Let’s be honest: ham and cheese sandwiches are as boring to eat as they are to make. The solution? Go bento. Think of the adorable Japanese containers as blank lunch canvases and let your imagination go wild.

1. Get Ready

• Ease In. Start with foods your child already likes and add new ones over time. Up your success rate by creating recognizable shapes and characters to get kids excited about new flavors. Your 3-year-old loves hearts? Use a cookie cutter to stamp one out of a piece of aged cheddar.

• Brighten Up. Aim for several colors in each box. Like grown-ups, kids feast with their eyes.

2. Get Set

• Enlist a Sous-Chef. Have your child help you pack each day’s bento lunch. Getting kids involved in the process increases the chances they’ll actually try that new veggie.

• Accessorize. Maybe your Mini-Me will eat anything as long as she can use a special utensil. Stock up on cute forks and spoons and surprise her with a different one every week. Find reusable toothpicks topped with cartoon characters to stick onto new foods. Write a note to send with each bento. The key is to keep things fun and fresh.

bento_box_2 Bento boxes

3. Pack

Mix and match these seasonal (and seasonally inspired) foods to make your kids swoon at noon:

Fruits
raspberries*
apple slices*
blueberries*
clementines
persimmon slices

Vegetables
honey-roasted sweet potatoes*
green beans*
pickled beets*
winter squash*
tomato slices*
kale chips*
baby carrots
celery sticks

Proteins
hard-boiled egg
fennel salami
chicken salad
beef satay
Vietnamese
pork meatballs

Salty Sides
pretzel sticks
rice crackers
aged hard cheese
country bread
orzo

Desserts
gingersnap cookies
pumpkin mousse*
macarons
salted caramel brownies
Greek yogurt with fruit

*seasonal foods