Eating habits don’t cause learning issues, but one cannot deny that the philosophy of “you are what you eat,” can have a positive impact on living with ADHD, ADD, and other learning challenges. The good news is that you don’t need to take out a second mortgage to afford an ADHD-friendly food regimen. It may take some trial and error, but you can easily find out what foods work for you.
With so many choices, what are some simple foods to embrace, and which to avoid?
My simple rule with what to avoid? Anything artificially colored, flavored, overly processed, or that contains a laundry list of ‘ingredients’ that sound more like they belong on a chemistry lab than in your kitchen.
Power up with Protein. Foods rich in protein produce neurotransmitters, the chemicals released by our brain cells for good communication, and keeping you on an even energy level. Proteins help steady our blood sugar levels, which can lessen symptoms of hyperactivity, mood swings, and distractibility. As much as you might not want to admit it, our mothers are right. Breakfast, especially one rich in lean protein, can give you the best start to the day.
Put your meals on the balance bar. For children who are taking medications for ADHD symptoms, the importance of meals that include vegetables, complex carbohydrates, fruit, and again, our friendly protein, can be seen in behavior that is more self-regulated and consistent.
An easy to follow plate chart can be posted on the fridge, or given to your child, to encourage him or her to be front and center in their food planning, a tool that is one to be developed for life. It has been shown that children who help prepare healthy meals are more likely to choose healthy food options over ones that are filled with preservatives, fillers, high fructose corn syrup, or which are overly processed.
It’s a Family Affair. Children on the learning challenge spectrum already face a sense of isolation and social anxiety. Many of these children experience periods of loneliness in school, and with their siblings. Food limitations can be another area of seclusion; if the family takes part in a healthier approach, not only will the ADHD child benefit, but so will the entire crew!
Keep it Local. The local food movement has made healthy food options as close as your neighborhood. By keeping your food choices local and seasonal, you’re reducing stale and over-processed products. Head to your local farmer’s market, by car, or on foot, to take advantage of the bountiful harvest time – endless varieties of tomatoes, sweet corn, small batch cheeses and artisan breads are plentiful this time of the year. Farmer’s markets are also a fun way to encourage trying new foods in a lively social setting.