The ADHD Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid

Poor eating habits don't cause attention deficit disorder, but research suggests a strong relationship between ADHD and the food you consume. Find out what foods and supplements make a diet ADD-friendly -- and what may make ADHD symptoms worse.

Foods to Avoid

0801health-coloring High-Sugar Foods and Snacks. Several studies suggest that some ADHD kids are “turned on” by copious amounts of sugar. One study concluded that the more sugar hyperactive children consumed, the more destructive and restless they became. A study conducted at Yale University indicates that high-sugar diets increase inattention in some kids.

Some common items to avoid include fruit “drinks” or “cocktails,” both of which are higher in sugar than 100 percent fruit juice. Read food labels carefully, looking for the following ingredients (code words for sugar): high-fructose corn sweetener, dehydrated cane juice; dextrin; dextrose; maltodextrin; sucrose; molasses; and malt syrup.

Artificial Dyes and Preservatives. Studies published in The Lancet, Pediatrics, and The Journal of Pediatrics suggest that some children with ADHD are adversely affected by food additives. A recent study indicates that artificial food coloring and flavors, as well as the preservative sodium benzoate, make some non-ADHD kids hyperactive.

Avoid colorful cereals, like Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms. Cheerios are better, and lower in sugar. Substitute 100 percent fruit juice for soft drinks and fruit punches, most of which are artificially colored and flavored. If your child wants a treat, offer him Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies, which are free of dyes and low in sugar.

Foods That Cause Allergies. According to studies, gluten, wheat, corn, and soy cause some children to lose focus and become more hyperactive. Vincent Monastra, Ph.D., author of Parenting Children with ADHD, suggests that all children be screened for food allergies before being prescribed medication for ADHD. Talk with your doctor about testing for allergies.


More on ADHD, Diet, and Nutrition:

Your ADHD Diet: The Truth About Sugar, Protein, and Feingold

Smart, Healthy Snacks for the ADHD Brain

Healthy Desserts for ADHD Children

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