What Should You Feed Your Child with ADHD?

The ADHD Diet for Your Child

Do you have a child who suffers from ADHD?

ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a relatively common syndrome characterized by hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and inability to focus.

It can be a frustrating problem for parents to deal with due to the high energy level of these children. Unfortunately, prescription medications used to treat this disorder can have significant side effects. For this reason, many parents seek natural treatments for ADHD. One area of focus is diet. What are the best and worst foods for ADHD?

ADHD is thought to be caused by an imbalance in certain brain biochemicals involved in mood.  Although it’s unclear how much of a role diet plays in this disorder, several studies have demonstrated a possible dietary association. Some of the areas that have received focus when it comes to foods for ADHD have included sugars and carbohydrates, artificial preservatives, food colorings, and caffeine.

Avoid Preservatives and Artificial Food Colors

A study published in Annals of Allergy in 1994 showed that eliminating food preservatives and artificial food colors from the diets of children with ADHD had a positive impact on the symptoms. Because of how commonly these are used in packaged and processed foods, this type of dietary change can be a challenge but may offer some benefits.

Avoid Refined Sugar

Although sugar has received a great deal of scrutiny when it comes to foods for ADHD, most studies haven’t shown a clear association between refined sugar intake and the symptoms of ADHD. It was thought that the rapid rise in blood sugar and the subsequent insulin spike might play a role in worsening the symptoms of ADHD but most studies have failed to show a significant association. Still, many parents report that their children’s symptoms are more pronounced after eating a high sugar meal.

Include More Fatty Acids

Another subject of focus in the area of foods for ADHD are the essential fatty acids. Some studies have shown that children with ADHD are deficient in essential fatty acids, most notably alpha linolenic acid, an important omega 3 fatty acid that’s a precursor to the DHA and EPA found in fish oil supplements. A study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2005 showed that supplementing children with the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil and omega 6 fatty acids found in evening primrose oil helped to improve the hyperactivity and impulsivity so common in children with this syndrome.


What’s the bottom line if you want to focus on dietary measures to improve your child’s symptoms? It may be of some benefit to restrict processed foods that have artificial preservatives and food colorings as well as refined sugars. Supplementing with fish oil supplements and, possibly, evening primrose oil can provide the essential fatty acids found to be deficient in some children. Before making changes to your child’s diet, it’s best to talk to a pediatrician who’s knowledgeable in treating ADHD.