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Diet Tips and Snack Ideas for Kids with ADHD

young girl snacking on grapes

Diet and ADHD


  1. Diet plays a crucial role in physical and mental health for growing children.
  2. Diet alone hasn’t been shown to cause or worsen symptom of ADHD.
  3. Fueling children with good, nutritious food goes a long way toward helping them cope with ADHD and stay healthy.

Diet hasn’t been shown to cause attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD) in children. Additionally, diet alone can’t account for the symptoms of
ADHD. However, there’s no denying that diet plays a crucial role in physical
and mental health, especially for growing children.

Children with ADHD have extra challenges. Fueling them with good, nutritious
food goes a long way toward helping them cope and stay healthy.

Far too many children aren’t getting the vitamins, minerals, and fiber they
need. All children require a diet rich in:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • whole grains
  • protein
  • healthy fats
  • calcium-rich foods

Such a diet may or may not improve symptoms of ADHD in children, but it will
provide them a foundation for good health.

The nutritious diet kids need

Fruits and veggies

Fruits and vegetables provide the vitamins and minerals that growing
children need. It also provides them with much needed fiber. Fruit and veggies
make a convenient snack food, and they’re easy to pack in school lunches. Fruit
in particular can satisfy a sweet tooth.

Whole grains

Whole grains are unrefined and contain bran and germ. Whole grains are an
excellent source of fiber, plus a variety of other nutrients. Add them to your
child’s diet through foods such as:

  • cereals
  • breads
  • snack foods


Protein is important to muscle and tissue growth. Meat is an excellent
source for protein. Be sure to choose lean cuts that have low amounts of fat. Avoid
processed meats. If you don’t want meat in your child’s diet or want to reduce
their consumption of meat, they can get protein from the following:

  • beans
  • peas
  • nuts
  • dairy

Healthy fats

Our bodies need fat, but not all fats are equal. Emphasize the healthy fats,
which include monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty
acids. Pick a good selection of foods with healthy fats for your kids from the
list below.

Monounsaturated fats

  • avocado
  • seeds
  • nuts
  • olives
  • canola,
    olive, and peanut oils

Polyunsaturated fats

  • corn
  • sesame
  • soybeans
  • legumes
  • safflower
    and sunflower oils

Omega-3 fatty acids

  • herring
  • mackerel
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • flaxseeds
  • chia
  • walnuts

Calcium-rich foods

Calcium is a bone-fortifying
mineral that is crucial during early childhood and the adolescent years. This is
when bones grow at very fast rates. This essential mineral also plays a role in
nerve impulses and hormone production. Calcium is rich in dairy milk, yogurt,
and cheese. It’s also found in calcium-fortified plant milks such as flax milk,
almond milk, and soy milk. Broccoli, beans, lentils, canned fish with bones,
and dark leafy greens are plant sources rich in calcium.

Foods to avoid

Research has not shown any specific food that causes or cures ADHD. Some
foods may affect your child more than others. If you believe a particular food
or ingredient aggravates your child’s symptoms, eliminate it from their diet to
see if it makes a difference.

According to Harvard
Medical School, studies show that artificial food coloring may increase
hyperactivity in some children. Many foods marketed to children, such as
cereals and fruit drinks, use food dyes to make them brightly-colored. Try
eliminating these foods from your child’s diet and see if their symptoms improve.

According to the Mayo
Clinic, the European Union (EU) now requires manufacturers to include a warning
on foods with certain additives. The label states that the food may have a
negative effect on attention and activity in children.

Studies have not proven that sugar consumption causes hyperactive behavior,
according to the American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). We do know that too much sugar is unhealthy. Evidence
that we eat far more sugar than we should is abundant. A study published in JAMA
Internal Medicine showed that the average American gets 10 percent of their
calories from added sugars. One in 10 Americans gets 25 percent or more of
their calories from sugar. Too much sugar contributes to weight gain. In turn
this can increase the risk of developing other health problems, such as heart
disease and type 2 diabetes.

Other foods that can lead to obesity and high cholesterol include saturated
fats, hydrogenated fats, and trans fats. Avoid giving your kids large amounts
of foods that contain these fats. Examples include:

Saturated fats

  • meat
  • poultry
  • dairy

Hydrogenated and trans fats

  • shortening
  • margarine
  • packaged snacks
  • processed foods
  • fast foods
  • some frozen pizzas

Fast food and processed foods are generally unhealthy because they contain
too much of the following ingredients:

  • salt
  • sugar
  • unhealthy fats

Processed foods in general are very high in calories, and filled with
chemical additives and preservatives. They have little or no nutritional value.
This type of food fills the belly, but leaves the body wanting.


Instead of this Choose this
• prepackaged fruit-flavored snacks • real fruit, such as apples, oranges, bananas, pears, nectarines, plums, raisins, grapes
• homemade fruit smoothie
• dried fruit
• potato chips and other crunchy munchies • pan-popped popcorn, with little or no butter and salt
• baked whole-grain chips or pretzels
• diced carrots and celery, with hummus
• broccoli and cauliflower, with fresh salsa or yogurt dip
• roasted chickpeas
• ice cream • yogurt
• cut up watermelon and cantaloupe, or other fruit mixture
• homemade fruit smoothies
• candy bars, cookies, and other sweets • dried fruit and nut mixture
• dark chocolate covered fruit
• popular kiddie cereals • whole-grain, high fiber cereal, with fresh berries and nuts
• instant oatmeal packets with added sugars • plain oatmeal, with bananas, berries, or stone fruit

dietary tips

Most children benefit from routine. For a child with ADHD a routine is
especially helpful. Schedule regular meal and snack times, if you can. Try not
to let your child go for more than a few hours without eating. Too much time
between meals and snacks may lead to overindulging later.

Avoid fast food restaurants and junk food aisles in the grocery store. One
of the reasons we eat so many bad foods is because they’re easy to access. To
eliminate the temptation, don’t keep junk foods in your home. Stock plenty of
fruits and veggies to satisfy growling stomachs in a pinch.

If your child is used to eating a lot of bad food, change won’t come easily.
It takes some time for children to connect dietary changes to feeling

Ask your child’s doctor if you should give them a multivitamin or other
nutritional supplements. A dietitian can also help you get your family’s eating
habits on the right track.


Healthy dietary habits begin in childhood and can last a lifetime. Children
with ADHD are no exception to this rule. They too should maintain a well-balanced
healthy diet. Research has not shown any specific food to cause or cure ADHD in
children, But as with all kids, its best to avoid excessive amounts of sugar,
salt, and unhealthy fats.

One of the most important things you can do is set a good example. Make sure
your own diet is healthy. Your children depend on you to provide the meals and
snacks they need to make it through the day. Make healthy choices and use these
tips to keep your kid healthy while coping with ADHD.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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