ADHD is short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Nutrition has a big impact on our brain and therefore might play an important role in how we manage our ADHD symptoms, such as concentration problems, hyperactivity, sensitivity and overstimulation. Over the years, I learned to manage my ADHD with the right nutrition together with other lifestyle changes and natural therapies.
In this article, you'll find some information about the best food for ADHD adults and children. Also, we share healthy and easy ADHD meals for adults and children, that are suitable for picky eaters.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is meant for inspirational purposes only. Don't take it as medical or nutritional advice. Please consult your doctor, dietitian or a qualified healthcare professional for medical and nutritional counselling.
What diet is best for ADHD children and adults?
What is the best food for ADHD adults and children? There is no easy answer to this question, because we all have different body types and needs. But research shows that some type of foods have a negative impact on ADHD children and adults. Food intolerances and hypersensitivities might be the cause of (worsening of) symptoms, such as problems in learning, behavior, development, attention, sensory responses, sleep, and digestion.
Some of those foods, according to Pamela Compart MD who wrote The Kid Friendly ADHD and Autism Cookbook, include:
- Casein (in dairy, mostly in cow milk)
My experience with eating gluten and dairy, as an adult with ADHD
When it comes to the best ADHD meals, it might be worth it to cut gluten, dairy and soy. For me, it makes a huge difference in how I feel. Not only does my gut responds badly to it. Also, soon after eating (a large amount of) gluten or dairy, feelings of extreme frustration and hyperactivity arise, together with losing my concentration or even experiencing brain fog. Processed sugar and (high doses of) coffee have a similar strengthening effect on my ADHD symptoms. Additionally, I found out that my symptoms are easier manageable when I eat pure, unprocessed, whole foods.
Best diets for ADHD
In The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook, you'll find a lot of information about the best nutrition for ADHD. The authors explain what are the best diets for children with food intolerances and hypersensitivities. This book focuses specifically on people with ADHD and autism, or more specifically, people who suffer from problems in learning, behavior, development, attention, sensory responses, sleep and digestion.
Different ADHD diets
Gluten-, casein- and soy-free diets are an important part of the book. But in addition to that, the authors talk about the Feingold diet (low phenol, low salicylate), SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet), GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet), Anti-yeast-candida diet, Body Ecology Diet, LOD (Low oxalate Diet), FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, And Polyols), anti-inflammatory diet and the Rotation diet.
Within the limitations of these diets, the cookbook offers a lot of tasty choices, from muffins to bread, salads, sweets and treats. When you are looking for the perfect ADHD breakfast, ADHD lunch or ADHD dinner; the Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook has got you covered!
Easy ADHD-friendly meals
You might be looking for ADHD meals that are easy and quick. Because for ADHD adults, planning and day-to-day tasks are not easy to manage. Planning, buying, cooking and eating healthy meals, suitable for ADHD adults and children, might feel like a huge task. Maybe you don't know where to begin, planning your ADHD-friendly meals. That's why we share with you our favorite easy ADHD meals.
I am vegetarian and have been vegan for a long time. Now, I sometimes eat some fish and goat- or sheep cheese. Most of my favorite ADHD recipes are without meat. But if you feel like you need meat, it's always an option to add some chicken or beef to your meal.
When it comes to breakfast for ADHD adults and children, there are many options. I always like to include enough protein and healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Also, I always add at least one fruit to my breakfast.
A few of our favorite ADHD breakfasts:
- Warm or cold oats with water or a plant based milk. You can top it up with nuts, seeds, dry fruit, cinnamon, other spices you like and fresh fruit. I always add a big spoon of 100% peanuts peanut butter
- Banana pancakes (banana, egg, cinnamon, other spices you like) with delicious, healthy and natural toppings
- Buckwheat pancakes with healthy toppings (for example warm or cold fruit, honey, avocado, scrambled egg, vegetables)
- Coconut yogurt with oats, corn flakes and other healthy, natural toppings like fruit, nuts, seeds and honey
- Fried- or scrambled eggs with gluten-free toast or crackers and avocado
- Bean omelet, Mexican style, with avocado, beans, peppers, lime, salt and pepper
- Overnight oats with fruit, nuts and seeds
Lunch for ADHD children and adults
I prefer to have my warm meal during lunchtime, and to have a small bite for dinner. But feel free to switch our lunch and dinner options. My lunch always consists of high fiber carbs, protein, healthy fats and vegetables.
A few of our favorite ADHD lunch options:
- Vegetable soup with veggies of choice, lentils and rice, topped with olive oil, fresh herbs and seeds
- Chili sin carne: kidney beans, capsicum, corn, tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes, onion and spices, with nacho's and guacamole
- Fish with a lot of (grilled, roasted or steamed) veggies, topped up with olive oil and seeds and potatoes/rice/quinoa/fries + salad
- Quinoa salad with grilled vegetables, egg, sheep- or goat cheese, nuts and avocado
- Chickpea curry with coconut milk, cashew nuts, rice and lots of veggies
- Poke bowl
I like to have a light dinner, so I usually eat some fruits, sometimes a small amount of carbs and some fats and protein.
- Gluten-free toast or corn or rice crackers with Guacamole and fruits
- Hummus with chopped veggies and fruits
- Banana bread, butter and fruits
- Sheep- or goat cheese with sourdough bread and fruits
- A small soup
Some perfect ADHD snacks without gluten, soy or cow's milk:
- Energy balls made with nuts, coconut oil & peanut butter. You can add anything you like. Try for example some cacao, banana & oats.
- Nuts and dry fruit such as raisins and dates
- Crackers with guacamole or hummus
- A small piece of pure chocolate (I eat 85% cacao chocolate, because it hardly contains sugar)
- Homemade banana bread
One of the challenges that parents of children with ADHD face, is coping with children who have picky appetites. They might crave the foods that negatively affect their behavior, focus, and concentration, such as products with processed sugar. Some children have texture issues. Luckily, there are solutions for this! In The Kid Friendly ADHD and Autism Cookbook, you'll find many tips and suggestions to improve the nutrition of your child with ADHD.
Best meals for ADHD?
Nutrition is complex, and so are ADHD and the human body in general. Unfortunately, there's no short answer to the question what diet is best for adults and children with ADHD. But by avoiding gluten, casein (dairy) and refined sugar and eating mostly unprocessed food with high nutritional value, you might come a long way!
Hopefully our favourite ADHD meals have inspired you to improve your diet. What is your experience with food and nutrition for ADHD? Do you struggle with eating healthy, or is your child a picky eater? What's your biggest struggle when it comes to ADHD and food? We would love to hear your experience in the comments!