Foods to avoid for kids with adhd


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Your son’s doctor is absolutely right. Sugar is not one of the causes of ADHD. And although many people believe that sugar can cause hyperactivity in children, research studies do not support this belief.

For example, some studies have monitored children’s activity levels after they were given sugar or a non-sugar substitute. The evaluators who rated the kids’ behavior didn’t know whether the kids had eaten the real stuff or the substitute. The studies concluded that the children who had been given sugar did not have higher activity levels.

This type of study is important because of the way it’s set up. Because the evaluators didn’t know which kids had eaten what, their observations weren’t biased by their beliefs about sugar’s effect on children’s behavior.

There have also been studies on how parents’ beliefs about sugar can influence the way they view their children’s behavior. In one study, all of the children were given a non-sugar substitute. Half of the mothers were told their kids had eaten real sugar. The other half were told their children had eaten the substitute.

The study’s findings? When all of the mothers were asked to rate their children’s behavior, the moms who thought their kids had eaten real sugar rated their children as more hyperactive.

Why do so many parents believe sugar makes kids hyperactive? One reason might be because of when and where children tend to eat sugary foods. Think about cupcakes at birthday parties. Or platters of cookies at a holiday gathering. Or a scoop of ice cream served close to bedtime. Kids may act up in these settings because they’re tired or overwhelmed. In other words, it may be the situation rather than the sugar that gets kids amped up.

You can help prepare your child for situations that can be overstimulating. Talk with him ahead of time about what may happen at a party or other event. Practice positive ways he can behave.

Another strategy that helps some children is to arrive after everyone else has settled in. Other kids do better when they’re the first ones there. You may want to experiment with timing and see what works best for your child.

But I want to circle back to sugary foods for a minute. If you’re concerned, take notes on your child’s diet and behavior. If you notice a definite trend in the way he behaves after eating certain foods, bring this up with his doctor. Small subsets of children with ADHD may be sensitive to certain food dyes and other kinds of food additives.

No research findings show that food dyes or additives cause ADHD. But a small number of kids may have fewer ADHD symptoms if they avoid these ingredients. It can be hard to stick to an additive-free diet. But since these additives contain none of the nutrients your child needs to grow and be healthy, there’s no harm in trying to avoid them.

In general, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of processed sugar your child eats. Although research doesn’t support the notion that sugar causes hyperactivity, we do know that sugar can cause tooth decay and increase the risk of diabetes and obesity. Sugar also offers little nutritional value.

Whenever possible, encourage your child to eat foods that don’t have a lot of refined sugar. This is a smart strategy for parents regardless of whether their kids have ADHD.

Learn more about ADHD and diet.

Why Sugar is Kryptonite: ADHD Diet Truths

Your ADHD Diet: What to Eat For Symptom Control

The bad news: Deficiencies in certain types of foods can worsen symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. The good news: An ADHD diet that boasts adequate levels of the right foods actually optimizes brain function.

Protein for ADHD Brain Function

Foods rich in protein — lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and low-fat dairy products — can have beneficial effects on ADHD symptoms. Protein-rich foods are used by the body to make neurotransmitters, the chemicals released by brain cells to communicate with each other. Protein can prevent surges in blood sugar, which increase hyperactivity and impulsivity.

“Because the body makes brain-awakening neurotransmitters when you eat protein, start your day with a breakfast that includes it,” says Laura Stevens, M.S., a nutritionist at Purdue University and author of 12 Effective Ways to Help Your ADD/ADHD Child. “Don’t stop there. Look for ways to slip in lean protein during the day, as well.”

Try: thinkThin protein bars, Larabars, Raw Revolution bars, or Berry Blendz fruit smoothies.

An ADHD Diet of Balanced Meals

Faye Berger Mitchell, a registered dietician from Bethesda, Maryland, has a nine-year-old daughter who received an ADHD diagnosis two years ago. While her daughter takes stimulants to control her ADHD symptoms, Mitchell concluded that a pill is not enough. She finds that when her daughter eats a well-balanced diet, including vegetables, complex carbohydrates, fruits, and plenty of protein, her behavior tends to be more consistently under control.

Ned Hallowell, M.D., founder of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health, in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and New York City, advises all of his patients with ADHD to think about their plates when preparing a meal. Half of the plate, he recommends, should be filled with fruits or vegetables, one-fourth with a protein, and one-fourth with carbohydrates.

Hallowell also advocates eating several servings of whole grains, which are rich in fiber, each day to prevent blood sugar levels from spiking and then plummeting.

Vitamins and Minerals to Supplement Your ADHD Diet

“Many diets are deficient in key vitamins, minerals, and fats that may improve attention and alertness,” says Richard Brown, M.D., author of How to Use Herbs, Nutrients, and Yoga in Mental Health Care. He suggests that children and adults who have been diagnosed with ADHD be tested for nutritional deficiencies.

“Supplements and diet can correct nutrient shortfalls that exacerbate ADHD symptoms,” adds Brown.

Zinc, Iron, and Magnesium In Your ADHD Diet

Zinc regulates the neurotransmitter dopamine and may make methylphenidate more effective by improving the brain’s response to dopamine. Low levels of this mineral correlate with inattention. Iron is also necessary for making dopamine. One small study1 showed ferritin levels (a measure of iron stores) to be low in 84 percent of children with ADHD compared to 18 percent of the control group. Low iron levels correlate with cognitive deficits and severe ADHD. Like zinc, magnesium is used to make neurotransmitters involved in attention and concentration, and it has a calming effect on the brain.

All three minerals are found in lean meats, poultry, seafood, nuts, soy, and fortified cereals. While diet is the safest way to increase all three mineral levels, a multivitamin/multimineral with iron will ensure that you or your child gets the daily reference value (DRV) of these minerals.

B Vitamins In Your ADHD Diet

Studies suggest that giving children who have low levels of B vitamins a supplement improved some IQ scores (by 16 points) and reduced aggression and antisocial behavior. “Vitamin B-6 seems to increase the brain’s levels of dopamine, which improves alertness,” says Brown.

Try: Bio-Strath, a Swiss formula, available in pill and liquid forms at, was used in many studies on vitamin B and ADHD. Drugstore chains also offer inexpensive, high-quality, store-brand B-vitamin formulations.

Multivitamins In Your ADHD Diet

If your child is a picky eater, or if he eats lots of take-out food, chips, and soda, he probably isn’t getting the daily recommended value of vitamins and minerals. A daily multivitamin/multimineral will ensure that he does, no matter how finicky he is.

Try: Hero Yummi Bears Multi-Vitamin + Minerals. They contain no artificial colors and flavors, which increase hyperactivity in some children with ADHD.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids In Your ADHD Diet

Omega-3s are believed to be important in brain and nerve cell function. A new study2, conducted at Göteborg University, in Sweden, concluded that daily doses of omega-3s — found in cold-water, fatty fish, such as sardines, tuna, and salmon — reduced ADHD symptoms by 50 percent. Dr. Sven Ostlund followed a group of ADHD children aged 8-18 who took fish oil daily. Within six months, there was a noticeable decrease in ADHD symptoms in 25 percent of the children.

Another study3 showed that omega-3s tend to break down more readily in the bodies of patients with ADHD than in those without the condition. “People with ADHD who have low blood levels of omega-3s will show the biggest improvement in mental focus and cognitive function,” says Brown. “Sometimes the change is dramatic.”

John Ratey, M.D., associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, recommends that you choose a supplement that contains more EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) than DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

Try: OmegaBrite, Omega Rx, MorEPA, or Nordic Naturals pills; or Barlean’s Omega Swirl drink

“Herbs may improve blood flow to the brain, increasing alertness while reducing aggressive behavior,” Brown says. Talk with your doctor, or a psycho-pharmacologist, before starting an herb regimen.

