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Helping concentration at school through diet

Published on August 26, 2020 at 12:59 / Updated on June 7, 2022 at 13:15

Do you ever worry about your children's academic success? It can be difficult for a parent to learn that their child is having trouble concentrating which is also affecting their performance in school. How do you help them in this important stage of their life? In addition to medication or visiting the doctor, a proper, balanced diet can help. Here are some tips to help make this happen.

A good breakfast can increase concentration

Ideally, young students should have a full stomach when they begin their school day. A review of the literature published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association analyzed more than 45 studies and demonstrated the importance of eating breakfast for young people. Researchers have observed that between 12% and 34% of children and adolescents between the ages of 8 and 18 never eat breakfast, while around 59% skip it once in a while. In addition, this same study demonstrated that eating breakfast may lead to an increase in cognitive functions associated with memory, better presenteeism at school as well as better academic results. Since breakfast is an integral part of a balanced diet, parents should encourage their children to eat in the morning before going to class. To make this happen, parents can make a habit of eating breakfast with their children in the morning to make it a real family routine. A balanced breakfast should be rich in fibre, fruits and vegetables and dairy products, according to the study’s authors.

Here are some examples of balanced breakfasts:

  • Greek yogurt, frozen fruit and granola
  • Multigrain cereals, a soy beverage and fresh fruit 
  • Toast served with your choice of nut butter and a banana 

The impact of a balanced diet on school performance

A 2008 study published in the Journal of School Health examined the quality of the diet and the academic performance of 5,200 Canadian grade 5 students. The researchers used a tool called the Diet Quality Index (DQI) to assess the quality of the diet for the young people in the study. A correlation between the quality of the diet and academic performance was observed. In fact, young people with a lower DQI score had poorer academic results than those with a higher DQI score, reflecting a more balanced diet. By “balanced diet” we mean a diet richer in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dietary fibre, while being low in processed foods as well as trans and saturated fats.

There are several tips to help you adopt a healthy diet on a daily basis. Here are a few:

  • Follow the principle of the balanced meal presented in the new Canada's Food Guide.
  • Offer fruit as a snack to children (choose fruit on special to reduce costs and vary the kinds of fruit consumed each week).
  • Prepare a plate of raw vegetables served with a high protein dip like hummus, cottage cheese, light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt for an after school snack.
  • Cook at home more often and eat fewer meals out or fast food.

A balanced diet is all the more important given that it has been shown that a deficiency in certain nutrients could affect concentration as well as academic performance. In fact, researchers have observed that children who have an unbalanced diet and who suffer from an iron deficiency are at an academic disadvantage. 

Sugar, fat, and concentration

There are many benefits associated with having a balanced diet, but what about the negative effects associated with consuming too much processed foods high in sugar, fat and sodium? According to research carried out with more than 300,000 students between the ages of 12 and 18, foods, such as soft drinks, instant noodles, fast food and sweets have the effect of diminishing academic performance. However, it’s important to note that school performance decreases with frequent consumption of these foods. It’s therefore important not to worry if children eat these foods a few times a week. The inclusion of occasional treats ensures the maintenance of a balanced diet without inducing dietary restrictions.

Make eating fun for kids and teens

To ensure that children want to adopt healthy eating habits, it's important to make eating fun for them. To do so, you can integrate several good eating habits, such as:

  • Taking children to the grocery store can be a good way to introduce them to the wide variety of foods available. 
  • Take the time to choose fresh foods. 
  • Involve children in the preparation and choice of meals 

To conclude, food has an important role to play in concentration as well as success in school. Several tips, such as eating breakfast, eating a balanced diet, and making the act of eating enjoyable can help improve performance in school. Physical activity and, in some cases, medical monitoring and appropriate medication, can also help young students to concentrate in class, thereby impacting their academic performance.  

Familiprix in collaboration with Hubert Cormier


Florence, MD, Asbridge, M., & Veugelers, PJ (2008). Diet quality and academic performance. Journal of School Health, 78 (4), 209-215.

Kim, SY, Sim, S., Park, B., Kong, IG, Kim, JH, & Choi, HG (2016). Dietary habits are associated with school performance in adolescents. Medicine, 95 (12).  

Rampersaud, GC, Pereira, MA, Girard, BL, Adams, J., & Metzl, JD (2005). Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105 (5), 743-760.

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