I sometimes hear from parents who tell me they don't know how to cook, or they don't have time to cook, so there's no way they could make such an elaborate lunch for their kids. Guess what? I'm not a professional chef either. I have two kids at home and I don't have time to spend a lot of time cooking or preparing bento either. If you take a look at my bento posts, you'll see that many of them involve leftovers, or foods that can be prepared and assembled quickly (usually under 30 minutes). You don't have to spend a lot of time to give your kids a healthy homemade lunch; all you need is a little pre-planning. Most kids won't eat an adult-size meal, so a few vegetables, some fruit, a little protein and maybe some rice (or bread or pasta) is all you need to consider.
Take this bento, for example. I made this for my 4 year old to take to preschool. She's had a slightly smaller appetite lately than usual, so this one is a bit smaller than what she typically eats for lunch. The main compartment contains two skewers of pan-fried chicken and sundried tomato sausage rounds alternating with sliced zucchini. She'll love those because they're finger foods, and it's fun to eat off a stick. I always add at least two colors of vegetables -- in this case, steamed broccoli and peapods, as well as raw carrots I've carved into flowers with my paring knife. To finish off, she'll have a sweet ripe strawberry and some blackberries. If she had more time at school (or if she were at home) I might add a half corn on the cob and a musubi (riceball), or she might ask for string cheese or a hard-boiled egg, which are foods that are easily prepared ahead of time. Once you start packing bento, it'll become easier until it's just a part of the usual school routine. You'll feel better knowing your kid is eating a healthy meal, and she'll learn to look forward to lunch. Now that's a worthwhile effort! ^_^
I am a former research scientist turned stay-at-home-mom of 2 who got started with bento in an effort to help my kids learn that eating healthy and nutritious foods can be fun and cute. I make a bento lunch for my 9yo (4th grader) son & my 5yo kindergartener girl every school day, and post the pictures on my sherimiya ♥ flickr photostream. Here in this blog is where I describe each bento, and you'll also get a peek inside our family adventures. Thanks for taking a look, and please let me know what you think ^-^!