Foods that Make the Grade: Bento Box School Lunch Ideas

Bento boxes are a great choice for your picky eater

By Charlotte Linde, publisher of Macaroni KID EATS and Macaroni KID Cedar Rapids September 21, 2021

Are you a "mom of munchers" or do you have a picky eater? We know packing school lunches can be a PITA — and we don't mean the pocket bread kind! The typical sandwich for lunch that many of us grew up eating has left the cafeteria and this can make preparing school lunches complicated, and we feel you. Throw food allergies and school restrictions on certain foods into the mix, and you may be ready to throw in the towel. Don't worry — we've got an idea for you. Enter bento boxes. 

 Natalia Lisovskaya via Canva

bento [ ben-toh; Japanese ben-taw ]
A meal, served in a box that is divided into sections for holding individual portions of food.

Bento boxes have continued to grow in popularity at school — it seemed the back-to-school aisles were full of them this year in place of traditional lunchboxes. So this month we've compiled a few "out of the box" bento box lunch ideas that make the grade:


 Getty Images via Canva

Use your kid's favorite protein and wrap with veggies and their favorite toppings. Add a spread, wrap with love, and cut into pinwheels. 

Ingredient ideas:

  • Tortillas
  • Deli meat, pepperoni, or tuna
  • Sliced or shredded cheese
  • Shredded lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, olives, cucumbers, sprouts
  • Cream cheese, mayo, mustard, or plain

Try our BLT or Shredded Chicken BLT recipes for school lunch!

Fun food art

Even a picky eater can't resist a cute sandwich! It just takes another minute to create a sandwich that will make a child giggle — a swipe of the knife or a cookie cutter and some cleverly placed additions will do the trick!

Ingredient ideas:

  • Sandwich
  • Eggs
  • Carrots and celery
  • Grapes
  • Mixed nuts (if your school allows them)
  • Cucumbers
  • Blueberries
  • Red peppers


Deconstruct your typical sushi into different compartments to make each bite different. 

Ingredient ideas:

  • White rice
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Toasted seaweed
  • Avocado chunks
  • Dipping sauce of choice
  • Add a protein: Imitation crab, turkey, scrambled eggs, hotdog, or smoked salmon
  • Don't forget the chopsticks and fortune cookie! 

The Traditional

OK, so some of our kids still love sandwiches, and we do too! 

Traditional school lunch items that work in a bento box:

  • Favorite sandwich
  • Sliced carrots
  • Mixed nuts (if your school allows them)
  • Apples, grapes, and/or fresh berries