Ginkgo and Ginseng In Your ADHD Diet

“These herbs are cognitive activators,” says Brown. They act like stimulants, without the side effects of ADHD medication. Typically, adults and children who take ginkgo and ginseng improve on ADHD rating scales, and are less impulsive and distractible. Asian ginseng may overstimulate younger children. If this happens, switch to American ginseng.

Try: Hsu’s Ginseng is a reliable mail-order source for American and Asian versions of the herb. According to Brown, Ginkoba and Ginkgold are the best brands of ginkgo.

Pycnogenol In Your ADHD Diet

An extract made from French maritime pine bark, pycnogenol was found to improve hyperactivity and sharpen attention, concentration, and visual-motor coordination in students after one month, based on standardized measures and teacher and parent ratings. The herb is also rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that protect brain cells from free radical damage. “The first double-blind study4 on the herb was published in 2006, confirming its benefit,” says Brown. “Larger randomized trials, though, are needed.”

Try: Purchase pycnogenol from Nature’s Best.

Rhodiola Rosea In Your ADHD Diet

Made from a plant of the same name that grows in the Arctic, this herb can improve alertness, attention, and accuracy. It can be too stimulating for young children, and is occasionally beneficial in children ages eight to 12. It is most useful, says Brown, for students in junior high, high school, and college, who have to complete long papers and spend hours reading.

Try: Rhodiola rosea is available from Ameriden International and GNC.

What Foods Should Be Avoided with ADHD?

High-Sugar Foods and Snacks

Several studies suggest that some kids who have ADHD are “turned on” by copious amounts of sugar. One study5 concluded that the more sugar hyperactive children consumed, the more destructive and restless they became. A study6 conducted at Yale University indicates that high-sugar diets increase inattention in some kids.

Some common items to avoid include fruit “drinks” or “cocktails,” both of which are higher in sugar than 100 percent fruit juice. Read food labels carefully, looking for the following ingredients (code words for sugar): high-fructose corn sweetener, dehydrated cane juice; dextrin; dextrose; maltodextrin; sucrose; molasses; and malt syrup.

Artificial Dyes and Preservatives

Studies published in The Lancet7, Pediatrics8, and The Journal of Pediatrics9 suggest that some children with ADHD are adversely affected by food additives. A recent study10 indicates that artificial food coloring and flavors, as well as the preservative sodium benzoate, make some kids without ADHD hyperactive.

Avoid colorful cereals, like Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms. Cheerios are better, and lower in sugar. Substitute 100 percent fruit juice for soft drinks and fruit punches, most of which are artificially colored and flavored. If your child wants a treat, offer him Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies, which are free of dyes and low in sugar.

Foods That Cause Allergies

According to studies, gluten, wheat, corn, and soy cause some children to lose focus and become more hyperactive. Vincent Monastra, Ph.D., author of Parenting Children with ADHD, suggests that all children be screened for food allergies before being prescribed medication for ADHD. Talk with your doctor about testing for allergies.

Read This Next: 10 Vitamins and Minerals Recommended for ADHD


Updated on January 15, 2020

Foods that are good for hyperactive kids

Are you worried about your child being hyperactive or very impulsive? Then you should pay attention to the kid’s diet right from the beginning as the deficiency of certain nutrients can lead to hyperactivity in kids. It is a common disorder that hampers your child’s alertness and affects normal brain functioning.
In the initial stages, a balanced diet with good quality nutrients can help in combating the hyperactive behavior of your child. Try to avoid sugar, processed junk and foods with preservatives such as sodas, fries, donuts, etc and rather encourage your child to include healthy fish, eggs, nuts, fruits, vegetables in his/her daily diet.

Here’s a list of food items that you should include in your hyperactive child’s diet to enhance the brain functioning:
Fruits that contain vitamin C and antioxidants are good for calming the senses of your hyperactive kid. A deficiency of vitamin C can increase the symptoms of ADHD. Including blueberries, oranges, strawberries, guava will not only aid in relaxing the brain cells but will also ensure that it suppresses the production of stress hormones.
Nuts and seeds
Make it a habit that your child eats at least 4-5 healthy nuts and a handful of seeds every day. It will not only help in calming down the nervous system but will also ensure the proper development of your child’s brain. Walnuts, almonds, flax seeds or chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help in improving your brain cells.
Milk and dairy products
Milk is high in calcium and magnesium, which plays an important role in enhancing the neurotransmitters of the brain, thus, improving your child’s brain functioning. Having a glass of milk daily will help in maintaining and controlling your child’s hyperactive behavior.
Green leafy vegetables
Including broccoli, spinach and other green leafy vegetables which contains vitamin B especially, vitamin B-6 increases dopamine synthesis in the brain that improves alertness. The combination of various vitamins and minerals present in these green leafy veggies are responsible for improving neutral activities and enhancing the overall brain functioning.
Eggs and lean meat
A protein-rich diet is highly recommended for kids who are hyperactive, impulsive and short-tempered as good quality protein helps in simulating the neurotransmitters of the brain which eventually improves the ADHD symptoms. Including eggs, bananas, lean meat, soybeans that are high in protein can boost your brain functioning. Improve alertness, calms and relaxes nerves and controls the synthesis of stress hormones.

7 Foods to Avoid If Your Child Has ADHD

For years, doctors have speculated that certain foods may have something to do with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Much research has been done on the subject of a helpful diet for ADHD, but according to the Mayo Clinic, experts don’t believe that foods actually cause ADHD. What some foods seem to do, however, is worsen ADHD symptoms or cause behavior that mimics the signs of ADHD in children.

Some evidence suggests that children with ADHD may have low levels of essential fatty acids. However, early studies have not consistently concluded that supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids in the diets of children with ADHD will improve behavior. Omega-3 fatty acids affect the transmissions of some neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). While a balance of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids is best for overall health, the typical American diet contains too few omega-3s. Some research shows that ADHD and omega-3 deficiency share two symptoms:

  1. Excessive thirst
  2. Increased need to urinate

More research is needed in this area. The general dietary recommendations for children are to include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, bean, lean meat, and fish. Ask your ADHD dietitian about the best type of fish for ADHD.

Many parents wonder if artificial food additives and colorings contribute to ADHD. Though the causes of ADHD are still unknown, you can try removing the sources of artificial colorings and food additives, including sugar-sweetened drinks, candy, and colorful cereals, and determine if your child’s behavior improves. Eliminate processed food products, and instead provide a wholesome diet of fresh, healthy foods to optimize the health and well-being of your child.

Be aware that megadoses of vitamins and minerals can be toxic to a child and can interact with ADHD pills. To date, there is little consistent evidence that ADHD can be treated with nutritional supplements. Again, aim for a balanced diet that includes a variety of fresh, whole foods.

What about caffeine and ADHD? Excessive caffeine and excessive consumption of fast foods and other foods of poor nutritional value can cause kids to display behavior that might be confused with ADHD, according to Frank Barnhill, MD, an expert on ADHD and the author of Mistaken for ADHD.

To learn more about a diet for ADHD, talk with your child’s doctor about the pros and cons of trying a diet that eliminates food additives to see if it makes a difference in your child’s behavior. Make sure your doctor or an ADHD dietitian helps supervise the diet plan. A diet that eliminates too many foods can be unhealthy because it may lack necessary vitamins and nutrients.

Read on for a list of foods that may be linked with ADHD symptoms.


Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Introduction to oppositional defiance
The bad news
The good news
“Where do I start?”
Readers stories
Scientific references
Further information

Keywords: oppositional defiance, temper, anger, hostility, conduct disorder

Introduction to oppositional defiance

The main feature of oppositional defiance is irritability

  • oppositional defiance generally develops between the ages of 1-3 years
  • the child’s behaviour depends on interaction – when life is good the child is good but the child can overreact when asked to do something he or she doesn’t like
  • children with oppositional defiance like to say ‘no’
  • children with oppositional defiance display a pattern of negative, hostile and defiant behaviour lasting at least six months and including at least four of the features listed below

Symptoms of oppositional defiance

  • losing temper
  • arguing with adults
  • refusing adult requests or defying rules
  • deliberately annoying other people
  • blaming others for own mistakes
  • touchy or easily annoyed
  • angry and resentful

Oppositional defiance can exist with or without ADHD

  • oppositional defiance runs in families
  • your child doesn’t have to be diagnosed with ODD to have features of oppositional defiance that will respond to diet
  • adults can be oppositionally defiant too

The bad news

Medications for ADHD can make these children worse because they are better able to focus on being defiant.

Behaviour management is hard to do and doesn’t always work

  • avoid confrontations
  • avoid arguments
  • avoid smacking
  • never back these children into a corner
  • offer options
  • be calm and positive

If untreated, oppositional defiance may progress to Conduct Disorder which includes lawbreaking.

The good news

Oppositional defiance can be well controlled by changing what the child or adult eats. You can see this with your own eyes in the dramatic video of the Shipley Project in which eight extremely oppositional chronic juvenile offenders literally change under our eyes as they follow an elimination diet for three weeks.

(37Mb, 4:56mins)

Most parents have never noticed an effect of food. A few children ‘go ballistic’ soon after eating food colours but for most families, the effects of food chemicals creep up, unnoticed. What most people see is this:

  • Food chemicals can build up gradually, resulting in good days and bad days with no obvious cause
  • When a child eats fast food or spaghetti, he or she might be irritable or have a bad day at school the next day or the day after.
  • Not everyone reacts to the same food chemicals.
  • Some natural “healthy” foods can be a problem.
  • Some families are more sensitive than others.

Some other effects of food chemicals

  • eczema
  • migraines
  • tinnitus
  • irritable bowel
  • bedwetting
  • sneaky poos
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • restless legs
  • asthma
  • arthritis
  • impairment of memory or concentration
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • panic attacks
  • unexplained tiredness

These symptoms may appear in other members of the family.

Common problem-causing foods

  • Additives in soft drinks, cordials, lollies, flavoured snacks, chips and biscuits, takeaways, icecreams and “healthy” foods like bread (preservative 282), yoghurt (colour 160b) or sausages (preservative 223).
  • Natural chemicals in some fruits, juice, dried fruit and vegetables, especially tomatoes, oranges, sultanas, grapes and broccoli.
  • Food chemicals can pass through breastmilk and affect babies.

“Where do I start?”

Some families see an improvement just by cutting down on the worst foods:

  • switch to preservative-free bread
  • avoid artificial colours in products such as drinks, lollies and icypoles
  • water is the best drink – kids drink water better if given their own water bottle
  • avoid citrus and tomatoes

If that’s not enough, you can do an elimination-and-challenge diet supervised by a dietitian to find out which food chemicals cause problems. Ask for our list of failsafe-friendly dietitians.

When symptoms are severe, dairy foods and wheat or gluten may have to be avoided as well as additives and natural chemicals called salicylates and amines.

What can we eat?

The plain, natural, unprocessed foods that children ate 40 years ago were low in additives. Contrary to public opinion, white sugar does not affect children’s behaviour.

Some additive-free alternatives:

eg. Brumby’s bread, pure (not softened) butter or Nuttelex margarine, Arnott’s Saltine biscuits, Glengarry shortbreads, traditional rolled oats or Rice Bubbles, Kettle plain chips, failsafe sausages, Peters original vanilla icecream, Pascall’s white marshmallows, Darryl Lea butterscotch, home-made magic cordial: dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup warm water and add ½-1 tsp citric acid. Dilute to taste.

Additives to avoid

The following additives may cause problems. Some people may also need to avoid natural food chemicals called salicylates, amines and natural MSG.

Additives that commonly cause problems

Artificial colours (in sweets, drinks, takeaways, cereals and many processed foods) 102 tartrazine, 104 quinoline yellow, 110 sunset yellow, 122 azorubine, 123 amaranth, 124 ponceau red, 127 erythrosine, 129 allura red, 132 indigotine,133 brilliant blue, 142 green S, 143 fast green FCF, 151 brilliant black, 155 chocolate brown

Natural colour 160b annatto (in yoghurts, icecreams, popcorn etc, 160a is a safe alternative)


200-203 sorbates (in margarine, dips, cakes, fruit products)

210-213 benzoates (in juices, soft drinks, cordials, syrups, medications)

220-228 sulphites (in dried fruit, fruit drinks, sausages, and many others)

280-283 propionates including cultured whey/dextrose (in bread, crumpets, bakery products)

249-252 nitrates, nitrites (in processed meats like ham)

Synthetic antioxidants (in margarines, vegetable oils, fried foods, snacks, biscuits etc)

310-312 Gallates

319-320 TBHQ, BHA, BHT (306-309 are safe alternatives)

Flavour enhancers (in tasty foods)

621 MSG, hydrolysed vegetable protein, yeast extract

627, 631, 635 disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, ribonucleotides

Strong flavours in many foods and children’s medicines (vanilla is safest)

Readers stories

You can see inspiring collections of success stories on anger and aggression which are characteristic of ODD. And also a large success story collection on ODD itself.

Oppositional defiance disorder ODD – thread from facebook (February 2014)

My DS7 admitted tonight that he is doesn’t listen because he does not like what he may have to do at the time (i.e. defiant after they didn’t practice enough flips at gymnastics tonight). Is then just a derivative of ODD or is food intolerance contributing to it? I hate to keep him on the elim diet if he is just naturally defiant…lol, if you know what I mean – Michelle READ MORE

Scientific references

Clarke, L and others (1996) ‘The dietary management of food allergy and food intolerance in children and adults’. Australian Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics (53:3),89-94.

Bennett and others, (1998) ‘The Shipley Project: treating food allergy to prevent criminal behaviour in community settings’, Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, 8, 77-83.

Jacobson FJ and Schardt D, 1999, Diet, ADHD and behaviour: a quarter-century review. Centre for Science in the Public Interest, Washington DC.

Further information

Fed Up with ADHD, Fed Up and The Failsafe Cookbook by Sue Dengate, available on our website and in bookstores and libraries

Introduction to food intolerance

The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Elimination Diet Handbook, available from dietitians and the RPAH website

Friendly Food by Anne Swain and others, available in bookstores

The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians

© Sue Dengate update January 2013

Children Conduct Disorder Oppositional Defiant Disorder ODD

Conduct disorder/ ODD is an exhausting disorder affecting children, or the entire family when a child with the disorder behaves in a manner resembling the terrible two’s magnified by 50.

­A child who is so out of control even Nanny 911 episodes appear tame. It feels as if something went so incredibly wrong that a child acts out in ways that will make a parent fear they are raising the next serial killer. Sure, that may sound a bit dramatic but this is how it is when living with a child diagnosed with Conduct disorder / Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

I have a son who had Oppositional defiant disorder. I had never heard of it until a school psychologist who had watched and worked with my son for four years finally figured it out. Thankfully, I have a wonderful supportive husband by my side helping me change my son’s behavior from out of control to my sweet charming little man who has learned so much in four very long and difficult years.

If it weren’t for this man coming into our lives I shudder to think where we would be today. I consider my son to be completely healed, although our regiment is and will continue to be quite strict and consistent as it is what he needs. It took my new husband, a team of teachers, tutors, counselors, and doctors to help my son along his path to finding himself somewhere inside that monster that was showing his ugly face every day.

