Good Nutrition for ADHD Symptom Management

ADHD symptoms can be frustrating to both a parent and child. Typical behaviors may include impulsiveness, lack of focus, prone to distractibility, and the inability to sit still. By changing your child’s diet, you could see a decrease in negative behaviors associated with ADHD. Good nutrition can be used in conjunction with other treatments like pediatric therapy to treat a child with ADHD.

Artificial Colors

The most significant research done with regards to the nutritional needs for children with ADHD was a study conducted on the effects of artificial colors and dyes on ADHD symptoms. For six weeks, young children diagnosed with ADHD were served flavored drinks with yellow and red colorings. Over the course of the study, investigators noted a moderate surge in hyperactivity in the test subjects.

As a way to manage your child’s ADHD, you can become a thorough label checker. Look for foods that contain yellow and red food colorings. Culprits include candy, fruit drinks, soda, snack cakes, and sugary cereals. Consider avoiding other foods high in artificial additives. Substances that may not be suitable for children with ADHD include sodium benzoate, MSG, and nitrites.


A breakfast high in protein is a helpful way to get your child focused and ready to take on the school day. Instead of starting the day with character cereals, donuts, and pastries, serve your child protein-rich foods such as eggs, breakfast meats, or yogurt. Studies done by MIT found that foods high in protein trigger neurotransmitters that effect alertness. Alternatively, carbohydrates can bring on drowsiness. Adding a protein option for lunch may also give them the boost they need to finish out the school day strong.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Most people know how important omega-3 fatty acids are to brain health, but find their diets are insufficient in the nutrient. These nutrients are responsible for boosting brain function while also providing protection for the immune system. By adding fish to your child’s weekly diet, you are giving them the food they need to better manage their symptoms. Doctors recommend serving approximately 12 ounces of seafood each week to patients with ADHD. Choose low-mercury fish to serve to your child such as salmon, pollack, shrimp, and light tuna. If your child refuses to eat fish, certain nuts and seeds can also be given to supplement their diets. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are all high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Reduced Sugar Diet

Many parents have witnessed just how hyperactive their children can get after consuming sugar. While other parents have witnessed zero effect on a child’s behavior after eating sweets. Since sugar should be limited in a child’s diet anyway, parents should try to avoid foods high in the sweetener. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame should also be avoided since evidence suggests they may be harmful to children with ADHD.

Elimination Diets

As a strategy to discover how foods are affecting a child’s behavior, an elimination diet can be followed under a doctor’s monitoring. During the diet, a base diet made up of poultry and certain fruits and vegetables will be followed initially. Then, each new food group is added for two weeks while the parent monitors any changes in behavior. If any of the foods cause an increase in ADHD symptoms, getting rid of the food item may positively alter the child’s behavior.

Getting all vitamins and minerals from natural food sources is the best way to get the nutrients your child with ADHD needs. Never rely on supplements unless your doctor otherwise advises you. There is a risk of toxicity occurring due to megadoses of vitamins and minerals.