9 Foods to Eat and 5 Foods to Avoid for ADHD Children

Foods to Feed and Avoid for Children With ADHD

Medically Reviewed By
Vandana Sharma (Paediatric Nutritionist)
View more Paediatric Nutritionist Our Panel of Experts

Usually, the symptoms of ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) start to surface between the age of 3 to 6 years old. Trying to control this condition is a big task in itself, and in the case of kids, it is even more difficult. However, there are various treatments to control this condition, and having a certain diet is one such way which may help your child bring it under a manageable scope. That being said, as we know that every child grows differently, so even though there are certain foods which may be useful as a part of ADHD diet, the same might not hold true for others. So you have to be careful about what you should feed your child and what you shouldn’t.

Essential Benefits of a Healthy ADHD Diet for Kids

Essential Benefits of a Healthy ADHD Diet for Kids

Food is an integral part of our day-to-day life, and what we eat would certainly reflect on our health as well. In the case of kids, you will have to be extra careful as to what they should eat and what they should not. A balanced ADHD diet rich with nutrients is useful for managing ADHD effectively. Are you wondering what a healthy ADHD diet is? It is a diet which is packed with essential nutrients, aimed at keeping your kid healthy and manage her ADHD. Below is the list of essential nutrients recommended as a part of healthy ADHD diet.

1. Iron

Iron is an essential nutrient for our body. It plays a vital role in carrying oxygen to the blood cells throughout one’s body. A lack of iron in the body may lead to iron deficiency anaemia and can substantially affect dopamine metabolism. But fear not, in order to raise this level, all you have to do is provide an iron-rich diet to your kid. Below is a list of iron-rich food sources for your reference.

Food Sources of Iron

  • Spinach
  • Apricot & raisins
  • Peas & lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Sesame seeds
  • Beans
  • Red meat, pork, poultry
  • Seafood

2. Zinc

Zinc is another essential nutrient associated with brain functioning and its development. It is important for the healing of tissue and the immune system. Moreover, zinc is responsible for protecting our gut and the blood-brain barrier, and a deficiency of zinc in the body may lead to the breakdown of these barriers. Include zinc-rich food in your kid’s diet to supply her with these essential nutrients.

Food Sources of Zinc

  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Chicken & pork
  • Beef & lamb
  • Shrimp & Oysters
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Kidney bean and chickpeas
  • Dry fruits such as cashews, pecans, almonds, groundnuts, hazelnuts, walnuts

3. Magnesium

Magnesium is the third most essential mineral to manage ADHD. It is responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions in our body. It plays an important role in maintaining various bodily functions such as bone metabolism and growth, immune system functioning, a release of neurotransmitter, nerve function, and so on. Hence, a magnesium-rich diet is quite important for one’s body. Below is the list of magnesium-rich foods for your reference.

Food Sources of Magnesium

  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Spinach
  • Squash & pumpkin seeds
  • Brown rice
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Dried fruits like figs, prunes, dates, raisins and apricots.

4. Fatty Acids

Foods rich in fatty acids are also helpful to improve the ADHD condition since every cell in our body is made up of fats, including the brain cells. Research shows that Omega-3 fatty acids are useful in improving one’s brain functioning. Below is the list of foods that can help you provide the much-required fatty acids in your child’s diet.

Food Sources of Fatty Acids

  • Flaxseeds and chia seeds
  • Soybeans and tofu
  • Walnuts
  • Cod liver oil
  • Coldwater fish such as tuna, sardines, mackerel, tuna, and salmon

5. Fibres

Fibre is important for a balanced and healthy diet. Most of the fibre comes from plant-based food, but our body is not made to absorb it. However, it is important as it aids the digestive system in the process of absorption nutrients and helps expel the waste and toxins out of our body. Below is the list of fibre rich food for your reference.

Food Sources of Fibre

  • Beans
  • Fruits with edible seeds such as watermelon, guava, fig, etc.
  • Lentils
  • Maize
  • Oats
  • Wholemeal foods, such as rice, wheat and its products like bread, pasta, etc.
  • Pulses
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Orange

6. Folate

Folate or Vitamin B9 is an important vitamin for our body. You must be aware of folic acid, which is a form of folate. Folate plays a vital role in the synthesis and repair process of DNA. Apart from this, it is also an element for the growth of cell and tissue. A folate-rich diet ensures that your kid is benefiting from the necessary nutrients to keep her body healthy and strong. Below is the list of folate-rich food sources for your reference.

