Bento boxes make lunch manageable, fun for all ages

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Whether you are 5 or 50, bento boxes are an organized way to pack lunches. 

Psychologist Dr. Ashley Vigil-Otero says they are also visually pleasing and that can help entice some of the pickiest toddlers to eat healthy foods.

Vigil-Otero has a 5-year-old and when he began refusing to eat his lunch, she found making his meals fun helped him recover his appetite. 

To do tha,t she uses kid-friendly picks like goofy eyes, a clothespin that turns a clear, plastic storage bag filled with goodies into a butterfly, and a colorful variety of bite-sized options in reusable cupcake cups and on mini skewers, help stimulate his eyes and palate simultaneously.

Vigil-Otero's choice was Yumbox Panino.

Inside she filled it with cheese, baby carrots, strawberries, crackers, and gummies made by Annie's Organic.

Mini skewers combined whole wheat bread squares with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese stick slices, and turkey. 

As children grow, bento box-like compartmental products, like the Rubbermaid Lunch Blox Leakproof, helps to keep foods cold and separate and liquids, like salad dressing, from dribbling into the lunch bag.

In my chicken salad box, I added grapes and bean sprouts (that can be added to the chicken salad), whole grain bread, a mozzarella cheese stick, and a Kashi Oatmeal Raisin Flax Cookie containing 4 grams of sugar.

Most middle-schoolers also need a snack so I chose a double peanut butter organic Z Bar from Clif Kids.

Chicken Salad

-1/2 cup cubed chicken breast

-2 Tbs chopped celery

-1 Tbs finely diced scallion

-1 Tbs chopped walnuts

-1 Tbs Mayonnaise

-1 tsp sweet pickle relish (no added sugar)

-1/2 tsp dijon mustard

-2 shakes of ground Dill weed

-2-3 shakes of Paprika

Combine the mayonnaise, pickle relish, and Dijon mustard and set aside. In the bento container, combine the chicken breast, celery, green onion, and walnuts.   Gently toss in the mayo mixture and add a couple of shakes of dill weed.  A few shakes of paprika on top adds a little color and spice!

Hint:  I always used chicken from a big batch of chicken soup.  Cube the chicken and freeze.  It thaws quickly in the refrigerator the night before school.  You can add and subtract ingredients based on your child's age and preferences.  For preschoolers, sometimes less is more.

Super simple Chicken Salad

-1/2 cup cubed chicken breast

-2 Tbs chopped celery

-1 Tbs finely chopped scallion

-Juice from half a lemon

-1 Hass Avocado (ripened)

-1-2 Tbs Bolthouse Farms Cilantro Avocado Dressing

Combine the chicken breast, celery, and onion in the bento container.  Dress with cilantro avocado dressing.

You can sprinkle a little paprika on top.

Cut avocado in half and remove pit.  Apply lemon juice to the exposed surfaces and place in separate airtight bento container. Your child can fill the avocado with the chicken salad during lunchtime.

This insulated lunch bag was a perfect fit for the Lunch Blox.