Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Healthy Food Choices for Kids

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

One way to get your kids interested in what they eat and make eating fun is to learn and do Obento (aka Bento) meals together! I had been doing these lunches for myself for a while when my preteen daughter got into Japanese culture. She has since become a member of a Manga club at a local library branch and wanted to take a Bento with her for a contest. Here is her first Obento:

Tyler's first ObentoTyler's first Obento
There is a sushi rice base at the bottom, shaped boiled eggs (a teddy bear and a star), apple bunnies, ham and cheese rolls with sword picks, and a ham Kirby (from the video game) with raisin and apple accents.

Yes, a kid could make an Obento with unhealthy food options, but if you look at the traditions, they include a specific ratio of protein, fruit and vegetable, and carbohydrates. Obento is also an easy way to limit portion size.

There are lots of blogs out there about Obento by and for adults and kids alike. Some moms send these to school with their kids every day. The best resource / place to start I can recommend is Just Bento.

A great Bento blog for parents wanting to make lunches for their kids with realistic foods available in the United States is What's for Lunch at Our House.

Obento doesn't have to be fancy and are very doable.
How do you encourage your kids to make healthy food choices?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Baking & letting go — Cooking with kids can be a mess. Nadia at Red White & GREEN Mom is learning to relax, be patient, and have fun with the process.
  • Family feeding in Child of Mine — Lauren at Hobo Mama reviews Ellyn Satter's suggestions for appropriate feeding and points out where her family has problems following through.
  • Children with Knives! (And other Kitchen Tools) — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy teaches her children how to safely use knives.
  • "Mommy, Can I Help?" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how she lets her kiddos help out with cooking, despite her {sometimes} lack of patience!
  • Solids the Second Time Around — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts her experiences introducing solids to her second child.
  • The Adventure of Toddler TastebudsThe Accidental Natural Mama shares a few things that helped her daughter develop an adventurous palate.
  • A Tradition of Love — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy looks forward to sharing the kitchen traditions passed on from her mom and has already found several ways to involve baby in the kitchen.
  • The Very Best Classroom — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts reveals how her kitchen is more than a place to make food - it's a classroom!
  • Raising Little Chefs — Chef Mike guest posts on Natural Parents Network about how he went from a guy who couldn't cook to a chef who wanted to teach his boys to know how the food we love is made.
  • In the Kitchen with my kids — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares a delicious soup recipe that her kids love.
  • Papa, the Pancake Artist — Papa's making an incredible breakfast over at Our Mindful Life.
  • Kids won't eat salad? Try this one! — Tat at Mum in Search is sharing her children's favourite salad recipe.
  • Recipe For a Great Relationship — Cooking with kids is about feeding hearts as well as bellies, writes Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • The Ritual of Mealtimes — Syenna at Gently Parenting Twins writes about the significance of mealtimes in her family’s daily rhythm.
  • Kid, Meet Food. Food, Kid. — Alburnet at What's Next? panicks about passing on her food "issues" to her offspring.
  • Growing Up in the Kitchen — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life shares how her son is growing up in the kitchen.
  • Harvesting Corn and History — From Kenna at School Garden Year: The kids in the school garden harvest their corn and learn how much history grows in their food.
  • My Guiding Principles for Teaching my Child about Food — Tree at Mom Grooves uses these guiding principles to give her daughter a love of good food and an understanding of nutrition as well as to empower her to make the best choices for her body.
  • Kitchen Control — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro writes about her struggles to relinquish control in the kitchen to her children.
  • Food — Emma at Your Fonder Heart lets her seven month old teach her how to feed a baby.
  • Kitchen Fun? — Adrienne at Mommying My Way questions how much fun she can have in a non-functional kitchen, while trying to remain positive about the blessings of cooking for her family.
  • Kitchen Adventures — Erica at ChildOrganics shares fun ways to connect with your kids in the kitchen.
  • Kids in the Kitchen: Finding the Right Tools — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings shares some of her favorite child-sized kitchen gadgets and where to find them.
  • The Kitchen Classroom — Laura at Authentic Parenting knows that everything your kids want to learn is at the end of the ladle.
  • Kids in the Kitchen — Luschka from Diary of a First Child talks about the role of the kitchen in family communication and shares fun kitchen activities for the under two.
  • Our Kitchen is an Unschooling Classroom. — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle explores the many ways her kitchen has become a rich environment for learning.
  • Montessori-Inspired Food Preparation for Preschoolers — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares lots of resources for using Montessori food preparation activities for young children in the kitchen.
  • My Little Healthy Eater — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares her research on what is the best first food for babies, and includes a healthy and yummy breakfast recipe.
  • Two Boys and Papa in the Kitchen: Recipe for Disaster?MudpieMama shares all about her fears, joys and discoveries when the boys and handsome hubby took over the kitchen.
  • Food choices, Food treats — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea shares her family's relationship with food.
  • learning to eat — Catherine at learner mummy reflects on little M's first adventures with food.


