Balanced Nutrition for Focused Kids

By Teresa Wagner, RD, LD
September 19, 2017

students_school_classroom.jpgA fresh, new school year is upon us. We’re starting with a clean slate and making goals so this school year a success. You might be thinking about how to curb the amount of chaos in the mornings and evenings, ensure permission slips and homework don’t go missing, manage car pool schedules and the list can go on and on. One more goal we hope makes that (ever-growing!) list is to provide meals to help children have the best school year yet. We’ve all heard “You are what you eat.” and that couldn’t be more true, especially in your kiddos’ growing brains.

Who wouldn’t wish for their children to focus with more ease and soak up every opportunity presented to them every time they walk through the school doors each morning? But what does “proper nutrition” mean? Good question.    

Basically we mean the three nutrition powerhouses, listed below. They work together to make brain power a reality.

  • Protein (P) – The brain chemical dopamine is needed for focus and controlling attention, but it’s often disrupted by sugar and brain-altering chemicals found in typical breakfasts of cereal, waffles or a granola bar grabbed on the way to the bus. Protein is the building block for all brain chemicals, so it’s a crucial part of a focused brain.
  • Fat (F) – Our brains are 70% fat, which means we need a constant flow of healthy fats to think well. Fats help improve brain cell communication, focus, and memory. Plus, fat keeps us full which will help keep kiddos going until the last school bell rings.
  • Carbs (C) – Good carbs, such as carrots and green beans support a balanced blood sugar, which supplies the brain with sufficient glucose or sugar to function well. Children need good carbs for energy, focus and well-being.

Sample Menu for a Focused School Day

You can mix and match whatever you like from each category, find tons of recipes here to do just that. But if that’s overwhelming, as it often can be, we created a sample menu for a day of kid-approved foods designed to give your family the best school year yet.


Organic eggs scrambled (P) in butter (F) with a side of fresh, colorful fruit (C) and a slice of toast (C).

Kids say they’re not hungry for breakfast or short on time?  Try this protein shake recipe (P, F, C). It contains all the right nutrients in the right amounts to get their school day off to a great start.


Chicken Salad (P, F, C) with sides of kiwi (C), dry roasted pumpkin seeds (F), slices of red pepper and carrot sticks (C) and whole-grain crackers (C) with peanut butter (F).


Beef Stir-fry (P,F, C) served over ½ cup rice or quinoa (C).

All children need healthy food to fuel their body and brain. What they eat provides the nutrients needed to fuel the chemistry of life and how well their bodies function.

Remember the protein, fat, carb combo to make this school year the best for your child!

For more resources on children’s nutrition check out these pages:

About the author

Teresa is a licensed dietitian at Nutritional Weight & Wellness. As a mother of three children and avid runner, Teresa knows that good nutrition is essential for energy and well-being. She also sees first-hand the impact food choices have on her children’s behavior, moods and happiness. Teresa is a registered and licensed dietitian through the Minnesota Board of Nutrition and Dietetics. She received her B.S. in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and completed her dietetic internship at Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. She worked as a clinical dietitian for the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.

View all posts by Teresa Wagner, RD, LD

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