Skip to content

The #1 Worst Food For Your Child's Brain, Says Study

This food can have a negative impact on your child's development.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

Making the right food choices for your children can be difficult, especially if you're not sure what is healthy or unhealthy for their development.

This can be especially intimidating when you think about the importance of their developmental stages and the role that diet can play in these periods of growth, not only with physical development but mental and behavioral as well.

According to a 2020 report published in The Lancet: Child & Adolescent Health, the absolute worst type of food for your child's brain is junk food.

Continue reading to learn more about the report's findings, and for more healthy eating tips, make sure to check out 68 "Healthy" Foods That Are Terrible For You.

The nature of the report

Human brain on a dark blue background

Three brain and nutrition researchers from Western University in London, Ontario reviewed over 100 different studies for this report. The studies, which included some of the researchers' own previous work, investigated how poor diet choices can affect children and the adolescent brain.

What they discovered

Luckybar is for kids of all ages held by two preteen girls on swingset
Kristin Forbes

The report found that children and teens consume extremely large amounts of calorie-dense junk food, which negatively impacts their brain development.

This is largely because the adolescent brain is still developing its pre-frontal cortex, the part of your brain that is responsible for memory, attention, and impulse control.

According to the study, junk food's effect on a developing pre-frontal cortex can negatively impact your child's ability to "self-regulate" their food choices.

How too much junk food can impact your child's brain and future

Young girl looking bored while playing at a school desk.

This report also emphasizes that because of the way junk food might impair a child's ability to control their eating, higher consumption of this food is known to lead to unhealthier eating choices into adulthood, which may contribute to obesity later on.

Not only can it have consequences on impulse control, but a separate cohort study from Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology found that poor diet quality in adolescents was also linked to higher instances of depression.

And a new study from the University of Georgia found that added sugar in childhood may possibly lead to memory impairment in adulthood. However, this study was performed on mice, so more research still needs to be done.

Healthy foods for your child's brain

child holding strawberry

So with all of this information, how can you make the necessary changes to your child's diet to ensure their brains are in good hands?

A review from 2017 states that a healthy diet for a child's development includes plenty of nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates (not refined carbs), healthy fats, iron, vitamins A, C, and D, and B vitamins.

Medical News Today suggests foods such as leafy greens, Greek yogurt, fatty fish, and eggs as a part of a healthy diet for your child's brain.

Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha