Maryanne knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but getting her son, eight-year-old Steve, who has attention deficit disorder (ADHD), to eat in the morning is difficult. Getting his clothes on, teeth brushed, and backpack filled leaves Maryanne little time to prepare a morning meal, let alone something Steve will eat.
Research suggests that a good breakfast helps a child do better in school. A 1998 study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, showed that children who ate breakfast regularly had higher reading and math scores, lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity, better school attendance, improved attention spans, and fewer behavior problems.
For children with ADHD, the menu matters, too. In a 1983 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, researchers at George Washington University tested three breakfast types (high-carbohydrate, high-protein, and no breakfast at all) on 39 children with ADHD and 44 kids without the condition.
For the hyperactive children, performance on several tests, including a test for attention, was significantly worse with the high-carbohydrate breakfast, as compared with the scores of the children who ate the high-protein breakfast.
Maryanne discussed Steve’s breakfast problems with her doctor, and they developed some strategies. He suggested that Maryanne and Steve get up 15 minutes earlier, to give her more time to prepare breakfast, and advised that Steve take his medication with his meal rather than just after waking up, to delay the appetite suppression.
Finally, they discussed how to get more high-protein foods into her son’s diet. Their list included lean meats and poultry, eggs, unprocessed nuts and seeds, and low-fat milk or milk products, as well as complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain cereals and bread and fresh fruits.
Here are some easy breakfasts that Maryanne put on Steve’s ADHD diet. Most can be eaten in the car on the way to school.
- Natural peanut butter on whole-grain bread, with a dab of all-fruit jam.
- Eggs; glass of orange juice. To save time, make hard-boiled or deviled eggs the night before.
- Slice of whole-grain bread with a little whipped butter or margarine and a dab of all-fruit jam; low-fat milk.
- Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk; lean meat from last night’s dinner (pork chop, chicken); orange sections.
- Plain yogurt with fresh fruit.
- Grilled-cheese sandwich made with whole-grain bread and two-percent cheese; glass of orange juice.
- Homemade instant breakfast shake or sausage patties (see recipes, left sidebar).
- Mixed nuts; fruit; glass of low-fat milk.