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3 Key 'Thinker Helpers' for Your Child with ADHD

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

A boy in a classroom looking bored and distracted

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is being diagnosed in our kids at epidemic levels.

As troubling as this is, it's good to know there are some proven strategies, or ‘thinker helpers’ that support healthy learning and behavior for kids (and adults) with ADHD. Here are some key lifestyle habits that can be an important part of an effective management plan for ADHD, as well as autism and other neurobehavioral disorders.

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A Healthy Diet for Your Child with ADHD

It's not surprising that kids with ADHD who have problems self-regulating their energy levels are often picky eaters. Picky eating is extremely common for kids with ADHD.

These are the kids who tend to gravitate toward less healthy food choices, including foods that are both high in sugar and low in nutrients.

Unfortunately, these foods don’t provide the brain with what it needs to help us focus and function most optimally.

Working to build a better eater can be challenging, but worth it in the long run to to support good health, learning and behavior for our kids.

What we eat impacts our brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) known as dopamine and serotonin. When our bodies don’t get the necessary nutrients, we can develop cravings for foods, including unhealthy carbohydrates. These 'feel good' foods don't keep us feeling full, and they don't give us the brain power we need to pay good attention.

The good news is that eating healthy foods that are high in protein can regulate blood sugar and brain chemicals to improve our motivation and focus. A combination of protein, high fiber, and healthy fats can go a long way to support healthy attention levels for kids.

It’s also important to try to minimize or eliminate artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, and overly processed and sugary foods that can contribute to hyperactivity and concentration problems for kids.

Two boys dipping celery and carrot sticks into ranch dressing

Eating fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates and lean protein helps to support our overall health and wellness, including better attention.

Dietary Supplementation for Your Child with ADHD

The best way to get our nutrients is ultimately from food. However, in many cases, and often in the case of ADHD, kids aren’t eating the proper diet to get the nutrients they need.

Because the body can’t produce some of its essential nutrients, taking additional supplements can be an important part of a treatment plan for ADHD.

Research shows that fish oils, or omega-3 fatty acids, can help to significantly reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Kids with ADHD often have low levels of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin C, which are key nutrients in the role of attention.

These are just some of the nutrients that are considered with ADHD. Talk with your qualified health care provider about what nutrients may be appropriate for your child.

Daily Exercise for Your Child with ADHD

Children with ADHD are generally fidgety and restless. It’s important to provide a healthy outlet for them to work off their energy. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which improves thinking, and regulates emotions and behavior.

Research shows that getting the right amount of exercise improves focus, reduces impulsivity, and even helps to improve social skills.

Just like stimulant medications work by increasing dopamine, exercise also positively affects dopamine levels, playing an important role in attention.

Four kids running outside and kicking a ball

Studies show that with or without stimulant medications, children who exercised regularly performed better on tests that measured attention.

Along with a healthy diet, supplementation, and exercise, other strategies for managing ADHD include identifying potential food allergies/intolerances and eliminating problem foods and other environmental triggers.

If you suspect there may be an allergy or intolerance, talk with your doctor. Identifying and addressing the contributing factors to your child’s ADHD is an important part of improving his or her symptoms and overall progress.

Build a Better Eater book for parents of picky eaters

Is your child with ADHD a picky eater?

Get help from a professional eating coach in this short book to turn things around and support better eating habits moving forward!

All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.

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