ADHD is a challenging condition for anyone to live with. But children and teens with ADHA have a particularly challenging time managing their lives. Their brains are not fully developed and they don’t have basic life skills or the ability to work through difficult situations.
As a parent, you likely help your child organize and manage their life. And that includes their diet. Left to their own devices, most children and teens will gravitate toward junk food containing poor nutritional value.
The best ADHD diet for teens is one high in good nutrition and one that avoids foods high in calories and low in protein, healthy fats, and vitamins.
Follow along as HelpYourTeenNow helps you know what foods to eat and what foods to avoid for the best diet for ADHD teens.
A Standardized ADHD Diet?
First of all, let’s be clear that a diet doesn’t cause ADHD. There has yet to be a scientifically standardized ADHD diet that is one size fits all. However, nutrition does play a role in managing ADHD.
Studies have shown that diet changes can positively and negatively impact those who have ADHD. Children with ADHD benefited greatly from small dietary changes and saw their symptoms lessen.
Many foods have been studied to see how they affect brain function and in the case of ADHD, how they impact attention.
Getting your child to buy into a new diet to help them with their symptoms may be challenging, but where do you start? It starts with focusing on what makes up their diet. You can focus on three areas of their diet: high nutrition foods, the process of elimination, and supplementation. Use one or all to see if the changes help your teen with their symptoms.
Aim for High Nutrition
Your child’s overall health will also benefit from making nutrition a priority. Some children who exhibited ADHD symptoms were found in studies to be low in some essential minerals like iron, Vitamin D, and magnesium. Feeding a teen the foods which are higher in these minerals and vitamins will keep them from coming up short.
Process of Elimination
An elimination diet can help narrow down what is or is not working with your teen’s diet and impact their ADHD symptoms. This is done by removing many questionable foods for a determined period and then slowly reintroducing them one at a time to see which has a negative impact.
Try to eliminate the following:
- Food additives
- Highly processed foods like white flour
- Corn syrup, sugar, honey
Talk to your doctor about other allergens or food sensitivities your child may have and eliminate them.
Supplementation to Optimize Key Vitamins and Minerals
Getting your teen to eat nutritious stuff is a struggle for most parents. You can’t blame them when they see their friends eating various sugary snacks. Some parents give their teens supplements to make a difference when their diets don’t supply the much-needed vitamins and minerals.
Always check with your doctor or ADHD-focused dietician before administering new supplements.
Will an ADHD-focused Diet Help Your Teen?
There are never any guarantees when starting a new diet. The same goes for an ADHD diet for your teen. You can try some or all of the suggested diet changes above and feel confident that there is proof that an ADHD diet can aid in relaxing symptoms and increasing your child’s quality of life.
So the bottom line is diet will very likely help with ADHD. But what foods should you include with an ADHD diet, and which should be left out? Let’s take a look.
The Safest Foods for Your Teen
When considering the classic food pyramid and the different food groups, some foods will be most valuable to a teen with ADHD. Always consider your child’s allergies and sensitivities before trying new foods.
Protein fuel for your muscles and brain
Reducing ADHD symptoms through different forms of protein has been proven time and time again. While whey protein has always been high on the list as ADHD-friendly, it is from cows, so it’s essential to know where the milk comes from and how those cows were raised. Grass-fed and pasture-raised are always best. You can’t go too wrong with plant-based proteins, either.
If you’re going to alter your teens’ diet, experts feel that protein is the leading macronutrient to start with. Protein gives our bodies the fuel to create the neurotransmitters necessary for calmness, focus and maximizing attention.
High Protein Foods
- Meats like poultry and lean beef
Not all carbohydrates are created equally. You can get carbs from a sugary soda and from an apple. We both know which is a healthier choice, but why?
Simple quick carbs will increase your blood sugar and give you instant energy but little else health-wise. Complex carbohydrates are the difference makers. These are carbohydrate-rich foods found in their untouched natural form. These carbs aid the brain in releasing serotonin.
And why is serotonin important? Because as a neurotransmitter, serotonin helps regulate mood. Those simple carbohydrates help with the release of serotonin as well, but the complex carbs are packed with fiber in their natural state. The increase in fiber slows digestion, and that, in turn, slows the release of serotonin. This results in a very even mood and fewer ups and downs.
Complex Carb Foods
- Whole grains like brown rice or quinoa
- Root vegetables like sweet potatoes or beets
Healthy Fats: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Consumption of healthy fats like omega-3 is directly linked to improving ADHD symptoms. All people need the correct amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in their diets for brain health. But those with ADHD have much lower levels in their bodies.
Eating foods or supplements with Omega-3s can have excellent results for those with ADHD. Aim for at least three or four servings per week and talk to your doctor about supplements.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Rich Foods
- Sea bass
- Plant-based foods like chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, or soybeans
- Crustaceans like oysters and shrimp
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods can help reduce the symptoms of ADHD in teens. But some foods have the opposite effect and can worsen your teen’s symptoms.
Here is a list of the types of foods that children and teens should reduce or avoid:
- Highly processed carbohydrates– Highly processed and refined carbohydrates lack the fiber, vitamins, and minerals we need to function correctly. Sugar in any form causes our blood sugar to spike and crash.
- Caffeine– Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate. Though caffeine can increase focus, it interferes with ADHD medications and makes a teen anxious and jittery.
- Food Additives– Food dyes and additives have worsened ADHD symptoms. Choose whole foods with minimal ingredients.
The ADHD Diet for Your Teen: Is it Worth it?
Children and teens with ADHD need all the help they can get to focus and succeed at home, school, or work. Diet alone isn’t enough to cure ADHD; medication and therapy will likely be needed.
But giving your child every advantage with a healthy diet that supports their physical and mental health is excellent to give your teen every advantage.
If your teen is struggling with ADHD or any other issues and you need help, contact us today to see how we can get your child and your family on the path to healthy functioning.