox and eating a fun, healthy meal. In Japan, bento is a style of meal that’s elaborately decorated and divided into sections. The bento method is a fun way to try new foods and indulge in favorites in a healthy, moderate way.


For the container, you can buy a bento lunchbox at the store, assemble small reuseable containers or use cupcake liners to divide a larger container. Let’s get started!


  • In the Garden: Deli meat rolled into “roses” with clementine segments, crackers and cheese
  • Under the Sea: Sandwich cut into a sea creature shape using a cookie cutter, with seasonal berries, goldfish crackers and dried seaweed
  • On the Farm: Sliced hardboiled eggs (or try your hand at tamagoyaki) with a gherkin or other pickle, a handful of animal crackers and yogurt
  • Deep in the Heart of Texas: Leftover barbecue with roasted pecans, sliced peaches and pickled okra
  • At the Beach: Tuna salad with plantain chips, dried mango and sliced green peppers with hummus


Ultimately, you can make any variation of bento that suits your child’s tastes. Just use the five elements of color, taste and technique to create a harmonious palate of flavor. This can also be a great way to collaborate with your kids in the kitchen and give them creative license in making healthy choices.


Five Elements of Color: Red/orange, yellow, green, white and black/dark purple/brown


Five Elements of Technique: Raw, grill/sear, pickle/ferment, bake/roast and boil/steam


Five Elements of Taste: Sweet, salty, bitter, spicy and sour


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The YMCA of Austin is a dynamic association of men, women and children joined together by a shared commitment to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility.

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