School Lunches During COVID

By Maggie Ney, ND

The first week of school is over and it seems that almost every minute of my day has been spent in the kitchen.  With two of my kids operating on completely different schedules, and my youngest spending most of her time grazing rather than eating formal meals (sigh), I am finding I have very little time to do anything except prepare meals and snacks and clean up the mess. Does anyone else feel like lunch just comes too soon after breakfast when you’re home all day?  With so many kids starting the new school year learning from home, I was not planning on doing an article on packing lunches this year.  But just one week in, I am working harder than ever to get my girls ready for the day and I am realizing that what I have been doing is completely unsustainable.  For the sake of my sanity and for my children’s health and happiness, I need a better system. 

So, starting Monday, I am going to pack my kids a lunch and snacks in the morning.  They can grab it and go when they need it, and I will be more present to chat and play throughout the day.  And one advantage of these otherwise unfortunate times is that this does not necessarily need to be done before their 8:30 AM start time. I can focus on our morning routine and then get their lunches and snacks ready to go after everyone is settled into their first morning sessions.  The trick, of course – just like any other school year – will be to keep things interesting.

In general, I like to follow the basic principle of packing a protein, vegetable, fruit, and something fun.

Whether you want to pack a lunch in the AM or just need some new lunch ideas – see my list below for some inspiration.


  • Hummus with cucumber, carrots, celery, olives and pita
  • Tortilla with hummus cut into triangles
  • Tortilla with almond butter and jelly, cut into triangles
  • Tortilla with mashed pinto beans, salsa and avocado
  • Smoked salmon with crackers on the side
  • Grilled or baked chicken slices
  • Turkey slices
  • Black beans with organic, non-GMO corn chips
  • Tofu slices sautéed in sesame oil and tamari
  • Sautéed Tempeh slices
  • Almond butter and apple slices (squeeze a little lemon juice on the apples to keep them from turning brown)
  • Organic yogurt with a side of granola, hemp seeds and cut up fruit
  • Salad with dressing on the side: romaine lettuce, garbanzo beans (or lentils or black beans), cucumber, carrots, Kalamata olives
  • Pasta with garbanzo beans, olive oil (or butter) and garlic
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Sprouted toast with almond butter and organic jam
  • Sprouted toast with Sunflower seed butter and sliced bananas
  • Turkey and Avocado Sandwich
  • Sprouted toast with almond butter and a small amount of Nutella (consider the Justine’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter)


  • Cucumber slices (I sprinkle a little Himalayan sea salt or “everything but the bagel” seasoning on top)
  • Celery sticks
  • Carrot sticks
  • Roasted carrots, potatoes and/or Brussel sprouts
  • Steamed beets
  • Baked sweet potato
  • Snap peas
  • Nori
  • Steam or raw green beans

Seasonal Fruit

  • Apples with lemon juice squeezed on top (to keep them from browning)
  • Peaches
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Plum
  • Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon slices
  • Pineapple cubes
  • Orange
  • Kiwi slices
  • Melon slices
  • Strawberries
  • Pear
  • Persimmon slices
  • Nectarine slices

Something Fun (optional):

  • Chocolate covered goji berries
  • Chocolate covered almonds
  • Non-GMO corn chips, rice chips or veggie chips
  • Trail mix with a few pieces of dark chocolate
  • Homemade granola bars – lots of healthy recipes available with just nuts, dates and nut or seed butter.
  • Pretzels (to dip into the hummus or seed/nut butter)
  • Steamed apples
  • Apple sauce
  • Seaweed

Finally, even if your kiddos are learning from home, add a surprise like a short poem, picture, affirmation, flower, or a joke. Small gestures that remind your kids how much they are loved and to keep things a little exciting. Making meals is the perfect way to positively influence what our kids are putting in their bodies and to add a few surprises to their days.  And, I hope it adds more balance to your day by giving you some time away from the kitchen. 

Dr. Maggie Ney is a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor and co-director of the Women’s Clinic at Akasha. To schedule an appointment with her call 310-451-8880 or email