Bento: A healthy meal in a box!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Caden spends a fair bit of time in school and day care, where meals are provided at least twice a day. This is one of the reasons why we have chosen his current school as they are very particular about preparing well-balanced, healthy meals for the kids.This has also made me quite discerning with his food intake out of school. it can be pretty challenging to prepare not only healthy meals for the family, but also to ensure that they are quick to prepare without compromising on taste and quality.

Previously, when I shopped for groceries, I hardly took note of nutritional info or made a conscious effort of choosing healthier alternatives. Now that I’m a mum, I've become more discerning when choosing food items so that little Caden can get the right foods and nutrition. It also helps that my husband and I are striving for a healthier lifestyle so that we can keep up with our active 3 year old! However, it is definitely no easy feat preparing both healthy and tasty meals, given that I’m also working full-time.

So when I was approached to be one of the 5 mummy bloggers to participate in the AIA Vitality Bento-Making Challenge organised by AIA Singapore to create awareness for healthy eating, I wasn't sure I was up to the mark.

All those bento creations I’ve seen on the internet have always seemed daunting to me. They actually looked like an art piece in itself! On my first attempt, I decided to make one with a carefully shaped snowman, complete with trees and flowers made out of bread, but which only received a lacklustre response from the boy. Furthermore, it looked like nothing like those I've seen online and in books.


With the encouragement of my husband, however, I decided to give it a shot as the challenge would push me out of my comfort zone to strive towards learning how to make tasty and visually-appealing meals for my son.

Before embarking on my second attempt, I visited the AIA Vitality website for some inspiration and was pleasantly surprised to come across several expert articles on health, diet and exercise. There were also assessments that you can do to learn more about your eating habits such as the Vitality Nutrition Assessment

As an AIA Vitality member, you get to earn 750 Vitality Points for just completing it!



An article which caught my eye was on time-saving tips to make quick snacks and a healthy lunchbox, perfect for working parents like myself.


And if you are a busy parent as well, here are some tips that I took away from the article:

· You can use your leftovers from dinner such as meat and turn them into next day lunches by turning them into tortilla wraps and adding lettuce, carrots and tomatoes for a balanced meal.

· If you really can’t find the time to make lunch for your kids, remember to read the label and choose low-fat and low kilojoule foods.

· Fruit, nuts, low-fat yoghurt and vegetable sticks such as celery and carrots make for better snacks to potato chips and chocolates.

Keeping that in mind, I decided to focus on simplicity while keeping the bento wholesome. The challenging part was ensuring that the food remains tasty and will not spoil over the course of a few hours. It also cannot be too 'soupy' or have too much gravy as spillage would occur. Interestingly enough, I was surprised that after a little bit of trial and error, I found the process to be quite fun after all!

So here is what I packed for him last weekend.


As you can see, there were grapes, vegetable gyoza (because this is one of the few ways he will actually eat his vegetables), cherry tomatoes, and Oyako-don (without the bowl!) as the main. The chicken, egg and onions combination was a hit with Caden and because it was simmered in flavoured broth, the rice didn’t taste too dry.

Actually - if you're a Mum too, I think you would agree with me when I say that when your kids enjoy what you cook, it makes all the preparation and cooking all worthwhile!

For the challenge, I decided to work on the visual appeal while keeping it as flavourful and tasty as my last attempt. It was not easy given that we could only use limited amounts of seasoning to keep the bento within the 'healthy' range, but I found a way around it by concentrating on quality base ingredients, using home-made stock and herbs.

Here we are, right before the challenge. From left: Adora of The Gingerbread Mum (with Poppy, her adorable daughter!), me, Summer of A Happy Mum, Dominique of Dominique's Desk and Shermeen of Meeningfully.



We were all excited to participate, and when the challenge got under way, there was no time to even get stage fright!



Well... I did manage to squeeze in a couple of 'non-official' shots! :)


I decided to make a 'bento' which the boy would love to have on any given day, so my task on hand was to create a packed lunch which is flavourful and wholesome. It was not easy for the fact that we can only use limited seasoning to keep within the 'healthy' range, but I found a way around it by concentrating on quality base ingredients, using home-made stock and herbs.

Honestly, I wasn't expecting to win anything because the other ladies' bentos were extremely creative, so I was really taken by surprise when I bagged the 2nd prize! 