I had lost hope and my energy was depleted so it took my new husband stepping in and basically taking over control to start keeping my son in line, by being incredibly consistent and strict. That’s when I started seeing a difference. I also noticed a change when I removed preservatives and excess sugars from my sons’ diet. With these changes apparent, my hope was restored and we were on our way to finding my son again.

In researching ODD here is what I learned: The term disorder is a misnomer because it is not a disorder but instead a learned behavior, or likely a combination of a child’s home environment and inherited factors including:

  • Ineffective, Inconsistent and/or harsh discipline
  • Lack of supervision, neglect or abuse
  • Limitations or developmental delays in a child’s ability to process their thoughts and feelings

Being that Oppositional defiant disorder is a learned behavior it can also be unlearned or reversed with a strict and consistent routine. There are no medications to treat ODD; however, many times a child will have other related mental health issues that are successfully treated with medication.

Some of the mental health issues often times occurring with ODD are:

  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

A child with ODD will display symptoms such as an extremely strong will, disrespect and opposition to adults or people in authority positions, defiance in almost any situation, temper tantrums disproportionate to the child’s age, argumentativeness, lying, anger, and resentment. It is not unusual for a child to pick a fight and as soon as an exhausted adult gives in and tells the child, “ok! Yes, you’re right the sky is green.” The child will then argue, “No it isn’t, its blue”. This type of behavior, over and over, leaves parents feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and feeling out of control themselves.

Children with ODD will struggle in school and in making and/or keeping friends. It appears a child with Oppositional defiant disorder thrives on deliberately annoying other people. They refuse to take responsibility, blaming others for their mistakes or misbehavior; they are easily annoyed and act with aggression toward peers and adults. They often have trouble academically.

Parents with a child suffering from ODD should seek support and help from a professional familiar with this disorder as many times it is misdiagnosed, and left untreated ODD can, and most likely will, progress to the more serious Conduct disorder, substance abuse and severe delinquency.

Conduct disorder commonly occurs when ODD is left untreated. The child will most likely begin to violate more serious rules like running away from home or skipping school. Their pattern of misbehavior will usually progress to more aggressive behavior toward people and or animals. Children may initiate bullying and fighting, or animal cruelty. They may become disrespectful of others’ property by stealing or causing damage by vandalism or arson.

Children afflicted with ODD or Conduct disorder will most likely have trouble feeling empathy and may misread social queues or miss them altogether. He may misinterpret others behavior as hostile or aggressive leading him to act out in response to the aggression with aggression in return.

Living with a child with either Conduct disorder or ODD is exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking. Parents should get help, avoid power struggles, and remain positive with their child. Their child requires an extremely strict routine, consistency and positive reinforcement as well as a happy and refreshed parent who has confidence in themselves. The child will thrive in an environment which is healthy and did I mention consistent, consistent, consistent? I cannot emphasize that word enough.

Parents and children will benefit from parental training. Parents and siblings should have patience as the treatment will include the whole family. When one child is disruptive, the entire family feels the effects and everyone suffers the consequences to a degree. The upside to this “disorder” is that it is within a parent’s control to change their child’s behavior and their life.

The incredible part is, with patience, determination, and consistent parenting you can change your child’s behavior. Once my son overcame his defiant behavior it was hard to imagine that my sweet child was once a monster and I sometimes wonder if exaggerated the whole thing. Then a see a video and I’m reminded of how horrific our lives were and realize I was in such a stupor because it was my only way to cope with how out of control my home was.

I know now it was the worst way to handle our situation and it made my sons condition so much worse. The upside is, now that we’ve overcome this, I know I can overcome anything. My best advice is that its ok… no, it’s a very good idea to ask for help!­

note from the editorial staff: ODD explained and descriped form a “first-hand”-mother is far better and reliable than from any theoretical book or course. it’s just life nothing else but the real one.

ADHD Weekly, May 30, 2019

Can what your child eats affect her ADHD symptoms? We know that diet and food do not cause ADHD, but there’s a growing body of evidence that some dietary supports can help improve symptoms for a number of people.

Developmental pediatrician Marianne Glanzman, MD, takes a serious look at the nutritional needs of children who have ADHD and the research on how food choices can support their overall health. Proteins and carbohydrates in the right balance, along with meal timing that can improve the effectiveness of medication, are important to symptom management. Research has identified vitamins and minerals in our foods that play a role in health. Omega-3 fatty acids hold promise when it comes to healthy development of the brain and many systems in our bodies. Dr. Glanzman discusses all these findings and what they could mean for your child.

Sometimes, nutritional or dietary changes can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan to help your child with ADHD experience success. As with other interventions, a clinician who will help you evaluate the positive and negative effects is an invaluable ally. Keep reading What Should I Feed My Child with ADHD? in Attention magazine to learn more about food choices that could be helpful for your child.

Join the discussion: What foods does your family enjoy?

Do Diet and Nutrition Affect ADHD? Facts and Clinical Considerations

1. Feingold BF. Hyperkinesis and learning disabilities linked to artificial food flavors and colors. Am J Nurs. 1975;75:797-803.

2. Bateman B, Warner JO, Hutchinson E, et al. The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population sample of preschool children. Arch Dis Child. 2004;89:506-511.

4. Stevenson J, Sonuga-Barke E, McCann D, et al. The role of histamine degradation gene polymorphisms in moderating the effects of food additives on children’s ADHD symptoms. Am J Psychiatry. 2010;167:1108-1115.

5. Sonuga-Barke EJ, Brandeis D, Cortese S, et al. Nonpharmacological interventions for ADHD: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials of dietary and psychological treatments. Am J Psychiatry. 2013;170:279-289.

6. Nigg JT, Lewis K, Edinger T, et al. Meta-analysis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, restriction diet, and synthetic food color additives. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012;51:86-97.

7. Pelsser LM, Frankena K, Toorman J, et al. Effects of a restricted elimination diet on the behaviour of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (INCA study): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2011;377:494-503.

8. Catala-Lopez F, Hutton B, Nunez-Beltran A, et al. The pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: A systematic review with network meta-analyses of randomised trials. PLoS One. 2017;12:e0180355.

9. Erturk E, Wouters S, Imeraj L, et al. Association of ADHD and celiac disease: what is the evidence? A systematic review of the literature. J Atten Disord. January 2016; Epub ahead of print.

10. Lien L, Lien N, Heyerdahl S, et al. Consumption of soft drinks and hyperactivity, mental distress, and conduct problems among adolescents in Oslo, Norway. Am J Public Health. 2006;96:1815-1820.

12. Howard AL, Robinson M, Smith GJ, et al. ADHD is associated with a “Western” dietary pattern in adolescents. J Atten Disord. 2011;15:403-411.

13. Mayer AB. Historical changes in the mineral content of fruits and vegetables. Br J Food. 1997;99:207-211.

14. Hawkey E, Nigg JT. Omega-3 fatty acid and ADHD: blood level analysis and meta-analytic extension of supplementation trials. Clin Psychol Rev. 2014;34:496-505.

15. Rucklidge JJ, Kaplan B. Broad-spectrum micronutrient treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: rationale and evidence to date. CNS Drugs. 2014:1-11.

16. Rucklidge JJ, Frampton CM, Gorman B, et al. Vitamin-mineral treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults: double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial. Br J Psychiatry. 2014;204:306-315.

17. Rucklidge JJ, Eggleston MJF, Johnstone JM, et al. Vitamin-mineral treatment improves aggression and emotional regulation in children with ADHD: a fully blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2018;59:232-246.

19. Gately D, Kaplan BJ. Database analysis of adults with bipolar disorder consuming a multinutrient formula. Clin Med Psychiatry. 2009;4:3-16.



