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DIET AND THE ADHD CHILD
Making sure your child has a healthy balance of nutrient-rich foods is a constant concern for a loving parent. If your child has trouble focusing, acts impulsively, is hyperactive or fidgety, your child may be dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Whether or not your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, the common symptoms of the disorder are present in most school-aged children, varying in duration and intensity, and may severely affect your child’s ability to function socially and academically. Poor diet choices may be a contributing factor to the symptoms of ADHD in your child. A few simple modifications to your child’s diet may go a long way toward improving concentration, memory, and supporting brain function and development.
Research shows that diets high in protein and Omega-3 fatty acids help to improve concentration and support brain function, while sugary snacks and packaged foods high in preservatives should be avoided. Consider these four important diet suggestions:
Pack in the Protein: Adding beans, cheese, nuts, and eggs to your child’s breakfast and after-school snacks can improve concentration. For a child that takes daily medication, they can help increase the duration and effectiveness of her prescription. A diet high in protein will keep your child fueled during a rigorous day at school, and adding protein to an after-school snack will keep her going for extra brainpower while she does her homework.
Cut out simple carbohydrates: While it may be impossible to monitor your child’s every move throughout the day, eliminating candy, sugary snacks, corn syrup, white flour, and white rice whenever possible is a good idea for optimal brain health. Removing snacks and food items from your home may be the best way to help your child reduce her intake of simple carbohydrates.
Boost the intake of complex carbohydrates: Fill your child’s diet with fresh fruits and vegetables; apples, oranges, grapes, pears and kiwi are a great sweet snack. Colorful vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and spinach are an excellent source of antioxidants that protect brain cells and keep them strong. Think about the plate when dishing up meals—half should be vegetables, a quarter proteins, and quarter carbohydrates.
Consider an Omega-3: The fatty acids found in tuna, salmon and other coldwater fish are essential to your child’s diet. Omega-3 effects the transmission of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin that help brain cells to communicate throughout the brain. Consuming 12 ounces of fish a week is recommended for a child showing symptoms of ADHD (two meals). Omega-3 is also found in walnuts, Brazil nuts, and both olive and canola oils. If you have trouble fitting these important fatty acids into your child’s diet, consider Omega-3 in supplement form.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects up to ten percent of children in the United States. Eating a balanced diet may be the best way to help your child manage the symptoms of ADHD and supply the brain with the tools it needs to succeed. For more information about diet and the ADHD child, consider these helpful articles:
- For Kids with ADHD, Some Foods May Complement Treatment
- Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Centre in the Netherlands argues that symptoms of ADHD are often a hypersensitivity to food. She suggests that before medicating your child, it is helpful to first do a food study—restricting the diet for 5 weeks in order to decide if it is your child’s diet that is causing symptoms of ADHD.
- This article gives great ideas to creatively serve more vegetables to your children.