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Blood sugar spikes and concentration: a nutritionist’s perspective

While the brain accounts for only about two percent of the average body mass, it can use a whopping 30 to 60 percent of the incoming blood glucose from any meal.

School days have little brains working overtime, and they need a constant supply of blood glucose to fuel it.  

Teaching is also far easier without students suffering from sugar highs and sugar lows. Emotional outbursts and temper tantrums are far less likely to occur, once blood sugar levels are addressed.  

The solution is surprisingly simple. To keep a child’s blood sugar level stable, ensure a little bit of protein is consumed at every meal. The protein acts like an anchor on the meal and ensures that the energy from the meal is released slowly and steadily.

Sending out a reminder to parents can encourage the practice of sending children to school with balanced blood sugar, and the school can help prevent blood sugar fluctuations by fleshing out that healthy eating section of the canteen full of fruit with some protein.

Education about balancing meals is also useful, and provides the flow-on effect of better behaviour and improved concentration in the classroom. 

Teenagers, who are under considerable academic pressure, are particularly susceptible to emotional outbursts and brain fog, so it is well worth endeavouring to influence teenage snack habits.

If they can’t buy it on campus, they are much less likely to eat empty carbohydrates and sugary snacks at school.

Protein-rich canteen ideas:

Chocolate Brownies: It looks like a chocolate brownie, it tastes like a brownie, but it has kidney beans, dates and eggs in it…wonderful nutrients, lots of protein and no sugar highs or succeeding lows!

Chocolate brownie
Looks and tastes like a chocolate brownie but it packs a protein punch


  • 2 cups cooked kidney beans, tinned beans work too.
  • 20 medjool dates, pitted
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 extra-large eggs or four normal eggs


  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Generously grease 8″ by 8″ baking pan.
  • In a food processor, place dates, 2 cups of beans and oil or butter and puree until smooth.
  • Add baking soda, vanilla, and cocoa powder and puree until completely smooth. Allow food processor to blend for 3 to 5 minutes without stopping.
  • Add eggs and blend well.
  • Pour batter into greased baking pan. Bake until slightly firm on top and edges pull away from the sides of the pan for 30 – 40 minutes.
Hummus with crudités: carrot sticks, celery, sugar snap peas.

Spinach, Feta and Brown Rice Slice

This incredibly easy recipe is great either hot or cold.   It ticks so many nutrition boxes and best of all is really tasty.


400g of frozen spinach – thawed or 2 bunches of English spinach, stalks cut off, washed and placed in a strainer. (Pour boiling water over to wilt, squeeze out most of excess water when cooled to touch and then chop finely)

Just under a cup of cooked medium grain brown rice

1 heaped cup of diced feta

3 eggs

¼ tsp of nutmeg

Black pepper


Combine all ingredients. Put into a greased ceramic baking dish. Cook at 190 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes or until golden on top.

These recipes all contain good amounts of protein and will break down with a steady supply of fuel.

Creating a culture of positive eating, balance and nourishment can have enormous rewards, both inside the classroom and in the playground.

Kate Cowley

Kate Cowley is a qualified nutritionist and is passionate about children's health and wellbeing. She is the founder of School Lunch Online.

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