As mentioned earlier, the specific hypothesis that synthetic food colorings influence ADHD (at that time, hyperkinetic reaction), via either allergenic or pharmacologic mechanisms, was introduced in the 1970s by Feingold.31–33 Feingold was an allergist, so his predisposition was to evaluate for potential allergens in patients. He suggested initially that children who are allergic to aspirin (which contains salicylates) may be reactive to synthetic food colors as well as naturally occurring salicylates, although he later focused in particular on food color additives. He proposed a diet free of foods with a natural salicylate radical and all synthetic colors and flavors to treat hyperactiv-ity. This diet is also referred to as the Kaiser Permanente diet. This approach is still promoted today by the organization he founded ( A narrower approach simply restricts synthetic food colors, although these are sometimes also restricted as part of more general diets.

In the 1970s and 1980s, various versions of the Feingold diet were heavily studied in the United States, but more recently this type of diet has been investigated primarily in Europe. In 1982, the National Institutes of Health convened a consensus development conference on defined diets and childhood hyperactivity, which recommended further study.34 In the subsequent 30 years, several major reviews have been attempted, albeit on a persistently weak literature. Those reviews are summarized in Table 1. Herein, their insights and a few others are briefly highlighted.

Table 1

Major reviews of ADHD and restriction/elimination diets

Authors, Year Focus Method Conclusion
Kavale & Forness,35 1983 Feingold diet Meta-analysis ES = 0.11 (ns)
Breakey,59 1997 Diet generally Qualitative Some children
Schab & Trinh,36 2004 Food colors Meta-analysis ES = 0.21* (parent)
Stevens et al,41 2011 Diet generally Qualitative Some promise
Pelsser et al,39 2011 Restriction Meta-analysis ES = 1.2*
Nigg et al,42 2012 Restriction Meta-analysis ES = 0.30*
Nigg et al,42 2012 Food colors Meta-analysis ES = 0.22*
Sonuga-Barke et al,6 2013 Restriction Meta-analysis ES = 0.51 (ns)
Sonuga-Barke et al,6 2013 Food colors Meta-analysis ES = 0.42*
Arnold et al,60 2013 Diet generally Qualitative Some promise
Stevenson et al,46 2014 Diet generally Qualitative Some promise

Abbreviation: ES, effect size.


An initial meta-analysis in 198335 included 23 studies of varying quality regarding the efficacy of the Feingold diet; the authors concluded that the composite effect size (d = 0.11) was too small to be important, setting the tone for 2 decades of professional skepticism as to the value of elimination diets. More recently, however, in 2004, Schab and Trinh36 reviewed 15 higher quality studies, which were all double-blind, placebo-controlled studies focused on food color elimination or challenge, plus 6 others for a supplemental analysis. They concluded that there was a reliable effect (d = 0.28) linking synthetic colors to ADHD symptoms in parent ratings, but not in teacher or observer ratings. The effects seemed to be similar whether or not children were initially selected to be hyperactive. Although the results were equivocal (failure to see a reliable effect in teacher or observer ratings, least prone to hidden failure of study blinding), they spurred new interest.

About that same time, a widely publicized population-based study conducted in England37 concluded that food additives contribute to hyperactivity, prompting the European Union Parliament recently to require warning labels on foods containing 6 colors (not all of which are approved for use in the United States by the US Food and Drug Administration, FDA38). The FDA has approved 9 synthetic colors for use in food subject to batch certification: FD&C Blue number 1 (brilliant blue), FD&C Blue number 2 (Indigotine), FD&C Green number 3 (Green S; fast green), Orange B, Citrus Red number 2 (Amaranth), FD&C Red number 3 (Erythrosine), FD&C Red number 40 (Allura Red), FD&C Yellow number 5 (Tartrazine), and FD&C Yellow number 6 (Sunset Yellow). All but Orange B are also approved for use in Europe, but in Europe, warning labels are now required on FD&C Red number 40 (Allura Red AC), FD&C Yellow number 5 (Tartrazine), FD&C Yellow number 6 (Sunset Yellow), and 3 colors used in Europe but not the United States: Quinoline Yellow, Carmoisine, and Ponceau. That study did not examine a restriction/elimination diet, however. Rather, they challenged typically developing children selected from the community with a drink containing a measured dose of food colors and a sodium benzoate preservative. The children were a cohort of 3 year olds (n = 153) and a cohort of 8 year olds (n = 144). The results were complicated by the use of 2 different formulations of active drink plus placebo, and the finding that in the 2 age groups different formulations influenced ADHD symptoms. Nonetheless, given the absence of nutritional benefit of the food additives and a precautionary stance, European regulators took action. This study seemed to support, indirectly, that an elimination diet therefore might help children with ADHD.

Another large European study, conducted in the Netherlands, also attracted considerable attention and some controversy. Pelsser and colleagues39 conducted a double-blind crossover study of an elimination diet. They randomized 50 children with ADHD to an individually designed few foods diet and 50 to healthy diet counseling. Responders to the elimination diet were then given a challenge using high-inflammatory or low-inflammatory foods on the basis of each child’s individual IgG blood test result. Thirty children (60%) had a positive response to the restriction/elimination diet, but only 19 of 30 had symptom relapse on the challenge foods. The authors concluded that their restriction/elimination diet was effective for ADHD but that the use of IgG blood test to determine who should be treated was not useful. Although findings appeared to be impressive, a critical flaw in the design was that the authors relied on clinician ratings for the primary findings, and clinicians in turn relied on parent reports—but parents were, of course, not blind to the interventions. Those same authors reported a brief review of prior trials of restriction diets in ADHD and identified a large effect of d = 1.2. However, that effect relied on including nonblind, open-label trials.

Controversy continued in North America. In 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy organization, petitioned the FDA to regulate food color additives. They provided an unpublished literature review arguing that colorings contributed to behavior problems and contended there was little justification for incurring any health risks, because food colors provide no health benefits.40 The FDA subsequently commissioned its own unpublished, qualitative review, which concluded in 2011 that the evidence fell short of a causal association for food colors that are approved in the United States. However, that same year a major published qualitative review by Stevens and colleagues41 (see Table 1) concluded that a subgroup of children with ADHD is sensitive to synthetic color additives, flavors, or salicylates and could benefit from a restriction/elimination diet. Thus, they highlighted not only the issue of differential response across different children but also the idea that restriction/elimination diets have value, and food coloring per se may not be the main culprit.

To further investigate all this quantitatively, Nigg and colleagues42 conducted a meta-analysis of both restriction/elimination diet effects and food coloring effects on ADHD. They identified 6 restriction diet studies that used either a placebo-controlled diet challenge or a crossover design,29,39,43–45 which in aggregate examined 195 children for improvement in hyperactive symptoms. However, one study39 had questionable blinding of participants and was also a statistical outlier that fully accounted for heterogeneity of effects. Effects therefore were interpreted with the remaining 5 studies. These studies yielded a summed response rate (response being defined variously across studies) of greater than 35% (95% confidence interval , 19%–52%; n = 164). Because of the variable definition of responder across studies, the aggregate effect size on symptom change was examined. Pooling across all informants (parents, teachers, observers), the 5-study effect was g = 0.29 (Standard error = 0.12 ; P = .014) with almost no variation across studies.

Sonuga-Barke and colleagues6 identified a somewhat larger effect size in their meta-analysis by restricting studies to children who had a clear diagnosis of ADHD, as noted in Table 1. Stevenson and colleagues46 distinguished between restriction elimination diet generally and elimination of food coloring. They concluded that both interventions might work, but that well-conducted large trials were lacking (foreshadowing the present authors’ own conclusion to an extent).

