ADHD Diet – Food To Eat And Foods To Avoid


Parenting an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) child is a unique challenge to parents. One of them is feeding kids with ADHD, which is extra challenging, as the ADHD child has sensory food-related rigidities. So, it becomes difficult for a mother to feed the child considering his/her sensitivity. The common question of many parents with ADHD kids is what kinds of foods the children should avoid when dealing with ADHD. Certain foods negatively affect ADHD brains and may worsen ADHD symptoms. Let me be clear here that some foods affect the symptoms of ADHD which are already there and food is not a cause of somebody’s ADHD.

So, let’s see some foods which need to be strictly avoided to help your child manage his/her ADHD symptoms and foods that are healthy for the brain, can help your child to function smoothly, and also might help to reduce the symptoms of ADHD.

7 Foods to Avoid in ADHD Diet for Children:

Here is a list of foods that you should avoid when choosing an ADHD diet for children:

  1. Artificially flavored foods and preservatives: It has been observed that some children with ADHD are sensitive to the chemicals in the food. So, it means that no artificial food colors, flavorings, sweeteners, and preservatives should be in the diet of the child with ADHD. The preservative sodium benzoate has found to increase the hyperactivity in kids. Sodium benzoate is present in condiments, salad dressings, and carbonated drinks. So, you need to avoid these foods when choosing an ADHD diet.
  1. Salicylate: Salicylate is a natural substance present in red apples, almonds, grapes, and tomatoes. In some kids, eliminating the foods which are rich in salicylates has helped to reduce the hyperactivity in ADHD children.
  1. Sugar: Children with ADHD are sensitive to processed sugars. They exhibit the bouts of inattentiveness and impulsivity after consuming sugar. The processed sugar is a simple carbohydrate that provides quick bursts of energy and burns out quickly. It is advisable to avoid giving corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice, corn sweetener, rice syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, malt syrup, maltose, and sorghum to the kids with ADHD.
  1. Food Colors: The hyperactivity, irritability, and impulsivity increase in ADHD kids after consuming some artificial food dyes. Artificial food colors may also lead to insomnia in ADHD kids, so it is important to avoid giving artificially colored foods to them. According to the experts, natural food colorings like red beets, saffron, caramel, chlorophyll, carmine, and turmeric are good to go. Parents need to eliminate the artificially colored foods and note the behavioral changes in the child.
  1. Pesticides: It is advisable to limit pesticide exposure when it comes to choosing a diet for ADHD children. A study states that pesticides contribute to ADHD. As much as possible, try to give organic fruits and vegetables to the child.
  1. Trigger foods/ Allergens: Some ADHD children are sensitive to healthy foods too. They are susceptible to certain foods, such as wheat, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, nuts, and citrus foods. Such foods may affect brain functioning and can trigger hyperactivity and restlessness. So, avoid giving the child foods that trigger the discomforting symptoms of ADHD.
  1. Processed foods: Avoid giving processed foods, such as potato chips, soft drinks, pretzels, instant soups, fast foods, commercial desserts, candy, and products made from white flour and white rice, to the child with ADHD.

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Foods to Include in the Diet of Children with ADHD:

Here is a list of brain-healthy foods that enhance memory and help to deal with ADHD:

  1. Fish: Fish, particularly the salmon, is really good food, as it is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which are highly beneficial for children’s brains. They help the kids with ADHD to focus, improve the concentration and attention span, and are good for memory. Salmon also contains an acid called DHEA. DHEA makes out the majority of fatty acid in our brain, but, unfortunately, it is not produced in the body, so we need to get it from a diet. DHEA helps to build neurotransmitters which helps our brain function better. So, fish is good food for ADHD kids. Other foods which are rich in Omega-3 fatty acid are seeds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and olives.
  1. Zinc-rich foods: Zinc helps in reducing the hyperactivity, restlessness, impulsivity, and irritability. Foods that are rich in zinc are seeds, potatoes, legumes, and eggs. So, include them in the diet of kids with ADHD.
  1. Magnesium-rich foods: Magnesium helps in dealing with fidgeting and restlessness. So, introduce the foods which are high in magnesium, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, spinach, bananas, almonds, and seeds, in the diet of ADHD children.
  1. Avocadoes: Avocadoes are rich in monounsaturated fat, a fat which helps to lower the blood pressure and also promotes healthy blood flow. Both of these things aid in promoting a healthy brain. Avocadoes are good for the child’s brain, and, also, they taste good. So, most of the kids love to eat them.
  1. Nuts: Nuts are a really good source of Vitamin E, and Vitamin E is observed to reduce or slow down the deterioration of the cognitive functioning and that of the brain. So, adding nuts and seeds in breakfast is good for ADHD kids.
  1. Berries: Berries, particularly blueberries, apart from tasting awesome, are beneficial for ADHD kids. Studies have revealed that they are excellent for brain function and also aid in preventing age-related memory loss conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The antioxidants in berries also protect the brain cells from damage.
  1. Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice commonly used in curries. It is super good for the brain of ADHD children. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, and it directly reduces oxidative stress on the brain, enhances antioxidant activity, and provides powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. It also helps the brain by improving memory and cell growth and by producing serotonin and dopamine, which improves your mood and helps to reduce depression. So, turmeric is a great food for ADHD kids. ADHD kids can’t regulate dopamine chemicals. So, if you introduce turmeric, it will help to increase the dopamine level in kids.

There is no particular diet plan for ADHD, but eliminating certain foods and introducing some foods in the child’s diet can help ADHD kids. Studies reveal that natural organic fruits and vegetables, foods free from chemicals and artificial colors, low-sugar foods, a high-protein (chicken, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, and cheese) diet, a less of simple carbohydrates (foods like white bread, sugars, honey, sweets), and more of complex carbohydrates ( foods like vegetables, pears, and kiwi) combined with supplements like omega-3 fatty acids i.e. fish oil supplement and zinc can help to manage the symptoms of many ADHD children. With diet, parents need to keep a careful watch to note which foods are causing a problem and which foods are helping the child. Make a note of foods that might make their kids impulsive, fidgety, and unable to concentrate and avoid them in their diet.

A tip for parents before closing this blog – add protein-rich foods in the morning time or for breakfast and in after-school snacks of your kids, to improve concentration span and focus in children, and give complex carbohydrates at night in the dinner to help with the sleep.

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