Food Sources of Folate

  • Dark green leafy veggies
  • Fruits
  • Nuts like cashews, almond, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.
  • Dairy products such as cheese, milk, yoghurt
  • Meat and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Seafood
  • Grains and lentils

7. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another beneficial nutrient for our body. It is also known as ascorbic acid. Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient present in certain food sources, especially in citric fruits. Vitamin C plays a crucial role as an antioxidant in our body, which is helpful in protecting cells from infections. Our body also relies on vitamin C to generate collagen, a protein which aids in the healing of the wound. A vitamin C rich diet is essential to maintain a strong immune system. Check out the below list of vitamin C rich food sources to provide a balanced and healthy diet for your kid.

Food Sources of Vitamin C

  • Guava
  • Black currant
  • Red and green pepper
  • Kiwi
  • Orange
  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Pineapple
  • Parsley
  • Grapefruit
  • Mango

8. Protein

Protein is associated with attentiveness and focus. Our body requires protein to build and repair tissues. It is also important in the development of bones, skin, cartilage, muscles, and blood. There are several protein-rich foods to supply your kid with a balanced and protein-rich diet for her development. Peanut butter is one such protein-rich food for your kids. Below is the list of protein-rich foods to help your child grow strong and smart.

Food sources of Protein

  • Peanut butter
  • Red meat
  • Eggs
  • Soybeans
  • Tofu
  • Broccoli
  • Dry beans
  • Fish
  • Seeds
  • Poultry

9. Nutritional Supplements

As explained above, a certain food diet can improve the ADHD condition of your kid. However, at times, just by feeding food, you might not be able to supply a sufficient amount of nutrients required by your child’s body. In such cases, you can provide nutritional supplements, but only after consulting your child’s paediatrician and getting them prescribed.

Foods to Avoid for Children With ADHD

Foods to Avoid for Children With ADHD

Kids are normally active in nature. They are more like cute little energy balls bouncing around all over the place. Apart from being active, kids can be moody too, if you are a parent to little ones then once in a while, you must have come across their tantrums. However, if those tantrums are surfacing way too frequently, and she is way too cranky, then you may have to change her diet. Diet can influence your kid’s mood and the way she behaves. There are calming foods for a hyperactive child, and including these in her diet will help her calm down. That being said, diet for a hyperactive child should be decided carefully as there are some food items which may call upon negative impact and hence, should be avoided. Below is the list of foods to avoid for children with ADHD.

1. Say No to Processed Food

Processed foods are full of artificial ingredients and synthetic compounds which do not gel well with the natural chemistry of your child’s body. A diet packed with nutrients is associated with the emotional health of kids, whereas consumption of unhealthy diet directly links with emotional distress.

2. Say No to Additives

Processed foods include sodium benzoate to increase the product’s life. However, this substance is negatively linked with increased hyperactivity in kids.

3. Susceptible to allergies

Some kids may be allergic to artificial ingredients, additives, artificial colours, and flavours found in the processed food items. This might be a reason why your kid is having frequent mood swings or some other behavioural problems.

4. Say No to Sugar

Who doesn’t love sweets and sugary food? But did you know that sugar may be responsible for the fluctuations in blood sugar level? It is also responsible for the behavioural change in children. That being said, you don’t have to cut down their sugar intake entirely, instead, balance it in their diet and set limits. 

5. Foods Containing Artificial Colour and Flavor

Most of the artificial colour and flavour used in products such as soft drinks and fruit punches are directly linked with hyperactivity in children.

A balanced and nutritious diet with limited sugar intake can help your child improve the ADHD condition. If she needs a treat, you can offer homemade food made with natural sweeteners such as honey, jaggery and dates. However, it is always recommended to consult your doctor before you change your child’s diet, especially if you are looking into adding nutritional supplements.

Also Read:

Types of ADHD in Kids
How to Handle ADHD Child

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