Can Your Child’s Diet Help Them Pay Attention in School?

Diet influences children’s academic performance more than parents think. Researchers have witnessed food’s ability to make or break success in educational settings, which is why they caution parents against providing excessively sugary and fatty meals.

Thankfully, burgers and fries aren’t the only kid-friendly options out there. Children respond extremely well to healthy yet tasty snacks, and so do their brains. Here’s how your child’s diet can help—or hamper—their attention span (and possibly their performance) in school.

Too much sugar leads to energy crashes

Simple sugars from candy bars and white bread might appear to provide an energy boost at first. But when your child gets a sugar high, you know what comes next—a crash. A diet that’s packed with too much sugar can lead to low energy levels and inhibit your child’s ability to focus during class.

Of course, some glucose is good for you. Glucose is what the body and brain use for energy, and complex carbohydrates help sustain energy levels throughout the day. However, the body gets overwhelmed when there’s too much sugar to process—especially when children eat foods filled with simple sugars, which are easily broken down. The body produces a lot of insulin immediately to process it, which rapidly decreases blood glucose and causes a crash. This ultimately results in low energy and a lack of focus.

Empty calories deprive kids of nutrients

Sadly, a lot of children’s snacks are filled with “empty calories,” meaning they contain calories but don’t provide much in terms of nutritional value. If your child is filling up on empty calorie snacks, they’re probably not getting the right mix of vitamins and minerals their brains need to function.

Deficiencies in vitamin B, vitamin D, magnesium, iron and antioxidants can contribute to attention span challenges and brain fog, which inhibit your child’s ability to learn.

A balanced diet can help students find success


Healthy meals aren’t just good for the body—they help your children achieve their fullest potential in an academic setting. Complex carbohydrates derived from fruits and vegetables boost energy levels without leading to that dreaded sugar crash. Raw foods containing fiber are a lot more effective at keeping your kid full in the middle of class than empty calories are. And, nutrient-rich foods ensure your child is getting the proper mix of vitamins and minerals that keep their memories, attention spans and creativity at peak performance.

It’s a good idea to feed your child a healthy, balanced breakfast before they head to school. Fiber and complex carbohydrate-rich foods ensure that your child has enough energy to get them to lunchtime, and sides of fruits and vegetables give them an infusion of vitamins and minerals.

Sending your child with healthy lunches and snacks will ensure they stave off that afternoon slump, as well. Some of the most important nutrients for children’s school day meals include:

  • Lean proteins: Swap that cheeseburger for healthier proteins such as peanut butter and fish. These options are low in saturated fats and provide your child with a more sustainable source of energy. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for improving brain performance and reducing inflammation. Whip up a quick PB&J on whole-grain bread or add the peanut butter to a snack pack with carrots and celery. Fish like salmon and tuna are easily built into lunches or dinner recipes for when the kids come home from school.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium promotes the ability to process information and helps children remain attentive during class. One easy way to incorporate magnesium is by adding a banana to your child’s lunch box. Spinach is also chock-full of magnesium, which you can hide in fruit smoothies and their favorite hot meals.
  • B vitamins: A long list of B vitamins are essential not only for concentrating on the teacher but remembering facts for future tests. Researchers have discovered that B vitamins encourage neurotransmitters to fire off signals and communicate with one another, which helps your child stay focused on the task at hand. Kickstart the school day with a good source of B vitamins like oatmeal and whole-grain cereals. Just be sure to stay away from the sugary kind!

What children put into their bodies matters a great deal. Parents should never underestimate the vital role nutrition plays in helping their kids succeed, both in and outside of school. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins build a strong foundation that will help your child achieve good grades and become the best learners they can possibly be.

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