Nutritional Tips for Kids Dealing With ADHD
Diet is always an important part of development and care for any child, and can be especially so for those who manage particular conditions. ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a good example - there are a number of simple dietary concepts that may help your child manage this condition a bit more effectively, and which can help set them up in this area moving forward.
At Learning Technics, we provide a huge range of resources for ADHD home therapy and related programs, plus expertise to parents on ADHD care in numerous ways. Here's a look at the realm of nutrition for kids who manage ADHD, including foods to prioritize and some that are typically best avoided.
There's No Single ADHD-Specific Diet
At least from a scientific perspective, and unlike certain other medical conditions that may have specific "diets" prescribed to manage associated symptoms, there's no single ADHD-specific diet. There are, however, certain dietary elements and components that can be beneficial for managing the condition in most cases.
That is, all the research we have to this point indicates that diet isn't a cause of ADHD whatsoever. That said, several foods or nutritional concepts may have a positive effect on symptoms, and many kids with ADHD have also been found to benefit from dietary tweaking. So while it's true that we shouldn't expect diet alone to be a total solution for managing the condition, making certain nutritional changes as part of an overall plan can still be beneficial in most cases. What might some of these changes be? Our next several sections will go over these.
Common Approaches to Nutrition for Children With ADHD
Once again, this is not a comprehensive list - however, many parents or caregivers of children with ADHD take one or more of a few common approaches to their diet and nutrition. Here are these three common tenets to consider:
- Elimination: For some children, parents come to realize that certain foods don't have a positive effect on their kid's ADHD. In these cases, it can be helpful to eliminate or at least severely limit the ingestion of those items and see if that has a substantial benefit.
- Supplementation: Certain supplements may also be beneficial and are often used in conjunction with any elimination approach that might already be underway in your household. This is because it can be hard for some kids to get the full range of nutrients they need on their own, so supplements can be a good way to ensure that all bases are covered.
- Prioritization: One final approach is to prioritize certain nutrients for kids with ADHD. Research has shown that such children may have low levels of minerals like iron, magnesium and vitamin D, for example. Therefore, ensuring that your child is getting their fill of these nutrients - either through food or supplements - can be beneficial in many cases.
Food Types to Prioritize
There are several food areas that are not only safe to eat for children with ADHD, but which might help provide them with the kinds of nutrients they need to manage their condition. These include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fish, nuts, and some vegetable oils, these are a good source of essential fatty acids that can be beneficial for the brain. Their consumption has also been directly connected to improvement in ADHD symptoms in children, such as impulsivity and hyperactivity. Specific kinds of fish that tend to be particularly high in omega-3s include salmon, sardines, and mackerel.
- High-fiber foods: High-fiber plant items such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans can help provide “clean” energy to kids with ADHD - meaning energy that won't cause them to crash suddenly when it wears off. In addition, these sorts of foods can often provide helpful nutrition without the artificial ingredients or higher calorie content found in processed items.
- Protein: Protein-rich lean meats such as chicken and turkey are also helpful for ADHD kids, as they help keep blood sugar levels more stable throughout the day. Low-fat dairy products like yogurt and cheese can also be beneficial here.
- Complex carbs: Another important concept to consider is eating complex carbs, like whole-grain breads and cereals. These can help provide sustained energy for kids with ADHD, and are often a much better alternative than simple carbs such as refined sugars. They also help with the release of serotonin and other brain chemicals that can help with concentration.
Foods to Avoid
On the flip side, there are some foods that will have effects on the opposite side of the spectrum - that is, foods which can sometimes make ADHD symptoms worse. These include:
- Food additives: Additives like dyes, preservatives, and other chemicals can be especially dangerous for kids with ADHD, as they can make focus issues or hyperactivity even worse.
- Refined carbs: As mentioned, simple carbs like white bread and sugary cereals can cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels, followed by a crash after the energy dissipates. This roller coaster of sugar is not good for any child - and especially one who has ADHD.
- Caffeine: Kids with ADHD should stick to decaf when it comes to coffee and tea, and should avoid sugary drinks with caffeine like sodas. Caffeine can cause restlessness, anxiety, and irritability in such kids - all of which are symptoms that they may already be facing.
Ultimately, if your child has ADHD, there are certain dietary changes you can make that may help them manage their disorder more effectively. For more on this, or for help with any other area of ADHD treatment or cognitive therapy for learning disabilities, speak to our team at Learning Technics today.