Summer brings a welcome break to our regular lunch box routine. Picnics, beach days, hiking, road trips, and patio eating are the order of the day. Feeling the sun on our arms and tasting the extra flavor or fruit and veggies fresh from the garden underscores that summer is here.

 Bento boxes for kids and adults are superb for enjoying varied, healthy meals for away from home. Their compact design also makes them a pleasure to take along with the many other summer necessities. Here are some tips for enjoying those summer bento moments.

 Summer Lunch box Cravings

It’s warming up and our bodies will desire different foods to stay in equilibrium. We may be more active and get thirstier, craving hydration. Be prepared with plenty of seasonal sweet, succulent fruit like peaches, nectarines, or berries in your bento. Extra points if you just picked yourself from a local farm! Or perhaps you need a bit of salt to replace sodium that was [ost in the summer heat. When you feel a craving tune into what your body is asking for in the moment. 

 seasonal spice

When we eat outside out sense of smell is more alert. We may breathe more fully and feel more connected to nature and its scents. Food may also be eaten at as slightly warmer ‘room’ temperature. This will make food taste different, perhaps more intense. Notice how the flavors of your meal impact you and consider adjusting the herbs or spices as needed. 

 Finger Food Fun

Eating outside means its easier to deal with those drips and spills. 😉 So indulge in finger foods galore! Chop up some watermelon and fruit kebabs, cut finger sandwiches into fun shapes, create a variety sushi-ish rolls, make veggie sticks, tempura veggies or chicken bites and add various dipping sauces or spreads (hummus, guacamole…) for finger eating fun. Remember to pay full attention to every lick of your fingers – the sensory aspect of eating with fingers, rather than forks, can keep our minds on the experience of eating for fuller enjoyment. 

 layer the color

Opening your bento box can be like unwrapping a gift. Make the most vibrant summer colors and add pops of color to pasta salad, rice dishes or potato salads. Think about red-orange-yellow-green peppers, green peas, yellow corn, tomato chunks, leaves from fresh herbs, etc.  

one course per lunch box

When serving a few people, you can make one bento per person or fill a box with food for each course that people share. You could have boxes for: Apertif = a variety of salty snacks like pretzels, crackers, olives, goldfish, etc.  Salad = various salad ingredients in each bento space, or several mixed salads in one bento. Sandwich = many different roll-ups cut up and placed in one bento. Cheese = a variety of soft, hard and spreadable cheeses. Fruit = make a fruit feast with different types placed individually or various mixed fruit salads in each bento compartment. Dessert = your favorite assortment of sweet treats.

RECIPES

Here are some recipes to help you fill your bentos for tasty enjoyable picnics!

15 Easy Summer Recipes from delish

Picnic Ideas from Martha Stewart

75 Summer Recipes from Taste of Home

    Preparing your Food

    • While chopping, combining, layering and placing your food into the box, notice and enjoy the colors, scents and flavors as you go. Look closely at the variety of shapes and textures.
    • While making lunches can sometimes feel like a grind, can you find any playfulness in the process? Perhaps adding some unexpected flourishes or flavor/color combinations?
    • Finish with a thought of appreciation for all the farmers and many people involved in bringing this food to your kitchen. And include yourself for the care and energy you brought to creating this tasty wholesome lunch. 😉