How Breakfast Influences Classroom Concentration

How Breakfast Influences Classroom Concentration

Living with a teenager can be challenging, especially when it comes to getting to school on time. You wake up extra early to make sure that your teen is up and about and ready for school. But you have come to realise that a smooth morning routine is a pipe dream.

The reality is you have to constantly nag your moody adolescent to wake up and get out of bed. And then they spend forever in the bathroom, before wandering into the kitchen, one shoe on and tie dangling at an angle around his neck. If you’re lucky there is time to grab a slice of toast and jam on the way out the door. But there is a good chance he will run to the car in a panic and forget about breakfast altogether.

This is never a good way to start the day. But when it comes to school and needing to concentrate, it is a recipe for disaster. By the time your child sits down at his desk, and the adrenalin rush of the school run has died down, his blood sugar levels have dipped. He has no energy to keep himself upright, never mind to engage his brain and concentrate.

He fidgets and squirms. He spends half the lesson watching the birds in the trees outside. The teacher is constantly having to call him back to task. Your child hates school. It is boring, It is hard. And he just can’t concentrate on anything.



Research continues to tell us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The benefits of eating breakfast are widespread. Everything from overall quality of diet, to health, and cognitive and academic performance is affected by what you eat – or don’t eat – for breakfast1.

The HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) study, found that fifty percent of teens skip breakfast. Less than half of them eat as much fruit and vegetables as they should and less than two thirds meet their requirements for dairy foods2.

Studies have shown that a breakfast that provides your teen with both sustained energy release and nutrients has a beneficial effect on concentration and the ability to perform tasks in the classroom. When your breakfast contains low GI carbohydrates, protein and micronutrients, your blood sugar levels remain fairly stable. This has been linked to improved concentration in the classroom1.

Conversely, a breakfast based on white toast and strawberry jam, or refined, sugary breakfast cereals causes a rapid spike in blood sugar levels and then an equally rapid drop1. A low blood sugar can make paying attention to even the smallest task difficult.



Breakfast is an opportunity to provide energy and nutrients for your body to use during your early morning routine.

What should you give your teen for breakfast to make sure he gets the most out of his time in the classroom? Use these guidelines to get him on the path to a healthy breakfast.

  1. Start with a fruit. A serving of fruit offers energy and fibre as well as vitamins, minerals and micronutrients.
  2. Ensure a sustained release of energy with a low GI carbohydrate. It could be oats porridge or whole grain bread. Low GI carbohydrates keep blood sugar levels stable, preventing a rapid spike and drop in blood sugar levels.
  3. Include some healthy fats. These can be found in avocados, nuts and seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are critical to brain development and have been shown to be beneficial to improve concentration in children with ADHD3.
  4. Don’t forget the protein from foods like eggs, cheese, milk and yogurt. It helps to slow down the release of sugar from your breakfast, further enhancing the sustained release of energy which is useful for sustained concentration. Over and above that, protein provides the body with amino acids such as Tyrosine, Tryptophan and Phenylalanine. They help to support the nervous system and support mood, learning and concentration.



Now you know what needs to be included in your teenager’s breakfast to overcome concentration difficulties in the classroom. It might look like you need to wake up at 4am just to make sure you get breakfast on the table before the frantic run to the car. And no one has that amount of time or is willing to sacrifice that much sleep to make it happen. Here are some tips to make it easier for you:

  • Have a plan. Write down just three to five breakfast meals that you know your teen will gladly eat – with healthy ingredients of course!
  • Make a shopping list of all the ingredients you need to make it happen.
  • Make sure these foods are always available in your kitchen.
  • Wherever you can, plan ahead. If your child enjoys fruit salad, make a big bowl that will last two to three days. If they enjoy overnight oats, get into the habit of preparing it and putting it in the fridge when you cook supper.
  • Even better, get your teen involved in the prep work. It is never too early to get your children involved in the kitchen.
  • Keep a stock of low GI breakfast cereals for those days you just don’t have time.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of peanut butter on low GI toast with a sliced banana.
  • When all else fails, keep a balanced meal replacement shake handy. It is a useful tool to keep in the breakfast cupboard to make sure that your teen is able to concentrate at school.


The link between breakfast and class-room concentration article


Encouraging your teen to eat a healthy balanced breakfast will set him up for a more successful day in the classroom. If he is a habitual over-sleeper or will only eat sugary, processed breakfast cereals, you may want to consider some of the healthier and balanced breakfast recipes on our recipe page.

Give your child a concentration headstart with a healthy, balanced breakfast.



  1. Adolphus K, Lawton C, Champ C, Dye L. The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. Advances in Nutrition. 2016;7(3):590S-612S. (PubMed)
  2. Moreno L, Gottrand F, Huybrechts I, Ruiz J, González-Gross M, DeHenauw S. Nutrition and Lifestyle in European Adolescents: The HELENA (Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence) Study. Advances in Nutrition. 2014;5(5):615S-623S. (PubMed)
  3. Chang J, Su K, Mondelli V, Pariante C. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Youths with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials and Biological Studies. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017;43(3):534-545. (PubMed)
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