Japanese kids’ lunch boxes are a feast for the eyes

bento

bento

Think filling your child’s lunch box with interesting foods every day is a challenge? Imagine what it’s like for mums of these Japanese students, whose lunches more resemble works of art than a schooltime snack.

BBC’s Close-Up asked children to open up their bento boxes – and what it found was extraordinary. No plain sandwiches, crackers or cheese in sight – instead they use ingredients such as rice, fish, tofu, veggies, sesame seeds and seaweed to create cartoon characters, animals, teddy bears, people’s faces and other pictures.

The lunches can take a couple of hours to put together and some parents even take classes to learn how to make them look as good as they no doubt taste. One mum tells the program expectations among parents and kids are getting higher. “I feel pressure,” she says. Here’s why:

Of course, you may want to mix up your child’s lunch box without the added pressure of getting arty. Last month we asked readers on our Facebook page for some school lunch inspiration. If you need any ideas, here’s what they told us:

Sandwiches: A perennial favourite in Australian lunch boxes, but there’s no need to stick to plain old cheese, Vegemite or jam. Egg and lettuce was a popular suggestion, or tortilla or coconut wraps for something a little different.

Leftovers: From roast chicken and veg to more adventurous tikka masala or butter chicken with rice, many parents made the most of the previous night’s excess food. A good tip was to freeze a juice pack and use it as an ice block to keep the food cool until lunch time.

Japanese flavour: You may not have the time or ingredients to get as creative as the mums in this video, but many kids love sushi or rice paper rolls.

Savoury: Try homemade mini pizzas, zucchini slice, savoury muffins (bacon and cheese; chive and cheese; ham and cheese), pizza pinwheels and quiche (e.g. chicken and vegetable or bacon and spinach). One mum suggests sending kids to school with pasta and a can of tuna for an easy, nutritious meal. For snacks, try rice or plain crackers, pretzels, Shapes, cheese cubes or sticks, prawn crackers or popcorn.

Sweet: Schools encourage healthy eating, but that doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t have a treat every now and then. Try homemade oat bars, apple mini-muffins or choc chip and banana bread, or a muesli or apricot bar, sultanas, dried fruit, Tiny Teddies or mini wafer biscuits. And of course, yoghurt is an easy and healthy option (just watch out for sugar-laden packets).

Fruit: Most kids love fruit, so send a variety each week – apples, plums, grapes, bananas, cherries, cantaloupe, watermelon or mango will give their little tastebuds some variety.

Veggies: Raw veggies can go down well, such as capsicum strips, cucumber, lettuce, carrot, cherry tomatoes. Pair them with homemade dips such as hummus for some extra nutritional value.

What’s in your child’s lunch box? Tell us below.

Michelle Rose

Michelle Rose

Michelle is a journalist and mum to two girls who are obsessed with dinosaurs, fairies, pirates and princesses in equal measure. She lives in Melbourne's east with her husband, daughters and a giant, untameable labradoodle. Michelle loves all things vegetarian, wine (it's a fruit) and online shopping.

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