When putting together both studies of restriction/elimination diets generally and studies of food color elimination specifically, effects sizes across the best studies therefore appear to range from d = 0.2 to d = 0.4 depending on study selection, with the possibility that effects are somewhat larger in children with ADHD. However, the finding of larger mean symptom changes in children with ADHD is difficult to interpret, because those children by definition have more extreme symptom scores and therefore less restriction of range in their scores in response to intervention. In addition, if food colors are not the main culprit in dietary effects, then challenge studies of food colors will underestimate the effects of an elimination diet. Carter and colleagues47 challenged children who had responded to an elimination diet with foods to identify what caused their symptoms to worsen. During these challenges, a wide range of foods provoked reactions, including typical allergenic foods (wheat, eggs, milk, cheese), chocolate, and additive-containing foods. Only a small minority of children seemed to react primarily to artificial colorings.

Furthermore, and crucially, the mean symptom change is of little interest when it comes to clinical decision-making: more important is likelihood of positive response. What percentage of children might respond? If responses are heterogeneous, then the mean symptom change may obscure a strong response in some children and no response in the others. This topic is discussed again below.

Thus, as should be apparent, a key challenge in evaluating this literature is that different reviewers do not agree on what the relevant set of studies is for a given question, simply because variation in study methodology is so vast. Evaluating response to diet is also complicated by a wide range of study designs and questions asked. The studies in the literature have asked the following questions and arrived at the following answers.

First, many studies simply asked, when an open-label few foods diet is given with no attempt to blind raters to the diet, what percentage of parents or other observers think their child has improved after a few weeks? Nigg and colleagues42 pooled studies on this question and answered, “49%” as shown in modified form in Table 2. However, this number is not the number of randomly selected children with ADHD who will respond to diet—many of these studies drew children from specialty clinics for parents of children who either were interested in dietary intervention or already had suspected dietary problems. Others examined normal, nonhyperactive youth.

Table 2

Open-label, non-blind trials of restriction/elimination diet of any type (colors only, few foods, other) on variously defined symptom response rate of children with ADHD

Two of these studies are considered in detail for the purpose of illustration. Rowe and Rowe48 had 800 children referred for problems with hyperactivity. Of these 800, they selected 200 whose parents suspected that problems were related to diet (it was not clear if more than 200 parents suspected this, so a conservative estimate is that at least 25% of the parents thought diet might be affecting their child’s symptoms). These 200 then underwent an open-label, nonblind trial of a diet free of food colorings; fully 75% (150) of them saw improvement. Of these, 54 agreed to a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which 24 of 54 seemed to respond. From this study, it seems clear that some children respond to dietary intervention, but the prior probability of response for a given child with ADHD is very difficult to gauge. It is not 24 of 54, because many nonresponders were already screened out. An alternative inference might be that 150 of 800 were responders by parent report on open label, and that half of these were “genuine,” leading to an estimated true dietary response rate in the total ADHD population of 75 of 800 or about 9% to 10%, rather than the 49% in Table 2.

Carter and colleagues47 provide another example. They selected 130 children referred to a specialty clinic for diet and hyperactivity (many already on special diets to address their ADHD). Each child was then placed on an individualized, open-label, nonblinded few foods diet for 2 to 3 weeks, with dietary adjustments made to maximize chances of improvement. Only 78 (60%) were able to tolerate the 2-to 3-week few foods trial and continued. For 59 of them, parents thought there was meaningful improvement, suggesting an open-label response rate of 45% (59/130), but 9 of these were unable to continue the diet after the trial, leading to an open-label success rate of 38% even in children for whom parents suspected a dietary problem ahead of time. Foods were then reintroduced in an effort to identify offending substances or foods, again in a nonblind, open-trial fashion. Finally, 19 children who had been responders were given a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with and without offending foods. This trial was done by disguising offending foods or food colors into the food. For 14 of 19 (73%) children, behavior was “better” on placebo, although size of the effect required to identify a change was unclear. From this study, it would be inferred that perhaps 28% (38% × 73%) of children whose parents suspect a dietary influence will have a true positive response to diet in regards to a reduction in ADHD symptoms, again less than the 49% implied in Table 2.

Second, then, is the question of a true double-blind trial to look at response rate. Because most studies have been preoccupied with mean symptom change, only a few studies meet the criteria of using an elimination diet, maintaining at least a single-blind (observers or raters are not aware of the diet) or a double-blind (parents, children, and observers are unaware of the diet), and also enable a count of percentage of responders by some definition. Nevertheless, these are the most informative if heterogeneity of response is assumed.

As noted earlier, Nigg and colleagues42 concluded that the handful of available studies in this vein suggested a response rate that could be 25% to 30%. A conservative set of such studies is summarized in Table 3. (Table 3 excludes some studies that purported to be double-blind but which were judged not to be double-blind.) Table 3 suggests a response rate of about 26% of ADHD children to various forms of restriction diet. The authors considered these studies a bit more closely to scrutinize the clinical question of response likelihood and to illustrate the methods and range of findings.

Table 3

Summary of 5 double-blind randomized trials of elimination or challenge diet in children with ADHD not preselected to be diet responsive

Note: Change criterion reflects change in symptom scores identified as necessary by investigator to say child benefitted from intervention. 100% symptom change means “normal range” behavior after intervention. All except Schmidt used Conners rating scale as the outcome measure. LL, UL, 95% confidence interval upper and lower limits.

Kaplan and colleagues29 examined 24 hyperactive preschool boys. They controlled all food given to the entire family during the weeks of the trial, with a diet that restricted not only food colors, but also chocolate, MSG, preservatives, caffeine, and any substance that families reported might affect their specific child. The diet was also low in simple sugars, and it was dairy-free if the family reported a history of possible problems with cow’s milk. They defined a responder as 25% symptom improvement, and by this criterion, the response rate was nearly 50%.

Harley and colleagues44 studied 36 school-aged children and 10 preschool children. Here only the school-aged children were considered because they were unable to obtain teacher ratings on the preschoolers (although there was some suggestion of a higher response rate in the preschoolers). They likewise removed all food from the house, delivered all food to the entire family, disguised the foods, and left the families unaware of what diet they were eating or which weeks they were eating the experimental diet. Thus, blinding of parents and teachers was carefully done. They defined a meaningful change as just a 10% change in the rating scale on the experimental diet. By this criterion, 30% of the mothers or fathers saw improvement. However, these effects tended to occur only when the experimental diet was the second diet tried, raising suspicion of rater artifact. In teacher rating (perhaps the best single rater), there was no such order effect and only 6 of 36 or 17% showed a minimal 10% improvement. Only 4 of 36 (11%) showed a 10% improvement agreed on by both teacher and at least one parent.

Williams and colleagues49 gave a full elimination diet in an open-label fashion, but then conducted a double-blind trial using cookies with additives in them, thus providing a lower bound estimate on response. They required a 33% change in symptoms to define a responder. By that criteria, 5 of 26 (19%) were responders in teacher ratings; none of these were echoed in parent ratings.

Schmidt and colleagues45 created a reasonable attempt at a double-blind, placebo-controlled oligoantigenic diet for 49 children. The outcome was judged based on ratings in a standardized setting by trained raters blinded to intervention condition. Twelve (24%) children responded, but notably, the response magnitude in those 12 children was judged to be similar to the response magnitude of children who received medication in the medication arm of the same trial. This small study thus suggests that the diet may work very well for some children.

Overall, studies that fully control the diet and conduct a double-blind trial to evaluate response rate are exceedingly rare, small, and outdated (none have been reported in nearly 2 decades if the studies by Pelsser and colleagues are excluded for inadequate blinding). More common are double-blind trials of food color additives. Taken together, the literature suggests that some children respond, but are almost certainly a minority of children with ADHD.

A Healthy ADHD Diet Plan for your Kid

So what should a healthy platter constitute for your child with ADHD? Please note that this article details some essential guidelines around ADHD diet for kids. If your child also has Autism, you might prefer to check out our guidelines around Gluten Free (GFCF) Diet for Autism instead.

