The ADHD Meal Plan

by on June 10th, 2011 at 7:00 am

As ADHD is a controversial issue, the possible role that certain foods play in influencing the various symptoms of ADHD (and related behavior) is also a hotbed of discussion.

A number of diets have been suggested for children with symptoms of attention deficit disorder or ADHD. Various studies have reported behavioral improvement with diets that restrict possible allergens in the diet. As a parent or caregiver, you may want to discuss specific food plans with a health care professional, homeopath or naturopath and look at implementing an elimination diet of certain foods (eliminating certain foods and monitoring behavior to see if there is a direct link) or adding supplements that would not be harmful and that might help.

This is a very individualized approach and would differ from child to child. Always consult a nutritional expert before restricting the diet of any child. Elimination diets should only be used under the supervision of a clinical dietician to prevent your child from developing nutrient deficiencies. Having said that, there are steps that can be taken to lessen common restlessness and fidgety behavior. Foods to avoid include:

  • Sweets and sugary soft drinks (especially those containing Tartrazine and caffeine)
  • Foods with artificial flavors, preservatives and coloring (Tartrazine and MSG)
  • Foods high in refined sugar

Make sure that:

  • Your child has regular meals with plenty of fresh fruit, salads and vegetables
  • Oats are included for breakfast each morning (with a small amount of organic brown sugar instead of white sugar, or fruit is even better!)
  • Good wholesome food and unprocessed cereals such as whole-wheat bread, pasta, brown rice, legumes (dry beans, peas and lentils), low-fat milk and dairy products are readily available
  • You serve large helpings of raw, fresh fruit and vegetables (they contain protective vitamins and minerals).
  • You supply a moderate fat intake (olive oil or nuts are a good source of fats)
  • You include carbohydrates – a good source of energy that helps to increase levels of serotonin, an important brain chemical

Remember that hyperactivity and restlessness may present as ADHD, but this may be a direct result of fluctuations in blood glucose levels! Although sugar has never been directly shown to cause hyperactivity – there can be little doubt for most parents that after a big helping of sweets and candies, children are restless, and more active (think of birthday parties)! A boost of food can mean a boost of energy and lots of fidgeting!

The best way to ensure balanced blood sugar for children is to feed them foods with a low Glycaemic Index (Low GI). This means that nutrients from food that is released into the bloodstream at a slow and steady pace – for balanced blood sugar, and balanced energy throughout the day.

Until now, it was generally regarded as a myth that additives and colorants increased hyper behavior in children – but now experts have proven that there is a link! Research published by the University of Southampton (McCann et al, 2007) has shown that artificial colorants, additives and preservatives have “a significant negative effect on the behavior of 3-year-old and 8-9-year-old children.” So, avoid foods with labels that contain: Colorants such as: Sunset yellow (E110), Quinoline yellow (E104), Carmoisine (E122), Allura red (E129), Tartrazine (E102) and Ponceau (E124) as well as preservatives such as sodium benzoate.

Speak to your dietician or health professional for a possible supplement of vitamins and minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, B vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamins E and C, and essential fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3) for your child’s nervous system.

In conclusion, a healthy eating plan goes hand in hand with moderate exercise. Physical activities can help to use up excess energy your child has and help him or her to relax and unwind. Remember that as a parent you can put all of these tips into action and monitor the results – no one knows your child as well as you!

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