Some Japanese parents have turned packing their kids' lunch boxes into an art form.
Single-portion boxed lunches known as Bento have been part of Japanese cuisine for centuries, but now moms are taking the meals to the next level by fashioning rice, fish and other foods into animals, pop culture icons and even portraits.
Now when kids open their boxes, they're finding food arrangements resembling Barack Obama, Michael Jackson, Hello Kitty or the popular Japanese cartoon Totoro, according to the BBC.
Some Japanese mothers even take classes to learn how to prepare intricate bento designs for their kids.
"We have this idea of presentation -- how it looks and precisions -- and so I think that's part of this culture," Yayoi Uemura, a mother in a bento-making class, told the BBC.
But it's not all art for art's sake. According to some parents, the playful arrangements also encourage picky eaters to eat foods they'd otherwise turn away.
"If [my daughter's] boiled egg is shaped like a bunny, and it is holding a baby carrot, she'll eat it," Sheri Chen told The New York Times.
The use of bento boxes has spread beyond Japan and into restaurants and households abroad. The divisions inside the box allow foods to be grouped together in a visually appealing manner, emphasizing portion control, and the creative designs just help the matter.
"Food presented attractively looks more appetizing, since we eat with our eyes as much as our taste buds and stomachs," Makiko Itoh, food blogger and Japan native, told The New York Times.
"Sneaky Chef" author and HuffPost blogger Missy Chase Lapine is also a big proponent of working healthy foods into kid-friendly meals through simple substitutions. She writes:
I'm known for hiding healthy foods in everyone's favorite meals -- and one of my key "methods of disguise" is simply adding puréed vegetables to traditional comfort foods. Research now validates this method as a way to cut calories and increase vegetable intake for kids and adults alike.
Watch the BBC's full report on bento box creations in the video above. Click here for pictures of other amazing bento designs.
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