Fun is good.
- Dr. Seuss
Let's make lunch fun, shall we?
Making lunch fun, yet healthy, is a constant struggle. Sonshine prefers home made lunches except for when it is Pizza Fridays at school. Planning a bento box lunch helps me include the different food groups, control the portion sizes and still make it colorful. You don't have to buy special or expensive bento boxes to pack healthy lunches. If you have a regular box and some sturdy dividers, you are all set to pack healthy lunches.
Now, what is a healthy lunch? A healthy lunch is a balanced meal in all aspects - carbs, protein, veggies and fruits - in the perfect portion sizes. Pretty simple, eh? But doing this everyday, we kind of run out of ideas as to what to pack for lunch to make it interesting. In this series of bento box lunches, I am trying to give you ideas as to what you can pack for lunch and make it healthy and fun too.
Oh! I forgot to add something when I talked about a balanced meal. I always pack a small treat when I pack Sonshine's lunch. A small treat goes a long way without adding too much junk into the meal. The treat could be something home made or even a small piece of candy. The best treat is something nutritious disguised as a treat. Absolute win-win!
This summer was a good one for us. We were blessed with intermittent showers which enhanced the greenery around us. In summer, where we live, there is greenery; but it is a dry kind of green. With rains almost every week, we had a pleasant & green summer - hot days & cool evenings (mostly).
Cool evenings invariably means an evening (fried) snack and tea. Indian cuisine is loaded with deep fried snacks, though there are regional variations of what is defined as "favorite". One of our favorite evening snacks is the Parippuvada (chana dal fritters) served with tea. Hmmm!! Yummmm!!
One such cool summer evening (immediately after the schools reopened), I made some Parippuvada to satiate the fried snack craving. After munching on a few, Sonshine gave me an idea - why don't you send some Parippuvada for my next day's lunch? Of course!!! That gave me the idea of the Parippuvada Bento Box.
Summer fruits were still available at the stores and I included water melon and blueberries in the fruit bowl. You can always substitute the fruits with what is in season. During summer, I felt that watermelon would be a good source of minerals and some water to keep Sonshine hydrated.
Who says garnish is not for lunch boxes? A strategically placed mint leaf can add color and enhance the look of the meal.
Now, let's break down this bento box into it's individual elements and take a look at what you are packing.
Carbs: I included some store bought animal crackers as additional tummy fillers. I always ask myself whether these store bought crackers are actually healthy. Packing these crackers seems easy but how about the nutrition? I found this nice article at daily health lesson about the nutrition value of animal crackers. They are not the best choice, but we could do worse. So, moderation is the key.
Protein: Chana dal in the fritters. It is a quick and easy way to include protein in your lunch. I have read that if no additional carbohydrates are added, protein digestibility of deep fried foods are not significantly affected due to deep frying. I am keeping my fingers crossed 🙂 .
Fruits: Water melon chunks and anti-oxidant rich blueberries which scream SUMMER! 🙂 .
Veggies: Though I prefer to serve whole carrots (chopped, diced, or julienne), Sonshine sometimes picks these baby carrots when we go grocery shopping. I decided to serve those.
Treat: Sonshine loves these Jolly Rancher hard candies in his lunch.
Make ahead is good. In the morning madness, the lesser you have to do hands-on, the better it is. This parippuvada bento box is a make-ahead heaven. You can make the fritters the previous day and store in the refrigerator. While packing lunch, reheat it and pack them in the box. Actually, I like them cold and eat them straight out of the refrigerator too. I make them thin and flat and deep fry. This makes them crispier faster. If I am planning to pack them for lunch the next day, I make them bite sized so that Sonshine is not overwhelmed by the size of the fritters. You can decide whether you want to prepare the fruit bowl ahead of time or not. I cut the fruits and veggies just before I pack the lunch, so that they retain their freshness till lunch time.
Did you notice that I packed the fruits in the big container that came with the planet box lunch box? And in the regular plastic lunch box, I packed the vadas in a separate container. This is to prevent the water rich water melon chunks from making the fritters or Parippuvada soggy.
Enjoy packing the Parippuvada Bento Box and munching the goodies at lunch!
Looking for more bento box ideas? Here you go....
Wondering how to include the protein rich chana dal in your meals? Here are three easy ways for you to enjoy chana dal in your food.