ADHD Nutrition and Food: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Numerous studies have looked at the correlation between diet and ADD/ADHD. While there is a small percentage of children who may become hyperactive after eating sugar—or who could have allergic reactions to food dyes, wheat, or milk—it appears the vast majority ADD or ADHD cases are not caused solely by nutritional deficiencies or problems.

That being said, ADHD nutrition is still very important. Just like everyone should pursue a nutritious diet, children with ADD or ADHD need food that is beneficial for the brain, even more than children without ADD/ADHD. Building a strong brain takes a healthy diet. A high protein, low carbohydrate diet seems to improve focus for most children and adults with ADD/ADHD.

If you want to pursue better ADHD nutrition for your child, keep in mind that a nutritional approach to ADHD takes a while to show results, so don’t get discouraged. Also, it’s okay to let your child enjoy treats once in a while, as long as you know the child is not allergic to the food he or she is eating.

ADHD nutrition is similar to a healthy diet for anyone else. For example:

  • Take a multivitamin with minerals.
  • Get calcium and magnesium from milk and green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, collard greens, and spinach.
  • Focus on protein and whole grains. In addition to lean meats, eggs, cheese, and whole-grain bread, offer your child a protein-rich smoothie as a snack.
  • Consume a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (fish, flax seeds, nuts) and/or take fish oil supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to be beneficial for ADD/ADHD as well as depression.
  • Avoid sugar. The backbone of ADHD nutrition is stabilizing blood sugar levels and not eating a lot of empty calories. For example, a sugary cereal or a donut for breakfast triggers insulin spikes that could cause any child to lose focus in school.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day to regulate energy.
  • Avoid caffeine, hydrogenated oils (saturated fats and trans-fats which harden at room temperature), and excess salt.