Make Lunchtime Fun with a Bento Box

Whether you're seven or forty-seven, toting the old standby brown bag lunch to school or work has probably lost a lot of its allure.  Meet the bento box, a fun and creative way to revitalize lunchtime that lends itself well to integrating diverse and healthy foods into your daily diet.  

Bento boxes are a Japanese innovation, typically consisting of a compartmentalized and/or layered box containing single portion servings of an assortment of foods.  The boxes can range from cardboard containers (found in Japan at carry-out restaurants or convenience stores) to simple plastic versions to ornate laquered boxes.  Some bento boxes include small bottles or flasks to hold sauces or dressings and others come complete with chopsticks; if you prefer a hot meal at lunchtime, there are also microwaveable styles available (the variations are endless; see some helpful shopping links at the end of this  post).      

What a boon to  lunchtime nutrition.  With those little compartments just waiting to be filled, it's easy to become creative.  Add leftovers and tidbits from from all the food groups:  some pasta salad, a few baby carrots, olives, noodles or rice, your favorite sushi, walnuts or almonds, sliced fresh fruit and cheese, a cookie or two -- the sky's the limit for taste and visual appeal. 

And what child wouldn't love to open a brightly colored bento box of his or her own, and explore the compartments to see what surprises Mom or Dad packed for them.  The presentation of smaller portions and varied selections may also encourage picky eaters to expand their horizons and try different foods. 

Home meal leftovers and restaurant doggie bags suddenly become much more appealing when you imagine them repurposed as next day's lunch in your new bento box -- enjoy!   

Interested in learning more about the beauty of bento box meals?  Here a few resource links for shopping, information and ideas:

SHOPPING

Amazon.com - Just enter bento box into the Search box, add variables as needed (microwaveable, kids, etc.) 

Pottery Barn for Kids - Bento Lunch Boxes

Google Product Search

 INFO & IDEAS   

Laptop Lunches - Bento Menu Library (also has a Shopping page AND a great Photo Gallery of lunch ideas)

20 Easy Bento Box Lunches for Kids

Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate.

A Great Interactive Nutrition Site for Kids

In researching helpful information sources for National Nutrition Month, I came across a great website dedicated to teaching children about healthy eating. Founded by a former ICU nurse who became concerned about the number of young teenagers she encountered professionally who were already suffering morbid obesity, the site displays this mission statement:

Nourish Interactive’s mission is to offer fun, innovative solutions that empower children to make healthy choices. We support parents and teachers with free interactive games and tools that promote a healthier lifestyle.

The teaching resources the site provides for parents and teachers are extensive and well organized, the children's games and activities both entertaining and informative.  The site mascot is the cute and engaging Chef Solus, who leads kids through a variety of games, food choice scenarios and recipes. 

The sheer volume of activities and learning exercises could keep adults and children occupied for hours -- but the site addresses that issue also, periodically reminding kids that they need to take a break from the computer after 20 minutes and participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

I have to say, this is one of the best designed educational sites I have found in many thousands of hours on the Internet, and its mission is an important one.  But don't take my word for it, visit http://www.nourishinteractive.com/ yourself.  If you agree, please pass the word by sharing it with other parents and educators.

Article by Kim Washetas, contributing writer and enthusiastic whole health advocate.

5 Things to Keep Handy When You Have a Sick Child

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Parents who have an infant keep a diaper bag packed at all times. Parents of a child diagnosed with a chronic condition or newly diagnosed acute illness need to be equally prepared. Here are five things to keep packed in a tote for easy grabbing for that emergency room visit or unexpected hospital admission.

  1. Keep a list of current medications and current medical history in your bag. When you are flustered in an emergency situation, you can easily forget to mention an important piece of information about your child, especially if your child is on chemotherapy or other intermittent medication. Write it down.
  2. Keep a change purse with a roll of quarters and a few singles zipped into your tote bag. Emergencies tend to happen when you are low on cash in the wallet. A change purse with at least vending machine money will keep you prepared for that unexpected hospital admission.
  3. Keep a sweater or sweatshirt for yourself. Hospitals are always cooler than you expect and nerves will make you shiver. It is the little things that make a difference and being comfortable eases your stress level.
  4. Keep a favorite comfort stuffed toy or blanket for your child, a book, or other item that helps to distract your child during painful procedures like blood draws and exams. Keep an extra dose of Tylenol or other as needed medications your child may need on an intermittent basis. Children who need anti- nausea medications or seizure medications may need a dose if travel has lasted longer than expected or some other unforeseen circumstance occurs. Keep those medicines in a childproof container in your bag.
  5. Keep a notebook with emergency phone numbers, notes from previous admissions, or any other information you may not always recall immediately. The notes you have made may make a difference in the immediate care of your child in an emergency.

Parents who have a small tote bag packed with these items can survive until family can bring other belongings for that unexpected hospital stay. Have the bag in the car to easily grab if and when it may be needed.

For more information on children coping with illness or death and dying issues, or health and safety tips for children visit http://heartfeltwords4kids.blogspot.com

Visit http://www.freewebs.com/heartfeltwords4kids/ for an interactive website where kids can blog or read articles geared towards them.

Terri Forehand is a pediatric critical care nurse and freelance writer. She has a passion for kids of all ages, especially kids who are fighting against tough illnesses and diseases. Visit her blog and website for more information. She is currently working on fiction for kids.