Effect of Nutrition on Kids' Behavior

If you think your kids are a little more hyperactive than usual after a few cookies, you’re right. Your kids’ moods and behaviors are affected by their diet and nutrition, for the good and for the bad. While a healthy diet isn’t a magic potion for well-behaved children who use inside voices and polite manners, a good diet can help your kids’ behavior in other ways, such as their ability to learn and create. Similarly, a poor diet can have lasting negative effects on your child’s behavior.

Behavioral Interactions

According to David E. Barrett, a Harvard Medical School psychologist, a healthy diet has lasting effects on a child’s ability to interact with other children and adults. A child who eats a diet full of nutritious foods is more likely to behave well when interacting with others. A child whose diet is lacking good nutrition is more likely to misbehave when he interacts with others. Children who eat a healthy diet are more helpful, more engaged and more involved with other children, whereas those with poor nutrition are prone to disinterest and withdrawn behavior.


When your child’s blood sugar levels drop, she can go from being a happy, easy child to a moody mess. According to the Mayo Clinic, when your child eats plenty of complex carbohydrates, such as breads with whole grains and other whole grain snacks, her mood improves 1. This is because complex carbs raise serotonin levels in the brain, producing a feeling of overall goodness in the body. If your child is behaving like a crabby little monster, make him a sandwich or toast on whole grain bread and watch his mood improve.

School Performance

According to a 2002 study performed by the Food and Nutrition Information Center and documented in the National Agricultural Library studying Taiwan elementary school kids, an unhealthy diet leads to poor school performance and behavior. Not only do children with poor nutrition receive worse grades as a whole, they are less likely to abide by the rules and regulations that schools require. The foods these children ate include sweets, fried foods and other unhealthy options rather than a diet rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients found in fruits, vegetables and proteins.

Environmental vs. Nutritional Outcomes

Dr. David E. Barrett, M.D., states that while nutrition does play a role in the behavioral patterns of children, environmental factors play a role as well. A child who eats a poor diet is not necessarily going to be an anti-social child who does not play well with others. His environment and the way he is raised helps determine his social status throughout his life. However, certain aspects of his behavior will be influenced by his diet, such as his moods and his concentration levels.