This is part 2 of a post I wrote this summer. Click here to read part 1.
Busy fall is upon us. It always creeps in, first with morning sweaters, then soccer season starts for my middle son, and finally, we’re knee deep in autumn festivals. This fall we have a birthday party every weekend, plus a wedding, a funeral and my husband, an entertainer, has many Saturdays with double events. Why am I telling you all of this in a post about ADHD and diet? Simply because I realize it is a busy time of year, yet, we still need to EAT! There is NO WAY I am giving up my precious, unscheduled Sunday to spend 3 to 5 hours cooking for the week. I know that’s the sign of the times, lately, but not for this ADHD Mama. This post has a few easy ideas to decrease ADHD symptoms using food WITHOUT blowing your budget or spending hours in the kitchen.
My basic ADHD diet guidelines are: serve fruits and veggies at every meal, eat healthy fats, include the things you like and watch the foods that affect your blood sugar because blood sugar levels affect your brain.
Here are 4 tips I recommend to keeps brains focused and bellies full:
Pack lunches on weekdays (and snacks for family outings). If my son buys school lunch it’s carb-heaven. Same for me. I’ll snack on muffins, or other conference-room treats, and I’m swollen with no energy by 3 pm. To avoid the carb-overload, I pack 4 lunches per day. My children get a vegetable (baby carrots, tomatoes, or cucumber slices), fruit (raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries) a soy yogurt, PB and bananas, waffle sandwiches (an idea I learned from a colleague), or chips and guacamole/hummus packets. They also get a “dessert” which could be mini peanut butter crackers or Trader Jo-Jo’s (a healthier version of Oreos) and WATER.
I do deviate from lunch basics on occasion. If you want more lunch ideas, Laura Fuentes, at Momables has amazing meal plans and she does all the prep work for you (including grocery lists). There is a monthly fee to subscribe to her service, or you can use the ideas and videos she posts to plan lunches on your own. It’s an ADHD parent’s dream come true.
Drink smoothies in the morning (or green juice). The ADHD brain thrives on fruits and vegetables. We use coconut or almond milk, plant-based protein powder plus frozen fruit, or even, whole fruit popsicles to give smoothies a delicious consistency. I also add a tablespoon coconut oil. Once you’ve had a smoothie, the whole-grain waffle on the side doesn’t seem half as “bad.” Blood sugar level makes a big impact on brain function. There should be protein and healthy fat in your morning meal. I use vegan protein powder in the shakes and my children don’t even notice the taste. You have to experiment to get it right. Start making them on Saturday and Sunday mornings, until you have it down. That way you won’t end up with hungry kids because you had to throw out a funny-tasting batch.
Serve fruits and veggies with dinner. My husband was a sous chef before we were married. He loves to cook, and being Puerto-Rican, he cooks with a lot of extra sabor (flavor)! I really cannot compete with his cooking, so I don’t attempt it. The other night, we served Amy’s pizza with veggies on top and raspberries on the side. The night before we had coconut-oil infused seafood paella with calamari rings and salmon. Guess which night I cooked dinner? My point here is that dinner doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be balanced. Serve fruits and veggies at every meal. Even if my two-year-old doesn’t eat them all, she ‘ll slowly grow accustomed to them. There are emotions to balance with ADHD. Battles can ensue over the simplest things. Don’t let meals be one of them! Just serve what you know is brain food, along with whatever else your children will actually eat.
My final diet tip is let your habits lead the way. It’s overwhelming to balance everything in life, perfectly. With ADHD even getting dinner on the table can be a challenge. Start simply. Serve fruits and veggies at every meal, eat the things you like and watch the foods that affect your blood sugar because that affects your brain. Low blood sugar causes focus and emotional issues, as well. If people are angry at my house for no apparent reason, they’re probably just hungry. If they’ve eaten something that was carb-heavy they may still be upset or unfocused. Give them something nutritious to feed that brain.
What are your “brain foods?” Are there foods that help you or your child focus? Let us know in a comment.
P.S. UPDATE to Part 1: In my earlier post I woke up at 5 am and thought my ADHDiet explained my summer of accomplishments. As an addendum, I do not think it was the diet, alone, that helped me consistently complete my morning routine. I have since “programmed” my body to wake up at 5:30 allowing time to write and take my morning walk. There have been weeks where I have not been true to my diet, but my HABIT of getting up early has carried me through after a few nights of pizza in a row. 🙂