Theories equating ADHD symptoms with meals originated in the mid-1970s when Dr. Ben Feingold wrote about the connection in “Why Your Child is Hyperactive.” Feingold suggested that ADHD may be triggered by a reaction to food additives, artificial colors, flavorings and preservatives. His studies established the foundation for future studies on the subject. A 2010 Australian study recommended that conventional treatment along with diet alterations may lead to symptomatic relief for some.
Australian researchers evaluated the dietary intake of 115 children diagnosed as having ADHD. The scientists from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research decided that youngsters who maintained a “Western style” diet consisting of mainly processed foods, fried foods, high-fat, high-salt and high-sugar foods were at double the risk of developing ADHD. The Mayo Clinic warns parents that foods containing D&C Yellow No. 10, FD&C Yellow No. 5 and No. 6 and FD&C Red No. 40 may exacerbate attention deficit and hyperactivity symptoms.
Meal Timing is Crucial
As the medications used to alleviate ADHD symptoms also cause appetite loss, snacks and meals should coincide with times of hunger. Nutritionists recommend that patients receiving treatment get an abundance of calories at breakfast before taking their medication. Regardless of the strange requests that youngsters may have for breakfast meals, as long as the choice is healthy, allow them the option whether that means pizza for breakfast or oatmeal for supper.
The sight of a plate full of food might also seem overwhelming to a teen with ADD or ADHD. Consider serving them smaller portions on smaller plates or allowing them to serve themselves at mealtime. Determine what their favorite food choices are and think about stocking the cupboards, freezer and fridge with these choices in the event that their hunger bell rings at odd times.
Studies also indicate that adequate protein and omega-3 fatty acid levels enhance focus and concentration levels. As hyperactive youngsters often balk at the thought of sitting down to eat a full meal, alternatives might include smoothies containing some form of protein and fatty acid supplement along with fruits or vegetables.
Consider making grab-and-go foods available wherever the child spends the most time. Think energy bars, packages of nuts or trail mix. Keep the fridge stocked with celery sticks with cheese or peanut butter, sandwich wraps with favorite fillings and string cheese. Have their favorite fresh fruits and vegetables handy. Parents can also purchase boxes of pre-packaged snacks and label them especially for the youngster with ADHD. Perhaps he or she might enjoy having a jar of peanut butter and crackers in their room for a quick bedtime or midnight snack. Canned meal supplement shakes in their favorite flavor is another idea worth considering.