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The Right Diet for Students with ADHD

When it comes to working with students with ADHD, we have learned there are no hard and fast formulas. Just as each of our students are unique human beings with a variety of personalities and talents beaming from them, so too are their ADHD symptoms and challenges unique. Both educators and parents of students with ADHD are always on the lookout for tips, clues, and practices that can prove beneficial for their children. One of the first areas to examine are diet and nutrition plans, specifically with an eye towards determining if such culinary disciplines can have a noticeable and positive affect on a student with ADHD.


Is There a Right Diet for Students with ADHD?

Considering the number of diets out there, it is a pretty hard sell to identify one given diet as the tried and true diet for students with ADHD. However, let's first take a step back and get a broader overview about food habits. Few people will debate the fact that our society has developed deplorable dietary practices that negatively affect us physically, emotionally, and mentally. So our exploration of potential diets for students with ADHD should not begin with a quest for the absolutely perfect diet, but to first eliminate foods and habits to avoid.

The Wrong Foods for Students with ADHD

Forgetting the magic "right" diet for the time, ensure your student is not on the wrong diet. Make sure you are excluding:

  • Candy - it may be sweet, but think of it as "sweet poison" because it is loaded with processed sugars and artificial coloring, both of which are shown to encourage or spark ADHD symptoms
  • Sodas - think of those syrupy drinks as "liquid candy on crack" because it adds caffeine and high-fructose corn syrup to the sugars and coloring; the hard fact is, these drinks offer no redeeming qualities
  • Frosted Cakes - it's so easy to whip up a frosted cake from a box, but it's just a prettified version of candy when you look at the amount of processed sugar and food coloring included in that easy mix
  • Energy Drinks - using processed sugar, food coloring, caffeine, and other stimulants, this is like adding gasoline to a fire for the person seeking to mimic ADHD symptoms
  • Frozen Fruits and Veggies - while fresh fruits and vegetables are always encouraged (particularly local and organic), frozen fruits and veggies often include artificial coloring and organophosphates (for insect control) both of which trigger ADHD symptoms
  • Food Sensitivities - some people have sensitivities towards certain foods which can trigger ADHD-like reactions; these foods include beans, chocolate, corn, eggs, grapes, milk, oranges, and wheat

The Right Foods for Students with ADHD

It is unrealistic and dishonest to proclaim certain foods to be miracle foods for students with ADHD. On the other hand, it is fair to say that certain foods qualify as better candidates for benefiting a student with ADHD as compared to having detrimental consequences. The following foods and practices are encouraged:

  • Water - 80% of your brain content is water, so a constant flow of fresh water is good for mind, body, and soul; keeping your brain hydrated is as easy as regularly drinking water during your waking hours (and increasing its intake to offset other dehydrating elements, like caffeine and alcohol)
  • High-Quality Calories - watching your calories is not just watching a number; seek foods delivering quality calories (for example, skip a cinnamon roll containing over 700 calories, opting instead for a 400-calorie salad of spinach, salmon, blueberries, apples, walnuts, and red bell peppers) 
  • Lean Protein - of course, we all need protein for energy, but most people overdo it; take your protein in small, infrequent doses (to avoid oxidative stress) rather than sit down to a huge protein-laden meal
  • Friendly Carbs - not all carbs are bad; seek out the positive carbs which are high in fiber content, such as you can find in fruits and vegetables
  • Healthy Fats - essential fatty acids are good for you (which is why they are called essential); healthy fats containing omega-3 fatty acids (the good guys!) are found in avocados, salmon, sardines, chia seeds, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables
  • Herbs and Spices - not only do they add flavor to your meal, many different herbs and spices have shown to have beneficial properties
  • Keep It Clean - whenever possible, buy locally grown, preferably organic, produce, dairy and meat products; be sure to thoroughly clean all foods and to cook from scratch as much as possible, as you will then know exactly what ingredients are in each meal

Creating Your ADHD Diet

As you can see, without adhering to any particular dietary discipline, there are plenty of things you can do (or avoid) to lessen the possibility of ADHD-related symptoms through a healthy eating lifestyle. Some people find enough noticeable results to encourage them to consider more focused diets; certain dietary programs seem better fitted to serve the student with ADHD. Even if someone is touting the "miracle" ADHD diet, no specific diet has been proven to be 100% effective or superior to others. This gives you the opportunity to create your own ADHD diet which best meets your needs, while specifically focusing on those eating habits geared towards reducing symptoms like lack of focus and improving brain function. Three popular dietary choices or trends to consider include:

Elimination Diets

As the name implies, this diet focuses on removing food items suspected to be culprits in triggering ADHD symptoms and then monitoring results to help identify which foods to avoid.

Overall Nutrition

By striving for an overall balanced diet, proponents of this style of eating suggest that improving nutrition will reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder.

Supplementation Diet

Believing foods alone are incapable of delivering the nutrients necessary to be healthy, people that adhere to this lifestyle supplement their daily food intake with vitamins and minerals.

Our Commitment to Our Valued Students

When it comes to social and academic development, Kentwood Preparatory School encourages each of our individual students to get the most from their learning experience, which includes providing them with nutritious lunches every day.

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