Parenting a child with ADHD could be overwhelming. A bulk of time goes into making endless trips to the clinic, fanatically looking for the right ADHD medications, and consulting school teachers and caregivers about your child’s improvement. And in between all these you also have to fit in your day job, usual chores, family and friends. Phew! In this rush, you possibly have forgotten to pay close attention to your child’s diet for ADHD.

Yes, a majority of parents, whose children suffer from the neurological disorder, find it difficult to ensure a healthy diet to their children. This is partly because they don’t know how to go about it; where to start and how to differentiate between authentic and deceptive food products. More importantly, they don’t even know that some foods could worsen their child’s condition.

Today’s article will provide you with some valuable guidelines on how to ensure a right ADHD diet for your child. Remember, a balanced diet is every bit as important as a right medication that your child needs.

Ensuring a healthy diet for your child with ADHD symptoms

If you have a child with attention deficit disorder then you’ll definitely find the following guidelines extremely practical. These guidelines will come in handy to anyone who prefers a healthy lifestyle.

Let’s begin by refreshing our high school biology.

Understanding what their body needs

Our body needs a lot of macronutrients, such as protein, fat and carbohydrates (carbs), along with micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. A healthy platter must constitute a mishmash of the following nutrients.


Protein are used for creating enzymes, hormones and other important body chemicals. It is also used in building bones, cartilage, skin, tissues, muscles and blood. Protein comes from any kind of meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. But if your family prefer vegetables then you can depend on beans, peas, broccoli, and even on nuts and grains like oat, millet, wheat and quinoa, to name a few.

Protein consumption would depend on the person’s age and body mass. But for guidance, if your child weighs between 80 pounds to 100 pounds then he or she needs around 1.5 to 2 ounces of protein each day. For an accurate figure, contact your nutritionist.

Important Sources of protein

But if your family prefer vegetables then you can depend on beans, peas, broccoli, and even on nuts and grains like oat, millet, wheat and quinoa, to name a few. Protein consumption would depend on the person’s age and body mass. But for guidance, if your child weighs between 80 pounds to 100 pounds then he or she needs around 1.5 to 2 ounces of protein each day. For an accurate figure, contact your nutritionist.


Carbohydrates Provide energy for physical activities, brain functioning and operations of other organs. Choose carbohydrates that are rich in fiber as well as low on the glycemic index (GI). Consuming low-GI carbs, like oatmeal, pear, bran, will keep blood sugar level in check and will provide an uninterrupted supply of energy crucial for child’s brain functioning.

Essential Carbs for body

Add peanuts or walnuts to your child’s breakfast or snack. It’s a good way to add healthy carbs to his or her diet. You can also make salads with carrots, lettuce and tomatoes if you wish to include some carbs in their meal. Eggplant, peppers, lentils, peas, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, milk, and apples are other good source of carbs which are easily available.


Fats are important too, like Triglycerides, cholesterol and other essential fatty acids. Their main function is to protect our main organs by providing insulation and storing energy. Vitamins A, D, E and K are stored in fatty tissues and liver. Learn to differentiate between bad fats and good fats. A mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is healthy and good for your family members with or without ADHD. Olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts, peanut butter, and fishes like salmon and tuna are good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Choose carefully between Good Fat Vs Bad Fat.

Among all other fats, omega 3-fatty acid (found in fish) is of utmost importance for your child’s brain functioning. Many doctors use omega 3 fish oil supplements to treat children with ADHD. A study showed a 40 to 50 per cent progress in behavior of ADHD children who were administered omega 3 fish oil for 30 weeks as against a 30 to 40 percent improvement in those who took fish oil for 15 weeks. Therefore, make sure that you include seafood like tuna or salmon in their lunch or dinner (maybe a tuna sandwich). Also don’t shy away from saturated fats completely. Consumption of saturated fats in a controlled fashion will benefit for your child.


These encourage your child to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. There is no alternative to fruits and green vegetables which are rich in minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients. Study shows that many children with ADHD have lower level of antioxidant in their body.

Micronutrients – An essential diet component for Children with ADHD.

Micronutrients such as vitamins play defining roles in immune system functioning, bone formation, wound healing, digestive system, nervous system and in numerous other ways. Papaya, almond, asparagus are a few examples of vitamin-enriched food.

Calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and many other minerals are required by the body to fulfil several crucial functions and these micronutrients are available in legumes, spinach, beet greens, milk, yogurt, tomatoes and avocados to name a few.

Phytonutrients help the body to fight disease. Plant-based foods are rich source of phytonutrients, fruits like mango, guava and banana. Perhaps, it’s time to treat your children with that delicious banana split.

Always reading Ingredient Lists

While buying a product for consumption, never fail to read the ingredient list at the side or back of the product. It’s a valuable habit to read about the ingredients as this gives clues to what your child is eating. You definitely don’t want your child, who is already afflicted by ADHD, to consume foods that will worsen his or her condition.

Watch out for trans-fats or trans-fatty acid. If you read an ingredient listed as “partially hydrogenated” oil that means it contains trans fats. You must avoid these fats and encourage your family to do so as well. These are present in commercially produced French fries, chicken fries and baked goods like cakes and cookies. High-fat meat, butter, cheese, ice-cream are fairly good but they contain saturated fat that should be consumed within limited amount and with caution.

Avoiding artificial Food Dyes

Experts who have been studying ADHD warn parents about deleterious effect of artificial food coloring, flavors and preservatives on their children. Researches have shown that artificial dyes in food increases hyperactivity in children with ADHD (watch the video below).

In Europe, there is a practice of putting warning signs on food products that contains artificial colors. Again, it is important to read the ingredient list. If you see that the list mentions some sort of color or dye, then you should leave the product right there without looking back. Most of the colourful candies or colored drinks contain harmful chemical dyes. You’ll find food dyes in places you are least expecting so please be cautious and avoid them at any cost.

Less on Sugar

Researchers are not unanimous on the effect of excess sugar on ADHD children. Some old studies hinted on some sort of a connection between the two but more recent studies do not support the same. Yet, doctors advise parents to watch their child’s sugar intake. Therefore, try to avoid giving your child a sugar-kick and see to it that she gets a balanced intake of sugar and other nutrients.

Go Organic – if you can afford

Choosing organic food over non-organic ones would benefit your family in a big way. Organic vegetables, fruits and meats are developed in traditional manner without excessive pesticides and hormones. These naturally grown foods do not necessarily have higher nutrient content than non-organic foods. However, they are certainly free from harmful elements.

“A study concluded that children with “higher levels of pesticides in their urine are more likely to develop ADHD.”

There is another alternative to non-organic food. These are called Genetically Modified Foods or GMOs. However, in the absence of adequate research on the relationship between the GMOs and ADHD, it is advisable not to use these as well.

Stay Informed and Help Others do the Same

Keep yourself updated with the latest development in the field of ADHD. Read blogs, news and articles on ADHD to learn more about the neurological disorder. The more you would learn the better equipped you‘ll be to fight ADHD.

If it’s possible, write a blog or use social media to share your experience with ADHD. Your valuable experience will aid others like you to cope with their situation. Each month, take out an hour’s time to write your experience with your clinics, doctors, the treatments they provide and practically anything that you find worth sharing.

You should also maintain a journal where you can take note of calorie contents of food items. Use these notes as reference while preparing meal for your son or daughter. Maintaining a journal will save a lot of money that goes into consulting a nutritionist. There are lot of information over the internet that you could use to chart your own diet. However, if you feel uncertain then please contact the experts.

Never Underestimate the Importance of a Cheat Day!

