Health, Food & Nutrition

The Dessert Solution for ADHD Nutrition

Feeding a picky eater? Try any of these six superfast, secretly healthy desserts that help satisfy the nutritional needs (and sweet tooth) of children with ADHD.

frozen bananas with yogurt and nuts, a healthy dessert idea for children with ADHD who are picky eaters
frozen bananas with yogurt and nuts, a healthy dessert idea for children with ADHD who are picky eaters

They skimp on breakfast, skip lunch, and seldom sit through dinner, despite your serving foods that they loved just last week. But say the word “dessert,” and their ears perk up. Every parent of a child with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) has been there.

Good news: You can create desserts that deliver calories and nutrition if your child pushes away the main course, or if your child has appetite loss due to a side effect of ADHD medication.

For instance, instead of serving a standard dessert like a large bowl of ice cream, kick it up a notch. Try a shake using milk, ice cream or frozen yogurt, and fresh strawberries, for a dessert that’s full of protein and calcium.

Tip: Serve lots of fresh fruit, and save cookies and candy for special occasions. “Desserts are still desserts,” says Mindy Hermann, a dietitian in Mt. Kisco, New York. “They’re not meal substitutes.”

These six dishes are delicious and a snap to make (it’s likely you’ll have most of the ingredients stocked in your pantry already).

Homemade Applesauce

Peel and cut several apples into small chunks. Place in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of water. Sprinkle with a little sugar, then cover and cook over low heat, stirring often, until softened. Spice with cinnamon and raisins.

Nutritional bonus: Homemade applesauce provides at least 10 percent of your child’s daily requirement of vitamin C. Not as much as orange juice, certainly, but four times as much as store-bought applesauce (unless you buy a brand that’s fortified with vitamin C). For extra protein and calcium, serve with lemon-flavored yogurt.

Carrot Cake

Classic carrot cake recipes call for up to a pound of grated carrots. For a cake that’s tasty and nutritious, work from a recipe that uses a lot of carrots, and substitute “light” olive or canola oil for butter.

Nutritional bonus: One slice of carrot cake can provide half of your child’s daily requirement of vitamin A.

Tip: To cut fat and boost protein, substitute a dollop of low-fat vanilla or lemon yogurt for the traditional cream cheese frosting.

Belgian Waffle

Top a four-inch, whole-grain waffle with 1/2 cup of frozen vanilla yogurt and 1/2 cup of sliced strawberries (or a combination of berries and other fruit).

Nutritional bonus: This dessert is a nutritional windfall. It provides up to 20 percent of your child’s daily requirement of protein and calcium, more than 75 percent of his vitamin C, a range of B vitamins, and a couple of grams of fiber to boot.

Frozen Bananas

Peel firm, ripe bananas, wrap in waxed paper and then in plastic wrap. Freeze. Remove from freezer five minutes before serving.

Nutritional bonus: Frozen bananas have the consistency of ice cream. What’s more, bananas are a great source of minerals, dietary fiber, and vitamins B and C.

Tip: For even more protein and vitamin C, puree ripe banana, strawberries, and low-fat vanilla yogurt in a blender. Freeze, and serve in scoops, like ice cream.

Pudding Parfait

Alternate layers of vanilla pudding and sliced strawberries and bananas in a tall glass. Drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Nutritional bonus: One half-cup of strawberries provides more than half of your child’s daily requirement of vitamin C. For extra protein, add layers of chopped nuts. For extra calcium, combine equal parts vanilla pudding and plain yogurt arranged in parfait layers.

Frozen Chocolate Pudding

Make pudding with low-fat milk and freeze in individual paper cups.

Nutritional bonus: One-half cup of chocolate pudding provides up to 20 percent of your child’s daily requirement of calcium and up to 10 percent of his protein requirement.

Tip: For even more protein, stir creamy peanut butter into the milk before adding the pudding mix.