Do you have a child who has recently been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, commonly referred to as ADHD? If you do, your doctor has no doubt already explained your available treatment options, which will typically consist of stimulant and non-stimulant medications, counseling and therapy, and perhaps EEG neurofeedback training. And although these treatments can be very safe and effective in controlling the symptoms of ADHD, filling your body with junk food can completely neutralize the efficacy of these treatments.
The importance of diet for an ADHD child cannot be overstated, as eating the proper foods can help optimize brain performance and increase the effectiveness of ADHD treatments. In other words, the proper diet for an ADHD child can make all the difference in the world. What this means is that there are some foods that should be avoided or minimized, while other food items should be consumed as regularly as possible.
The Optimal Diet for an ADHD Child: What Not to Eat
Studies have shown that certain foods can cause food allergies—food allergies that may lead to many of the most common ADHD symptoms and behaviors. Experts recommend that you remove or severely limit the following food items from your child’s diet—at least initially—to investigate whether or not food allergies or the presence of certain foods may be causing the undesirable symptoms:
- Dairy Products. According to the American Pediatrics’ Society, “there are a significant percentage of children that are allergic to dairy products, particularly cow’s milk.” Eliminating dairy from the diet of an ADHD child can often greatly aid with symptom control.
- Sugar and Sugary Products. Eliminating sugar altogether from a diet is a challenge, as almost everything these days has some measure of sugar in it. However, by limiting your child’s sugar intake it can help with many hyperactive side effects produced by ADHD.
- Junk Food. Junk food is a no-no in the diet for an ADHD child. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if it comes in a cellophane wrapper, try to avoid it all costs.
- Processed Foods. Processed foods contain artificial coloring and preservatives, both of which have been linked to hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.
- Fried Foods. Fried foods contain unhealthy trans-fats—unsaturated fats that are generally unhealthy, but especially taboo for brain health.
Optimal Diet for ADHD: What to Eat
The foods listed in the previous section are notorious for making the brain feel “foggy.” Conversely, the food items listed below, in the “what to eat” section, can optimize brain performance and keep it “running on all cylinders”:
- Fresh Meats. Fresh meats contain a significant amount of protein, and protein helps to feed and fuel the brain. Try loading up on fresh protein sources rather than sugary carbohydrates to keep the brain functioning optimally.
- Water. Did you know that the human brain is approximately 80% water? Increasing your child’s water intake by about 7-10 8-ounce glasses a day can help reduce the severity of ADHD symptoms.
- Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are just plain healthy and should always be a part of any healthy diet. Fresh fruits and veggies are absent of the chemicals in many popular processed foods that can cause negative ADHD results, and they are a perfect food choice for keeping your child alert and focused.
The proper diet for an ADHD child is by no means a universal cure for the disorder, but doesn’t it make sense to have your child eat as healthily as possible? A good diet can help to significantly curb some of the most problematic ADHD symptoms, and will be of benefit to any other treatment program recommended by your child’s health care specialist.