Both you and your child need a day off. It is absolutely fine to devour a slice of cake or pizza once in a while. Being too hard on yourself and your family might backfire. That’s why you should plan cheat days periodically and let yourself and your family enjoy some sinful meals. You might consider incorporating this in your 30 Day ADHD Treatment Challenge.

A healthy diet may not open a door to complete recovery but it will certainly give your child the strength to fight ADHD symptoms. Experts in the field have observed for years that a right diet can decrease hyperactivity and increase concentration among children with ADHD. Though indispensable, medicines and therapies only complement a healthy diet plan.

ADHD Diet and Eating Plan

Our ADHD Diet and Eating Program is now completely revised and expanded, and is available in PDF ebook format at ADHDDiet.INFO for $20. It is 44 pages of detailed information for you to begin implementing the program today. Below you will find the “bare bones” version of the diet that we have used since 1996. It will help. And if you want the newest version, in PDF format, go to and purchase your copy today!
Summary for the ADHD Diet and Eating Program:

  • The ADHD Diet Program is Updated for 2016, and has moved to the ADHD Diet Information site at
  • An “ADHD Eating Program”, or an “ADHD Diet” is very important if you or your child are struggling with ADHD
  • Eating Junk Foods, or Fast Foods, is bad for an ADHD treatment program. Learn how to eat healthier
  • Eating the Right Foods can improve brain performance, focus concentration
  • Our unique ADHD Diet helps between 20% and 25% of those who try it

“ADHD Diet” Intro Video

Go to the ADHD Diet Information site to get the full ADHD diet in eBook PDF format. We also have the full 21 minute information video on our ADHD eating program.

Step One is a Brief Elimination Diet to find out if there are any food sensitivities to things like Milk, Sodas, Eggs, and so on.

What NOT to eat for TWO WEEKS: the first step in this “ADHD Diet”

First, let’s find out if there are food allergies causing the ADHD symptoms or behaviors. Eliminate these foods for two weeks, then get ready to add them back in to the ADHD diet…

  • NO DAIRY PRODUCTS, especially cow’s milk.
  • NO YELLOW FOODS. Especially Yellow Corn or Yellow Squash.
  • NO JUNK FOODS. If it comes in a cellophane wrapper, don’t eat it. Stop eating junk food and your brain will work better.
  • NO FRUIT JUICES. They have too much sugar. One small glass of apple juice has the sugar content of eight apples.
  • CUT SUGAR INTAKE BY 90%. If you can, cut it down to zero.
  • CUT CHOCOLATE BY 90%. No more than a single piece, once a week.
  • NO NUTRASWEET. None. Period. Never. It’s bad for you. It is bad for your brain.
  • NO PROCESSED MEATS and NO MSG. Only get meats with labels that say, “Turkey and Water,” etc. If the meat has chemicals listed that you can’t pronounce, don’t buy it and don’t eat it.
  • CUT FRIED FOODS BY 90%. The Trans-Fats in fried foods and other less than healthy foods compete in the body with good Fatty Acids, and the Essential Fatty Acids. You can either have unhealthy Trans-Fats, or healthy EFA, but not both in the same space in your brain.
  • AVOID FISH. We hate to say this, as there used to be so many benefits to eating fish, especially the Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) or Omega Oils. But the problem these days is that the mercury levels in most fish is simply too high to be either safe or healthy. Mercury is the second most toxic metal on earth, and is a terrible neuro-toxin.

SUMMARY: Just eat foods that God made for a while. Eat like people did in the 1940’s, or the 1840’s. Go to a used book store and get some good old cook books for recipe ideas. There really are about 10,000 meals that you CAN eat. Just not much in the way of “fast foods” or “convenience” foods.

Go to the ADHD Diet Information site to get the full ADHD diet in eBook PDF format, including our UPDATES for 2016. We also have the full 21 minute information video on our ADHD eating program.
Here’s a link to our newest ADHD Diet YouTube Video :

After the First Two Weeks of the ADHD Diet : What to Eat

Our ADHD Diet : What to eat to feed your brain, from the ADHD Information Library and

AFTER TWO WEEKS begin adding some of the restricted foods back into your diet, one food every other day. The foods that are bad for you all of the time, such as trans-fats, nutrasweet, and other chemical food additives should be out of your diet forever. Junk foods and fast foods should be eliminated too. But of the “test” foods such as dairy products, eat A LOT of that food every day for four days. If you have a problem with one of the foods, you will see some kind of a “reaction” within four days.


Just as some foods make the brain “foggy,” other foods can enhance and optimize brain performance. Here are some things to eat to feed the ADHD brain…

  • FOR BREAKFAST SERVE HIGH PROTEIN, LOW CARBOHYDRATE MEALS. Breakfast cereals are mostly carbohydrate and sugar, which is a bad combination for the ADHD brain. Instead, serve 60% to 70% Protein and 30% to 40% Carbohydrates for Breakfast. Eggs, breakfast meats, and some toast would be fine. Other meals of the day could be 50% Protein and 50% Carbohydrate.
  • PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS might be needed to get the added protein for Breakfast. They are often very helpful in the afternoon as well.
  • DRINK LOTS OF WATER. The brain is about 80% water, and increasing your water intake to 7 to 10 glasses per day might be very helpful all by itself. Sodas, Gatorade, teas, icees, etc., do not count as water. Only water counts as water.
  • MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS may be helpful. Colloidal Minerals or fully chelated minerals are the best. There are several good choices. Don’t buy minerals in the grocery store. Get good minerals.
  • ATTEND, EXTRESS, or MEMORIN. Attend is an excellent brain food, so we recommend the Attend product for everyone from ADHD kids and teens, to athletes, businessmen and women, students, and more. Extress is recommended for those with problems with hyperactivity and temper, and is also good for improved sleep and anxiety or worry. Memorin is for those with poor concentration or memory. These are highly recommended. They are available at the store.
  • FLAX SEED OIL or PRIMROSE OIL or WALNUT OIL. These are good sources of Omega oils, and many with ADHD are deficient in Omega oils (or essential fatty acids).
  • AVOID HEAVY METAL EXPOSURES. These heavy metal exposures come in the form of amalgam dental fillings, which are 50% mercury (extremely toxic), 20% copper (also toxic), and about 15% nickel (also toxic). Nickel is also common with dental braces and with dental crowns. And there are other toxic heavy metals found in pesticides and herbicides. And now there’s also too much mercury in fish.
  • Eat in a healthy manner.

Go to the ADHD Diet Information site to get the full ADHD diet in eBook PDF format, including our UPDATES for 2016. We also have the full 21 minute information video on our ADHD eating program.

Try these recommendations out and let us know what you think.

Oh, before you email back and ask, “Well, what can we eat?” please look through your Betty Crocker Cook Book and you’ll find hundreds of recipes that will work well. It’s the convenience foods that are most of the problem. Re-discover the lost art of cooking with this eating program for ADD : “ADHD Diet”.

And to find an experienced therapist who provides counseling in Tehachapi for ADHD please give my office a call at (661) 972-5953.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., M.S. is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Tehachapi, CA who has been a skillful counselor to children, teens, and adults helping them to overcome ADHD, find relief for depression or anxiety, and solve other problems in life since 1989. He served on the medical advisory board to the company that makes Attend and Extress from 1997 through 2011, and he is the Editor of the ADHD Information Library online resource. His weekly ADHD Newsletter goes out to 9,500 families. Visit his website at for more information on achieving greater health, personal growth, Christ-centered spirituality, stress management, parenting skills, ADHD, working out the stresses of being a care-giver to elderly parents and also being a parent to teenagers, or finding greater meaning in retirement years, Dr. Cowan can be a valuable resource to you.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., MFT
27400 Oakflat Dr.
Tehachapi, CA 93561
(661) 972-5953

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