Your diet affects a lot of things including your mood, energy level, and ability to concentrate. For example, you might feel unfocused or drowsy after a heavy meal or shaky and jittery after consuming too much sugar or caffeine. It follows that there is a close connection between symptoms of attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and diet.

While most parents encourage their children to eat healthy foods, parents of ADHD children pay special attention to diet as a factor in relation to symptoms like mood swings, concentration, impulsive behavior, and defiant attitudes. Look for patterns when developing ADHD-friendly diet. Are there foods that seem related to negative behavior?

 Avoid Sugar & Preservatives
As a rule of thumb, foods high in sugar, caffeine, preservatives, and artificial food coloring all have been shown to be related to ADHD symptomatic behavior. This means candy, soda pop, cake mixes and frostings, energy drinks, and coffee all should be limited as much as possible. 

Hidden Sources of Food Coloring
Frozen fruits and vegetables can also contain added food coloring, such as ‘green #3’. Fish and seafood, particularly with larger fish such as tuna, shark, and mackerel, can contain traces of mercury which also can contribute to ADHD symptoms.

Snack Alternatives
Preparing quick-and-healthy snack options is still possible for parents of kids with ADHD. One idea for a sweet afternoon snack is to make a smoothie with fresh fruit, ice, and vanilla coconut milk. A salty option is veggies and pita bread with hummus or other healthy spreads. For something sweet and salty, try goat cheese and honey on toast.

Protein and Brain Function
Protein is essential for proper neurotransmitter function which affects energy levels, mood, and focus. Find which high-protein foods your kids like most. Popular choices are eggs, nuts, meat, legumes, soy, and beans. Eating is not just a physiological necessity, but a great way to construct a daily routine. Kids with ADHD benefit from a clear and consistent meal schedule, with specified breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack times that they can anticipate and look forward to. Once your family reduces sugary, processed foods, find out what ADHD-friendly foods your children enjoy and incorporate them into your family meals.

You are what you eat. Help your child get the most out of their day by making sure their diet doesn’t exacerbate symptoms. Check back to our blog for more ADD/ADHD topics. You can also work with one of the pediatricians at our clinic for individualized treatment options. Call to schedule an appointment: 503-981-5348.