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Finally, vacation time . . . or almost! Because, even in summer, lunches don’t really take any time off. Now it’s time to send the kids off to summer camp, where—lo and behold—they still need a packed lunch! For less time in the kitchen (and more time on the patio!), opt for Bento-style lunches, bursting with colour and originality.

What we love most about Bento boxes (you know, those compartmentalized lunch boxes?), besides their simplicity, is that they allow us to use up all our leftovers that might otherwise end up in the compost bin. Rice, salads, cold cuts, cheese, dips, cookies . . . grouped together, these items will create a fun and flavourful Bento box. This summer, forgo the hot lunch—cold is in!

For a meal that’s as balanced…

The key to a Bento box that will sustain your kids all afternoon is to include at least one protein (meat, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes, Greek yogurt, etc.), fruits and vegetables (no surprise here!), as well as a starchy food (potato, bread, cereals, crackers, etc.), which contributes to the feeling of satiety and provides energy.

With harvest season in full swing, make room for local products such as cherry tomatoes, beans, radish, rhubarb, broccoli, cauliflower, alfalfa sprouts, sweet corn, berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, haskaps, and ground cherries), and melon. And don’t forget to add some fresh herbs (think parsley, basil, and chives), which add a touch of flavour and beauty to each bite.

To reward your future footballers or actors, also remember to slip a small treat into their lunch, such as a caramel dip to accompany apples, a banana muffin, or some candy. After all, it’s vacation time for them too!

For a meal that’s as balanced

… as it is delicious!

If you’re pressed for time, keep the presentation simple. However, if you have a few extra minutes to spare, let your imagination run wild! For example, you could arrange all the items in a certain order to create a fun effect, use cookie cutters to chop cucumbers and melon into original shapes, or even create funny faces with your ingredients.

If your Bento box has large compartments and you want to place more than one item per section, use dividers, such as reusable silicone cups in various colours; this way, you can easily separate popcorn from crackers, nuts, seeds, and so on. By filling in as much of the Bento box as possible, you’ll make your presentation attractive and fun for the kids.

The “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” Bento

A lunch ready in under 5 minutes? Yes, it’s possible! Leftover tuna pasta salad, pizza, cooked chicken, egg salad sandwich, or sliced deli meat are all great lunch options, especially when served with cheese, a bed of crisp lettuce, crudités and dip, bread, and fruit.

For more refined palates, place some northern shrimp on a small portion of white rice, and drizzle with a dash of soy sauce. With slices of avocado or grated carrot mixed with a hint of seasoned rice vinegar and sugar, it’s sure to be a hit.

The “veggie special” Bento

Have some leftover beet salad from last night’s tofu skewer dinner? Make a lunch of it (along with a few cubes of tofu, of course)! Another great vegetarian option is chickpea salad topped with fresh herbs, or a black bean Mexican rice. Fill the remaining Bento compartments with thin crepes stuffed and rolled with fruit, a nut butter and jelly sandwich, smoked almonds, hummus and pita bread, olives, vegan yogurt topped with chocolate chips, etc.

The “succulent skewers” Bento

In celebration of summer, fill your child’s Bento box with a selection of mini skewers. For a savoury treat, skewer cubed cheese (medium cheddar, gruyere, or other), a piece of smoked salmon, lemon, and an olive or artichoke heart. Or how about cheese, dried sausage, and mini pickles? Another classic trio is mozzarella, cherry tomato, and fresh basil. For dessert: juicy strawberries, marshmallows, and angel food cake, drizzled with a decadent chocolate and hazelnut sauce.

Ready-to-eat options to the rescue!

For those “I slept 2 hours because the youngest is sick and I have 10 back-to-back appointments” days, the ready-to-eat options at Rachelle Béry can be true lifesavers. Oh yes! Veggie wraps, a wide variety of salads, and pre-cut fruits and vegetables mean you can put together a yummy Bento box with your eyes closed (yay, a little extra shut-eye!).