Part Three Bento Lunches: What to Pack 

So you have read my previous post and made a pledge to pack healthy lunches this year. (You can make an official pledge at Power Your Lunchbox for coupons, free printables and prizes!) You have purchased an awesome lunchbox and maybe some fun tools to use but now you are feeling a little lost about what to put in them (Check out my lunchbox tools post here) No worries, I have composed for you a list of my go to foods for lunches!

 Proteins

  • Deli meats
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned chicken
  • Meatballs (I always have a bag of frozen meatballs on hand)
  • Hard boiled eggs or egg salad
  • Falafel (I get these frozen at Trader Joe’s)
  • Sunbutter (or nut butter if your school allows it.)
  • Sausage links or patties
  • Veggie burgers
  • Hummus

Grains

  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Pasta salad (Have you seen the adorable shaped pastas that World Market carries?!)
  • Pita
  • Whole grain bread
  • Wraps
  • Bagel thins
  • Plantain chips
  • Crackers: my favorites are Annie’s Homegrown, Special K multigrain, Trader Joe’s Edamame, pita chips and pretzel thins
  • Popcorn
  • Cereal

Dairy

  • All natural sliced cheese (great for cutting into shapes!)
  • Cheese sticks
  • Babybel cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese

Vegetables (Raw)

  • Carrots
  • Bell Peppers and mini sweets
  • Celery
  • Green beans
  • Snap peas
  • Jicama
  • Lettuces
  • Tomatoes (grape and cherry)
  • Cucumbers
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Zucchini and yellow squash

Vegetables (cooked) 

  • Carrots*
  • Bell peppers*
  • Green beans*
  • Peas*
  • Corn*
  • Edamame*
  • Succotash*
  • Butternut and acorn squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Broccoli*
  • Cauliflower*
  • Greens (Kale, collard, mustard)
  • Dr Praeger’s broccoli and spinach little bites (Whole Foods)

*I keep bags of these veggies frozen at all times and just pack a serving as I need them. I often just let them defrost and serve without heating, especially corn and peas!


Fruit (fresh)

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Clementines or tangerines
  • Plums, pluots, plumcots
  • Melons
  • Berries
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Pineapple
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes

Fruit (frozen)

  • Berries*
  • Peaches
  • Mangoes
  • Pineapple

*Frozen berries work great to mix in with yogurt or to make a smoothie but do not hold up in the defrosting process to serve as your main fruit!

Fruit (canned in 100% juice) 

  • Oranges
  • Pineapple
  • Peaches
  • Apricots

Treats

  • Cookies: my favorites are School house cookies and yogurt shaped stars from Trader Joe’s, Annie’s Homegrown animal crackers and Bitsy’s Brain Food Alphabet cookies (found at Target and Kroger)
  • Cookie butter (Trader Joe’s)
  • Dips: ranch, ketchup, BBQ sauce
  • Chocolate chips
  • Dried fruits

Most often when people say they can’t pack bento lunches they site two main reasons.

  1. It wastes food. The only food I waste is the crusts of bread. As do millions of moms who cut the crusts off of their children’s sandwiches! But you could even save these and make bread crumbs from them. When I cut cheese and vegetables I most often put those leftovers in my own lunch for the next day. You could easily use veggies for soups or stock and save cheese to top casseroles.
  2. It costs too much. I can just about guarantee that the lunch I packed is cheaper than buying a lunch able. And certainly healthier. However, one thing to keep in mind when you shop. Always buy in season! You will pretty much never see me pack peaches in the middle of winter unless they are frozen. Also buy small quantities of items. Yes, I may pack 3 fruits for my daughter each day between breakfast, lunch and a snack. However, when I buy bananas I only buy 3-4 at a time for the week and 1-2 apples and pack her a quarter on an apple and take the rest for myself.

What are some of your go to lunch items that you pack for yourself or your kids??? I would love to add to my own collection!

Happy Packing and come check me out on Instagram @hollyamethyst for more lunch ideas and come back here soon for some fun holiday lunch ideas!

Holly