The Diet factor in ADHD

In a 2012 paper in Pediatrics, researchers at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago studied the diet factor in ADHD. They concluded that some children with ADHD do respond to strict elimination diets such as the Feingold diet, which removes many foods with salicylates from the diet.

But these diets are time-consuming and disruptive to the entire family—and they’re hard to implement, especially as kids get older. For most kids, simply avoiding junk food and processed foods is enough to ease ADHD symptoms; instead, focus on a diet rich in whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins, especially fish.

Here’s how:

Nix simple carbs.
Candy and fruit drinks, soft drinks, and foods sweetened with corn syrup, honey, and sugar can raise blood sugar levels and may contribute to attention problems.

Eat complex carbs.
Especially later in the day, offering kids a complex carb–rich snack can promote relaxation and sleep. Good choices include whole-grain breads and cereals. Focus on protein. Choose foods like beans, eggs, low-fat cheese, fish, and lean meat for breakfast and for after-school snacks. Protein foods may improve concentration.

Avoid foods that contain salicylates.
Some children with ADHD may be sensitive to salicylates, chemicals that occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables (especially dried fruits) as well as in processed foods, foods containing dyes, and many medications and household products. If you think certain foods affect your child’s behavior, eliminate them over time to see if symptoms approve.

Beyond the Diet

-Your doctor will likely suggest behavioral strategies to help your child manage his or her attention problems. Beyond following that advice, try these tactics.
-Stick to a medication schedule. If your doctor prescribes medication for your child, makes sure it is taken as directed and at the same time every day.
-Limit TV and electronic games at night. These can overstimulate children before bed and make it harder for them to get the 7 to 8 hours of sleep they need.
-Play, preferably outdoors. Encourage your kids to be active for at least 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week.
-Do some deep breathing. Teach your kids to stop what they’re doing and take slow deep breaths for a few minutes, whenever they feel angry or stressed.
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