So what should a healthy platter constitute for your child with ADHD? Please note that this article details some essential guidelines around ADHD diet for kids. If your child also has Autism, you might prefer to check out our guidelines around Gluten Free (GFCF) Diet for Autism instead.

A Healthy ADHD Diet Plan for your Kid

ADHD-Diet-Plan-for-Children

Parenting a child with ADHD could be overwhelming. A bulk of time goes into making endless trips to the clinic, fanatically looking for the right ADHD medications, and consulting school teachers and caregivers about your child’s improvement. And in between all these you also have to fit in your day job, usual chores, family and friends. Phew! In this rush, you possibly have forgotten to pay close attention to your child’s diet for ADHD.

Yes, a majority of parents, whose children suffer from the neurological disorder, find it difficult to ensure a healthy diet to their children. This is partly because they don’t know how to go about it; where to start and how to differentiate between authentic and deceptive food products. More importantly, they don’t even know that some foods could worsen their child’s condition.

Today’s article will provide you with some valuable guidelines on how to ensure a right ADHD diet for your child. Remember, a balanced diet is every bit as important as a right medication that your child needs.

Ensuring a healthy diet for your child with ADHD symptoms

If you have a child with attention deficit disorder then you’ll definitely find the following guidelines extremely practical. These guidelines will come in handy to anyone who prefers a healthy lifestyle.

Let’s begin by refreshing our high school biology.

Understanding what their body needs

Our body needs a lot of macronutrients, such as protein, fat and carbohydrates (carbs), along with micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. A healthy platter must constitute a mishmash of the following nutrients.

Proteins

Protein are used for creating enzymes, hormones and other important body chemicals. It is also used in building bones, cartilage, skin, tissues, muscles and blood. Protein comes from any kind of meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. But if your family prefer vegetables then you can depend on beans, peas, broccoli, and even on nuts and grains like oat, millet, wheat and quinoa, to name a few.

Protein consumption would depend on the person’s age and body mass. But for guidance, if your child weighs between 80 pounds to 100 pounds then he or she needs around 1.5 to 2 ounces of protein each day. For an accurate figure, contact your nutritionist.

Important Sources of protein for ADHD Children
Important Sources of protein

But if your family prefer vegetables then you can depend on beans, peas, broccoli, and even on nuts and grains like oat, millet, wheat and quinoa, to name a few. Protein consumption would depend on the person’s age and body mass. But for guidance, if your child weighs between 80 pounds to 100 pounds then he or she needs around 1.5 to 2 ounces of protein each day. For an accurate figure, contact your nutritionist.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates Provide energy for physical activities, brain functioning and operations of other organs. Choose carbohydrates that are rich in fiber as well as low on the glycemic index (GI). Consuming low-GI carbs, like oatmeal, pear, bran, will keep blood sugar level in check and will provide an uninterrupted supply of energy crucial for child’s brain functioning.

Essential Carbs diet for ADHD children
Essential Carbs for body

Add peanuts or walnuts to your child’s breakfast or snack. It’s a good way to add healthy carbs to his or her diet. You can also make salads with carrots, lettuce and tomatoes if you wish to include some carbs in their meal. Eggplant, peppers, lentils, peas, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, milk, and apples are other good source of carbs which are easily available.

Fats

Fats are important too, like Triglycerides, cholesterol and other essential fatty acids. Their main function is to protect our main organs by providing insulation and storing energy. Vitamins A, D, E and K are stored in fatty tissues and liver. Learn to differentiate between bad fats and good fats. A mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is healthy and good for your family members with or without ADHD. Olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts, peanut butter, and fishes like salmon and tuna are good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Choose carefully between Good Fat Vs Bad Fat
Choose carefully between Good Fat Vs Bad Fat. Download Infographic

Among all other fats, omega 3-fatty acid (found in fish) is of utmost importance for your child’s brain functioning. Many doctors use omega 3 fish oil supplements to treat children with ADHD. A study showed a 40 to 50 per cent progress in behavior of ADHD children who were administered omega 3 fish oil for 30 weeks as against a 30 to 40 percent improvement in those who took fish oil for 15 weeks. Therefore, make sure that you include seafood like tuna or salmon in their lunch or dinner (maybe a tuna sandwich). Also don’t shy away from saturated fats completely. Consumption of saturated fats in a controlled fashion will benefit for your child.

Micronutrients

These encourage your child to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. There is no alternative to fruits and green vegetables which are rich in minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients. Study shows that many children with ADHD have lower level of antioxidant in their body.

micronutrients
Micronutrients – An essential diet component for Children with ADHD. Download Infographic

Micronutrients such as vitamins play defining roles in immune system functioning, bone formation, wound healing, digestive system, nervous system and in numerous other ways. Papaya, almond, asparagus are a few examples of vitamin-enriched food.

Calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and many other minerals are required by the body to fulfil several crucial functions and these micronutrients are available in legumes, spinach, beet greens, milk, yogurt, tomatoes and avocados to name a few.

Phytonutrients help the body to fight disease. Plant-based foods are rich source of phytonutrients, fruits like mango, guava and banana. Perhaps, it’s time to treat your children with that delicious banana split.

Always reading Ingredient Lists

While buying a product for consumption, never fail to read the ingredient list at the side or back of the product. It’s a valuable habit to read about the ingredients as this gives clues to what your child is eating. You definitely don’t want your child, who is already afflicted by ADHD, to consume foods that will worsen his or her condition.

Watch out for trans-fats or trans-fatty acid. If you read an ingredient listed as “partially hydrogenated” oil that means it contains trans fats. You must avoid these fats and encourage your family to do so as well. These are present in commercially produced French fries, chicken fries and baked goods like cakes and cookies. High-fat meat, butter, cheese, ice-cream are fairly good but they contain saturated fat that should be consumed within limited amount and with caution.

Avoiding artificial Food Dyes

Experts who have been studying ADHD warn parents about deleterious effect of artificial food coloring, flavors and preservatives on their children. Researches have shown that artificial dyes in food increases hyperactivity in children with ADHD (watch the video below).

In Europe, there is a practice of putting warning signs on food products that contains artificial colors. Again, it is important to read the ingredient list. If you see that the list mentions some sort of color or dye, then you should leave the product right there without looking back. Most of the colourful candies or colored drinks contain harmful chemical dyes. You’ll find food dyes in places you are least expecting so please be cautious and avoid them at any cost.

Less on Sugar

Researchers are not unanimous on the effect of excess sugar on ADHD children. Some old studies hinted on some sort of a connection between the two but more recent studies do not support the same. Yet, doctors advise parents to watch their child’s sugar intake. Therefore, try to avoid giving your child a sugar-kick and see to it that she gets a balanced intake of sugar and other nutrients.

Go Organic – if you can afford

Choosing organic food over non-organic ones would benefit your family in a big way. Organic vegetables, fruits and meats are developed in traditional manner without excessive pesticides and hormones. These naturally grown foods do not necessarily have higher nutrient content than non-organic foods. However, they are certainly free from harmful elements.

“A study concluded that children with “higher levels of pesticides in their urine are more likely to develop ADHD.”

There is another alternative to non-organic food. These are called Genetically Modified Foods or GMOs. However, in the absence of adequate research on the relationship between the GMOs and ADHD, it is advisable not to use these as well.

Stay Informed and Help Others do the Same

Keep yourself updated with the latest development in the field of ADHD. Read blogs, news and articles on ADHD to learn more about the neurological disorder. The more you would learn the better equipped you‘ll be to fight ADHD.

If it’s possible, write a blog or use social media to share your experience with ADHD. Your valuable experience will aid others like you to cope with their situation. Each month, take out an hour’s time to write your experience with your clinics, doctors, the treatments they provide and practically anything that you find worth sharing.

You should also maintain a journal where you can take note of calorie contents of food items. Use these notes as reference while preparing meal for your son or daughter. Maintaining a journal will save a lot of money that goes into consulting a nutritionist. There are lot of information over the internet that you could use to chart your own diet. However, if you feel uncertain then please contact the experts.

Never Underestimate the Importance of a Cheat Day!

Both you and your child need a day off. It is absolutely fine to devour a slice of cake or pizza once in a while. Being too hard on yourself and your family might backfire.  That’s why you should plan cheat days periodically and let yourself and your family enjoy some sinful meals. You might consider incorporating this in your 30 Day ADHD Treatment Challenge.

A healthy diet may not open a door to complete recovery but it will certainly give your child the strength to fight ADHD symptoms. Experts in the field have observed for years that a right diet can decrease hyperactivity and increase concentration among children with ADHD. Though indispensable, medicines and therapies only complement a healthy diet plan.

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Mary Alexa
Mary Alexa

Hello everyone my name is Mary. I studied at University of Michigan under Dr. Richard Solomon, founder of the P.L.A.Y. Project for Children on the Autism Spectrum. I live in the Dominican Republic working at an International School with children on the autism spectrum. Empowering parents with knowledge and techniques to support their children’s needs as well as the needs of the entire family and community has been my main focus for the past seven years. Read More

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