Make a bento, not a war…

Bento Monsters

Hey there, Mama. Yup, that’s right, i’m talking to you.

I see you sharing witty blog posts poking fun at moms filling bento boxes all over social media. Thanks, by the way, the posts are funny and they make me laugh too. But when i’m done laughing, I still stuff a bento box. Want to know why? I’m in on a secret and I want to share it with you.

Here are five reasons you should stop rolling your eyes and take a closer look at bento boxes:

#1 Colors
Plenty of research tells us that children will eat more nutrient dense diets when you introduce more color to their meals.   According to a Cornell University study, researchers found that colorful food choices were more appealing to children than adults.  That’s right, children are not smaller versions of ourselves.  Maybe in looks, but not in development.  It’s time to start adding more color – kids prefer up to six.

#2 Choices

As mealtime rolls around, a protein, a vegetable and maybe a side of whole grains or grain alternative sounds about right, doesn’t it?  Three choices on the plate is absolutely what parents prefer, but three choices doesn’t really cut it for most kids.  In fact it may be hindering some of them from eating.

Research continues to show us that children will consume an increased amount of healthy foods when they’ve had more visual choices given on their plate; in fact, they need up to seven.  That’s right, seven. Hmmm, where can you find a tool with six or seven spaces that can easily help you make food more appealing to your kids…oh that’s right, in a bento!

#3 Fun

This one should be no big surprise, but children love fun.  We incorporate fun into teaching them at school, so it shouldn’t surprise parents that it’s a good idea to incorporate fun into teaching our kids to love food too.  Do children like when their food is arranged into a picture?  Absolutely!  I, too, see pins on Pinterest of bento boxes depicting movie scenes and my jaw drops.  These moms are AMAZING, but the first thing I think is where do they find the time, right?  Do they have a housekeeper and a nanny?

Let’s be real, not all of us have time to create like this.  While these moms are inspiring and their work is absolutely beautiful, not even I have time to create master-food-pieces like that everyday.  Multiple kids, work schedules, extracurricular activities, connecting with family and friends, all the while keeping a family organized and on-track keeps life moving fast.  So here is the GOOD NEWS, adding a little fun doesn’t have to be hard or take hours.  Simply creating a pattern with fruit or vegetables or using a cookie cutter to shape a sandwich is enough. Find some other easy ideas pinned here.

#4 Opportunity

I know you’re busy. I am too.  I meet parents all the time juggling more than enough responsibilities.  I know that for some the idea of “adding one more thing” on their to-do list can be overwhelming, so here’s an idea. Take the pressure off yourself and put your kids to work.  That’s right.  So much research makes it clear that the more involved your child is in cooking, the greater amount of healthy food they’ll eat.  Placing food out for them to pack their lunches while you clean up at night is a perfect opportunity to get your kids involved with foods.  Try it out and you just might be surprised how much of their lunch gets eaten!

#5 Thank a bento mom

Still not convince to pack a bento, that’s ok, but at the very least it’s time to stop rolling your eyes.  Kids eating well influence other kids to eat well. In recent studies on American preschoolers, children were more likely to prefer foods they saw other children eat (Frazier et al 2012) AND the magic of peer influence has also been documented for older school kids (Bevelander et al 2012).  So even if you aren’t stuffing a bento, your kids will benefit from sitting next to the kids that have one.

Above all remember that EVERY parent out there is bringing different experiences to parenthood, they are all busy and are all actively making the best choices they can for their kids.

Don’t fall into the mom-petition mentality.  No one has time for that.  Be easy on each other.  We’re all in this together and that’s a good thing!

Need more ideas and support on encouraging your child to love healthy food?  Check out the Happy Eating Club!