So who won the top prize for challenge, you ask? Summer from A Happy Mum did! A well-deserved win as she created a penguin and cat in her 'Korokke Bento'.

As for me, honestly speaking, I wasn't expecting to win anything because the other ladies' bentos were extremely creative, so I was really taken by surprise when I bagged home the 2nd prize! Thank you to all my family members and readers who came to show their support on that day.


So here's the simple bento I made, with Caden as my harshest critic. He did the Quality Control, and since it passed his taste test, that's good enough for me.




I made Fried Brown Basmati Rice and Lemon & Herb Poached Salmon, along with cherry tomatoes, egg omelette stars, strawberries and blueberries. Read on to see how easy it is to whip this up!

Note: All ingredients and brands mentioned are part of the HealthyFood™ range at Cold Storage)

Brown Rice Paradise

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 15 min
Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 2 Savour fresh eggs (Product ID: 55014)
  • 3 tsp Sunbeam canola oil (Product ID: 23509)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (Product ID: 74902)
  • 1 1/2 cups Wattie's frozen mixed vegetables (Product ID: 397023)
  • 2 cups Bob's Red Mill brown basmati rice, cooked in chicken stock (Product ID: 52263)
  • 2 tbs low sodium soy sauce

Method

1. Heat wok over medium high heat, and add 1 tsp of oil. 

2. Scramble beaten eggs to desired consistency and remove from heat. Set aside.

3. Using the remaining oil, stir fry the garlic on low heat till it turns a light golden brown. Turn the heat up and add the mixed vegetables. Stir fry for about 3 minutes.

4. Add rice and mix well. Season with soy sauce. Stir-fry for 3 minutes, or until thoroughly heated through. Add egg and stir to combine. 

Tip: Day old rice works best for frying. Alternatively, cook rice then refrigerate at least 3 hours prior to frying.

Lemon and Herb Poached Salmon

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min
Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 800 g salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces (Product ID: 20158)
  • 4 tbs lemon juice (Product ID: 35548)
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh parsley (Product ID: 81309)
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh dill (Product ID: 81304)
  • Salt to taste

Directions

1. Marinate Salmon using some olive oil, lemon juice, fresh parsley and fresh dill in a ziploc bag for at least an hour. I usually do this the night before so that all the flavours can be infused as much as possible.

2. Using a shallow saucepan or heavy bottomed pan, pour just enough water to cover the salmon and add lemon juice.

3. When the water boils, add the salmon and chopped herbs. You can use the ones in the marinade bag, or opt to use fresh ones.

4. Cover the pan and turn the heat down to simmer. Poach the salmon for 8 minutes, or until the salmon turns opaque.

5. Serve with fresh herbs and a sprinkling of salt.

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AIA Vitality Membership Giveaway!


Thanks to the kind people at AIA Singapore, we have 2 AIA Vitality Memberships worth $108 each to giveaway! We hope that this will be the first step to encouraging you to live well and stay healthy, and there's no better time to start than now. 

All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post with an answer to a simple question: "How many AIA Vitality assessments are there which members can do to know their health better and earn points?
and follow the rest of the options.

Hint: Visit https://www.aiavitality.com.sg/memberportal/know_your_health

This giveaway is open to all AIA Singapore policy holders, and ends on Monday, 5 May 2014, at 0000hrs.


GOOD LUCK!




Website: AIAVitality.com.sg
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AIASingapore


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Disclaimer:

This is part of a series of community awareness messages brought to you by AIA (Singapore) in collaboration with MummyMoo.

All items marked with an asterisk (*) are governed by existing Terms and Conditions as set by the respective company and / or supporting partners. Please check www.aiavitality.com.sg for further details.

All information is correct at time of print. AIA reserves all rights to discontinue or amend existing clauses without prior notice, and its sole discretion.

In no event shall I be held liable or responsible for any membership disagreements arising between AIA and any parties. Neither shall I be liable for any indirect, consequential, incidental, special or punitive damages or losses of any kind.

2 comments :

  1. Well done, Mummy Moo!! The bento looked too good!! I love the color :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haha I accidentally pressed send before finishing my comment :p I always admire mummies who take the time and effort to make bento for their kids. And I love to see beautiful art each mummy made, kinda motivate me to make too but but but.... so I will only admire on at this moment :) keep it up!!

    ReplyDelete

 

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