The Attention Deficit Disorder Diet: Can Food Affect Your Child's ADD?

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Attention Deficit Disorder Diet - Good Fats

The brain is 60% fat, so to improve the way the brain works, it is considered important to feed it plenty of fat. The problem is that most kids eat plenty of non nutritious fats - the ones in french fries and potato chips. Instead, they should be eating plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in flaxseed oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, and seafood. Seafood is the most effective way to get plenty of fatty acids into the body.

Keep Your Blood Sugar Steady

When a child with ADD gets hungry and eats some candy, blood sugar skyrockets - only to crash a little while later. This can alter their brain chemistry and limit their attention span for a period of time. Instead of heading for a sugary snack, try some “good” carbs (e.g., whole grains, fruits, vegetables) together with some protein or fiber. The protein and fiber slow down the infusion of glucose into the bloodstream, keeping blood sugars steady. It also increases the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters that can increase alertness. Make sure to eat a good breakfast each morning, containing plenty of protein to start the day off right.

Choose “Smart” Foods

According to Dr. Bill Sears, a professor of pediatrics, children with ADD should consume plenty of what he calls “smart foods.” These include blue foods like blueberries (which are full of antioxidants as well), nuts, salmon, spinach, whole wheat bread, and yogurt. Children with ADD should also be consuming sufficient quantities of folate, which can be found in green leafy vegetables like spinach, asparagus, and bok choy, as well as in some legumes, avocados, and fortified cereals.

Avoid Artificial Ingredients

Are artificial ingredients - such as MSG, sweeteners, and preservatives - bad for children with ADD? The answer isn’t clear cut. For example, both hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup have been implicated as possibly affecting brain development, although the research is not yet clear on exactly how they affect it. But some medical practitioners and dietitians will say that if you’re trying to change your child’s diet, you may want to avoid these artificial ingredients as much as possible.

Keeping a Diary

How can a diary help a child with ADD? By keeping a food, activity, and sleep diary, your child will realize how different actions affect their ADD habits. For example, if children realize that after staying up late and eating a chocolate bar for breakfast, they space out through their first several classes of the day, they may feel motivated enough to take control of their eating and sleeping habits.

Keep in mind, as well, that food affects different children in different ways, but a diary might be able to tell your child how the food he or she is eating is affecting the body and mind. This diary may be all your child needs to stick to an attention deficit disorder diet.


This post is part of the series: If Your Child Has ADD

When a child has ADD, parents often feel helpless. Fortunately, there is plenty of information out there about this disorder. This series includes articles that can help a parent whose child has ADD.

  1. Diet Tips for People with ADD