Although the impact of diet on physical health is an important public health issue, less attention has been devoted to the relationship between nutrition and children’s mental development. The views of parents and teachers about the extent to which diet affects physical and mental development of children were compared in four European countries. An online questionnaire (developed in English and translated) was circulated through a market research agency. Participants were parents or teachers of children aged 4–10 years without learning or behavioural issues. Questionnaires were returned by 1606 parents (401 in England, Germany and Hungary; 403 in Spain) and 403 teachers (100 in each country, except for 103 in Hungary). Teachers were older than parents (35·3 % v. 18·3 % over 45 years; P<0·001) and less likely to smoke (15·9 % v. 26·3 %, P<0·001). There was no difference between the proportions of parents and teachers who felt that a child’s physical development depended very much/extremely (v. moderately/slightly/not at all) on diet (overall 79·8 %). Lower proportions of both groups thought that mental development was very much/extremely influenced by diet (67·4 %). In the regression modelling, believing that physical and mental performance was greatly influenced by diet was significantly and positively associated with living in Hungary, scoring higher on a measure of General Health Interest and (parents only) level of education attained. Differences existed among countries in most views. Lower levels of awareness of the importance of diet for brain development and cognition (compared with physical health outcomes) indicate the potential for educating consumers, especially parents with lower educational attainment.