How to make your own healthful Lunchable-style lunches

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- When it comes to school lunches, it can be tough to find a balance between what's healthful and what your kids want and will eat.

Registered dietitian Michelle Dudash, author of “Clean Eating for Busy Families,” has been there.

"I was packing healthy lunches and my daughter was really getting sick of what I was packing," she said with a laugh. "I asked her, 'Well, what do you want in your lunch?' and she said, 'I want Lunchables.' ... I was surprised."

Lunchables are popular with kids, but while convenient, they might not be the most healthful option. They can be high in saturated fat and sodium and often contain sugary drinks.

Dudash found a happy medium by making her own version -- a healthier version -- of Lunchables.

She put together a series of healthful bento boxes. There are all kinds of bento-style boxes out there, but Dudash likes EasyLunchboxes.

"This is a popular take on many of those lunches you see in grocery stores," she explained.

Dudash came up with a make-your-own pizza box and a deli box, among others.

By putting them together herself, she can pick and choose exactly what goes into them.

She always includes a fruit or veggie; opts for whole grain breads and crackers; chooses lower sodium, less processed meats; and selects better-for-you sweet treats with more whole grains and dried fruit and less refined sugar. Also, she replaces traditional ranch dip with Greek yogurt ranch dip or even hummus.