  1. Bento has always looked fun to me, but I never realized that there was also a point to it besides just being a cute way to serve food. Thanks for the ideas and links!

  2. A friend of mine does Bento lunches for her daughters and they are home for lunch! It's a great thing to pack for lunch, and even to do at home just for fun. She's the only who has told me about it, and until reading your post I had forgotten about it. I'd love to look at the links you gave to learn more about it!

  3. we love bento too!! my daughter doesn't pack lunch to school yet so her bento meals are taken at home. Makiko Itoh's The Just Bento Cookbook is our top favorite bento book!

  4. How great that Tyler wanted to get involved in making her own lunch. And she did a great job. I've been using some bento techniques with Moira's lunches, but I don't usually have to convince her to eat anything, so I frequently don't bother.

  5. Sooo cute! How cool that Tyler's getting into it, too.

    I totally get the cuteness of putting together different shapes, even though I'm not nearly that skilled, but the ratio talk always confuses me. I don't mean I try to figure it out and remain confused; I mean I hear talk of ratios and shut that part of my mind off. :P But I still think it would be fun to learn more about! When you do obento, do you do the ratios or just use what you have on hand and like?

  6. I've actually gotten rid of almost all of my bento accessories. I have a bento box that I think Tyler will get for Giftmas... which is funny because it was originally a gift for ME from Elmo.

    Anyway, I may not get the ratios perfect, but I think if you stop to think about it you likely do the same thing with your regular meals.

    Given my choice, I might eat ALL CARBS, but I know that isn't healthy. So the idea is to put in one part protein, one part carbohydrate, and I think two parts fruit / veggie. I don't remember if that is right or not, but that is the basic idea. When you make a regular lunch I'm sure you make sure you have protein and probably some fruit or veggie. Carbs are the easy part in this country!

  7. That makes sense. You're right — it would mostly be about limiting the carbs, wouldn't it? :)

  8. OoOoO! I love Bento! I was actually just looking at some of the egg molds and little sauce containers recently : )

    I'm sort of excited for Niko to start school (in... ahem... 4 years... haha!) so I can send him little Bento lunches, and he can talk about what a dweeb his mom is : p

    Thanks for the website links; I'm definitely going to look into starting out early practicing on my own lunches, especially since I just got a supercool new lunch box for work!

    Thank you for the great ideas!

  9. Aaaw, I love Bento's (Obentos - who knew?)... I have been pinning cute Bento pics on pinterest. Such fun!

  10. That is awesome and so creative! I have to start doing this. And African Babies' idea to pin cute Bento ideas on Pinterest is fabulous.

    Baby T is a picky eater, so unfortunately, we resort to things like pasta, rice cakes, cereal bars, and cereal a lot. He eats a lot of fruit, but not many veggies. This would be a great way to incorporate them without drawing attention to them. Thanks for the links!

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