Research on whether nutrition affects school performance is growing. Is it true that good food means good grades?
Nutritious food is necessary for good grades, and school meals can provide this.
Nutrition has been shown to affect school performance in a few different ways:
- improved concentration;
- improved attendance; and
- improved grades.
Ultimately, all these things need to happen for a child to get good grades, supported by a strong curriculum, good teachers, and access to educational equipment.
Evidence shows that better nutrition results in better attendance and poorer nutrition will cause poorer behaviour. The best chance a child has at increased academic performance is to have regular, healthy food.
Other factors also affect grades like socio-economic background, class size, and parents’ level of education. But even when accounting for these other influences, studies still found nutrition plays a significant role in school achievement.
One study in Iceland found that maths and foreign language achievement suffered the most from poor nutrition.
The brain is still developing right through to adolescence.
The critical stages of brain development occur early in life and nutrition plays a vital role in the brain’s development.
The quality of an infant’s diet will affect their level of intelligence in later life. In a nutshell, the better their diet is now, the higher their grades will be later.
Up to the age of eight, many health factors (such as chance of disease) are determined depending on the child’s nutrition and exposure to infections. Vitamin D and iron are particularly important.
During their teenage years, their brain starts to develop higher cognitive functions like abstract thinking, deductive reasoning and problem solving. All these processes demand high levels of nutrients.
Skipping breakfast is a bad idea! Starting the school day well-fed and nourished helps teenagers to keep up with the academic demands of secondary school. Nutritional deficiency has been shown to directly impact brain function.
Schools are helping to improve children’s nutrition
All schools must adhere to nutrient-based standards and many schools have banned parents from putting fast-foods or high-sugar snacks into packed lunches.
Research has shown that healthy school dinners directly improve school performance. Kicking off the day with a good breakfast, and not experiencing that mid-afternoon tummy rumble, encourages more positive behaviours at school and participation in classrooms.
Schools provide children with healthy food at lunchtime, but also during extended day care like breakfast clubs. These are great times to ensure children receive the nutrients they need during their school day.
One of the main ways that schools can influence nutritional status is through breakfast clubs. Studies have shown that breakfast consumption improves memory, test grades and attendance.
Did you know 1 in 7 UK schoolchildren do not eat breakfast? A third of those, then do not eat or drink anything until lunchtime.
Breakfast clubs are actively combatting child hunger in the UK. They ensure children most at risk are given the same opportunities to achieve better school grades.
Fact: If a child arrived at school hungry once a week, they could end up losing over eight weeks of learning time across their entire period at primary school. This is another reason that good food means good grades.
School lunches provide up to a third of children’s daily energy and micronutrient intake, playing a big role in deciding the child’s overall diet.
Children who consume school lunches get most of their energy from carbohydrates, proteins, vitamin C and folate – all nutrients we would want a growing child to get plenty of.
Compared to those with packed lunches, who have a higher percentage of energy derived from fat and saturated fat.
Fat and saturated fat are needed, but too much can cause complications. Studies have shown that high fat diets are likely to be low in other nutrients. This nutrient imbalance can be harmful to certain processes, like brain development.
Healthy school meals in the UK significantly improve the children’s overall diet and may contribute to tackling childhood obesity.
Receiving a nutrient-dense, hot meal that children eat with friends during lunch is an important part of their school day.