Brain Food: How Nutrition Can Help Your Child on Test Day

Every spring, our kids take standardized tests to gauge how they (and the school) are doing academically – and it can be a really stressful time. One of the best ways to prepare for testing time and help alleviate that anxiety? The right nutrition!

Studies show:

  • 5th graders who ate a less nutritious diet performed worse on a standardized writing assessment.1
  • Students who ate more fast food did worse on math and reading scores.2
  • Students who ate healthy, fresh-prepared meals scored high on English and science tests!3

Poor nutrition also affects everyday school performance. Students with poor diets experience more illnesses, headaches and stomachaches – which leads to absences or problems concentrating. But access to healthy meals has been proven to increase concentration and energy levels, which helps our kids be more prepared when it’s time for standardized testing.

3 Guidelines for Choosing Brain Food

You can help your kids fuel their brains for testing – and practice healthy habits for a lifetime – with these three rules of thumb:


1. Belot, M., & James, J. (2009). Healthy school meals and educational outcomes. Journal of Health Economics, 30(3), 489­504.
2. Florence, M. D., Asbridge, M., & Veugelers, P. J. (2008). Diet quality and academic performance. Journal of School Health, 78(4), 209­215.
3. Li, J., & O’Connell, A. A. (2012). Obesity, high­calorie food intake, and academic achievement trends among U.S. school children. The Journal of Educational Research, 105(6), 391­403.
By Amanda Ford, MS, RDN, LD

Amanda is a registered dietitian nutritionist who loves teaching others about the relationship between nutrition and health. Amanda has developed and lead numerous classes and seminars on nutrition and disease prevention. When she is not working, Amanda loves to spend time with her young daughter, her husband and her bulldog. Learn more about Amanda. 

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