Back-to-school lunch ideas: Here’s 15 healthy bento box ideas and inspirations. Also includes food safety, decoration tips and all you need to know about bento making!
School is now back in session. If you are a parent like me, you know how packing lunches for your children can be a daily challenge. That’s why bento boxes are the best solution for school lunches (and work lunches). In Japan, bento boxes are packed with care and love to accompany the little ones to school every day.
With the various smart compartments, bento boxes allow you to pack a healthy, perfectly portioned, exciting and wholesome meals. Bento making is almost like an art form itself. For the crafty parents and kids, you get to enjoy the creative process of putting lunches together. When lunch boxes are presented creatively, you know you never have to worry about untouched foods when the children come home.
The best thing about bento? You can repurpose weekend preps and dinner leftovers throughout the week. Since bento boxes are reusable and eco-friendly, you can eliminate the use of anything plastic too.
Here I’ve rounded up 15 bento box ideas and inspirations for packing healthy school lunches that could also work at the office. For beginners, there are many helpful guides in this roundup on how to pack healthy lunch, food safety, decoration tips and more. Let’s get started!
15 Back to School Easy Bento Box Ideas & Recipes
New to making Bento? Here are some helpful tips and tools on how to make healthy and colorful bento for you get started.
Bento is just another effective formula of meal prepping, where dinner is repurposed into lunch the next day. In this bento, you’ll find leftover chicken teriyaki, pickled cucumber, apple bunnies, tomatoes, lettuce and furikake seasoning on top of rice – all laid out nicely for an appetizing lunch.
Little kids can never say no to cute animal sandwich bento. You can expect their eyes light up when they see their favorite animal characters in the lunch box. Keep the ingredients simple. Choices like cheese, ham, eggs, fruits and cut vegetables are always popular. Better still, have them pack the bento together for some bonding and craft time. They will enjoy the creativity and the food that is made together with love.
Delicious and tender teriyaki chicken meatballs packed along with steamed rice, ham flower, fruits, crab salad, egg, and broccoli in a stylish bento box. This is a sure win for school lunch!
Colors play a big factor in enticing kids to eat their lunch! Made with ground chicken seasoned with the slightly sweet soy sauce, soboro rice bowl is a popular dish for kids. I like to double the batch of the chicken and scrambled eggs for dinner, then pack them up in bento for my kids’ school lunch. To add colors, don’t forget to include some fruits and their favorite vegetables like green peas, snow peas, spinach, etc.
Have a busy week ahead? This simple and delicious egg salad sandwich bento can be ready in minutes! Just cook up some hard-boiled eggs over the weekend for quick assembly.
Beautiful bento tastes twice as good. The bright colors and artistic composition of this Sanshoku Bento will make the lunchtime the best of your child’s school day.
8. Gyoza Bento
Kids love dumplings! The good news is dumplings makes a delicious bento box idea. If you happen to make gyoza for dinner, save some for their bento box lunch. No time to make gyoza from scratch? Grab the frozen ones from Trader Joe’s! Even super parents rely on frozen foods once in a while. You can mix and match the ingredients from your leftovers and fresh-cut vegetables or fruits. Here we have gyoza, cherry tomatoes, blanched broccoli, tamagoyaki, cucumber, and furikake seasoned rice. When you have everything prepared in big batches for the week, bento making is a total breeze.
Crispy tonkatsu is a family favorite that I make regularly. You can choose to shallow fry the pork cutlet or bake it for a lighter version. For the extra pieces, pack them into the school lunch box, along with broccoli, tomato, golden kiwi and oranges.
This Hawaiian inspired Piggy Spam Musubi Bento is flat out adorable and super fun to eat. Don’t forget to throw in colorful vegetables and tropical fruits to the lunch box.
This adorable Octopus Bento is very popular amongst the Japanese children! It’s easy to see why. Imagine the child’s reaction when he/ she opens up the lunch box and being greeted by octopus-shaped sausage, broccoli, grape, tomato, and seasoned rice balls.
Sweet and flavorful chicken drummettes bento with sautéed cabbage, Tamagoyaki, tomatoes, and fresh fruits. Enjoy with onigiri for a better-than-take-out lunch.
13. Karaage Bento
Japanese bite-size fried chicken with tamagoyaki (rolled omelette), broccoli, tomato, sautéed spinach, and onigiri rice balls all packed in a classy bento. This Karaage Bento is literally a box filled with your child’s favorite foods.
Filling and nutritious, Origini Bento is a great snack choice for after-school activities. These Japanese rice balls are portable and they make lunch on-the-go a cinch.
15. Onigirazu Bento
Tired of the usual sandwiches or rice dish? Onigirazu (Japanese rice sandwich) makes a super fun bento box lunch! Again, tap into your leftovers and turn them into delicious nori-wrapped rice sandwich. Think Teriyaki Salmon Onigirazu, Spam Onigirazu, Bulgogi Onigirazu, Chicken Katsu Onigirazu, Ginger Pork Onigirazu and more.
Additional Tips on How to Make Bento Lunch Box
This bento video tutorial gives you plenty of helpful tips and tools on how to make healthy and colorful Bento Boxes.
The secret to a beautiful and wholesome bento is to add side dishes with various colors. Learn how to decorate the school lunch box with these quick and easy bento side dishes.
There are a few important tips to properly pack your bento. Follow these simple tips for food safety.
More Delicious Bento Box Ideas
I hope you have fun packing bento for your children. If you are looking for more bento boxes recipes, click here to get inspiration! The key to packing bento is to switch up protein, grains, vegetables, fruits or healthy snacks, I promise your kid’s school lunch will never be boring again. Thank you so much for reading and till next time!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 21, 2017. It’s been modified and updated in August 2019.