Having trouble introducing those pickled veggies to your preschooler? Are you having problems making your child eat bitter gourd, cucumber? Or has your little one gotten tired of puree and other finger foods?
Worry no more for here is the latest craze in town! No I am not talking with another gadget or a new movie. Here is one of the oldest arts yet very effective way to involve your child in healthy meals and also food art. I am talking about the Japanese food art- the bento boxes!
Bento boxes became popular during the Edo Period in Japan. For the travellers, it was a box containing their meal consisting of onigiri (cooked rice with small amount of salt). Bento also means “convenience” as it is a “complete” homemade meal box consisting of rice, meat or fish, vegetables and fruits.
From the so called”waist bento” for travelling wrapped in furoshiki cloths, these boxes have been mainstreamed to be used in tea party and for kid’s meals to school.
The different types of Bento
- Noriben, considered as the simplest bento box only contains rice in nori (edible seaweed, fresh or dried) and soy sauce.
- Makunouchi bent, the classic one consists of rice, pickled fruit, cut of broiled salmon and an egg.
- Tori bento, has chicken seasoned with soy sauce mixed in cooked rice.
- Hinomaru bento, consists of plain cooked rice with pickled ume fruit put at the center. It is like a map of Japan wherein the white rice is laid out and the umeboshi is put at the center, in a red circle form.
- Sake bento, has a slice of salmon serving as main dish mixed with other pickled veggies.
- Sh kad bento, it is a meal box made of black-lacquer and uses the Thinkpad design of Lenovo.
- Ch ka bento, contains more of the Chinese food like cold plates of meat and noodles. This is more considered as appetizers.
- Kamameshi bento, are food cooked and put in a clay pot. The clay pot is also considered as a souvenir. This is sold at train stations in Nagano
- Shidashi bento, a more classy one prepared in restos and are available for delivery during lunch time. It is usually served for larger group gathering like tea party or even funerals. It consists of tempura, veggies and rice.
Considered as a “complete” meal box, this is also one good way to entice your kids to eat vegetables and fruits. This is food art in a box. It is a perfect design, the bento box for picky eaters.
Because the box is very kawaii (cute), then your kids will be interested with those characters from manga or comic books. This art is called as Kyaraben or character bento. There is also oekakiben wherein pictures of buildings, animals and people are also incorporated.
The bento box for picky eaters are ideas to present food that appeals to their interests. It is visually appealing and of course, appetizing. And if you got another idea from Tokyo-based mom Maiko Takahashi, then make your kid’s lunch or snack time very educational! She introduced some geography lessons for her two kids (ages 4 and 6).
It will also test your patience and creativity. As parents, we will be facing toddler-stage difficulty of making them eat. This is also the time when they will be curious and would try those junk food and other fast food made available at all corners.
We all want to have our kids get the right nutrient that is crucial for their development. These bento boxes are good way to “sneak in” these vegetables, spices and herbs that they would surely take out when given a chance. So these are one way to let your child eat variety of food.
Just remember some of the following tips when preparing the bento boxes:
- Sneak the healthy ingredients to the food your kids already love. Try putting spinach puree into their brownies.
- Have variety. Make it delicious, visually appealing and educational too!
- Varied but limit also in introducing new food. Do not overdo the packing nor introduce new food all at once. Let them get use to the taste. Balance the overall taste of the food you will put inside the bento box.
- Involving your child in the cooking process. Ask them what they like and if they would like to help you out in the kitchen to prepare their meals. That will help them appreciate your effort. And make it fun and a good bonding time for you both!
- If you think this is time consuming, you can also start up by having a day to have this. Try Food Fun Friday as Bento Box Day and see your child anticipate that day where he or she will open their boxes with anticipation.
Make those Bento Boxes moments memorable. The goal here is to raise a child who is food adventurer.
It is also reusable so in essence you are also teaching your kids to be good to the planet. Imagine how many sandwich packs you will save.
Like the widely known Ikebana flower and bonsai arrangements, there are also a lot of contests for bento box arrangements. Who knows, your kid will find more inspiration in looking forward to going to school.