If you have ADHD or think that you might, you will know that getting organised and sticking to your plans is much easier said than done. When it comes to eating well it’s perfectly natural for people with ADHD to struggle more than others around them. This can be a real downer for your health. As with everything else on planet ADHD, it’s so important to remember that there’s a lot you can do to make your life easier and healthier. This series of posts will help you get organised to eat well with ADHD.
In this first post I’m taking a look at how you can make great food choices for your ADHD. This is the foundation for everything else.
If you are a picky eater you may need to get some personalised help. I will blog more on this later in the year. So, stay tuned.
If you like visuals then take a look at the eat well guide here and the Mediterranean diet pyramid here. If you prefer some words here goes.
- Foods with plenty of fibre. Wholegrains are a great choice. Choose wholewheat pasta, wholegrain unsweetened breakfast cereal, wholewheat couscous, wholegrain rice and wholegrain breads. If you’ve got your “yuck face” on reading this, just do what you can. If wholegrain bread gets a thumbs up but wholegrain rice is a big thumbs down, don’t worry. It’s not an all or nothing thing. Fruit and veg. are important too. Try fresh, frozen or canned in water or natural juice. Try to eat as much variety as possible. All the colours of the rainbow or as many different colours as you can manage.
- Plant foods generally. This doesn’t mean that you must be vegan. Just think about the plants first. When you serve up a meal cover half your plate with veggies and then split the remaining half between carbs like the wholegrains above or potato and then protein. This way at least ¾ of your plate will be plant foods.
- Stuff with omega 3’s. If you like things like salmon, pilchards, sardines, mackerel, herring and trout these are a great way to get the most effective omega 3’s. Or perhaps you’re vegan or cannot stand fish then the best plant sources are nori (the stuff wrapped around sushi), or spirulina or chlorella, which you can add to smoothies. If none of that floats your boat include walnuts, chia seeds or flaxseeds daily.
- Good sources of protein like chicken, turkey, fish of all types, eggs, soya products, Quorn, beans, peas and lentils.
- Good sources of calcium. Reduced fat dairy foods are loaded with calcium. Choose milk, yogurt, and reduced fat cheese. If you are vegan choose plant-based alternatives that have been fortified with calcium. Remember that soya and pea products have more protein than oat, rice or nut based products.
- Sugar free fluids like water, sugar free squash, sugar free fizzy drinks, herbal teas. Aim for 6-8 tall glasses/mugs daily. Drink enough to have pale pee.
Be mindful about
- Sugar. There is no strong evidence that sugar increases hyperactivity but a high sugar diet can lead to excess weight and tooth decay. When checking labels look for low sugar products with less than 5g sugar/100g. Limit sweets, cakes, biscuits, crisps, chocolate, ice cream and puddings. Don’t deny yourself these things completely, as you will probably just crave them and end up eating more. Just portion them out, eat the portion and then don’t go back for more. If you struggle with binges, as many people with ADHD do, get some advice from your dietitian.
- Alcohol.If you enjoy a drink, don’t forget to keep below 14 units of alcohol/week. Remember this is a limit, not a target. If you take medication remember that it can blunt the effects of alcohol and you may end up drinking more than you should without even realising. The packaging on your medication will advise against drinking. In reality many people with ADHD ignore this but you should certainly wait until after your medication has worn off before having alcohol. Please get personalised advice from your doctor or pharmacist.
- Caffeine from coffee, strong tea, colas and energy drinks. I usually advice people with ADHD to steer away from energy drinks altogether. Keep other sources of caffeine to the mornings and don’t have more than 2 mugs or glasses.
- Saturated and trans fats. If you’re looking at labels check that the products contains <0.3g saturated fat/100g. Many companies have banned trans fats but less expensive brands of biscuits, cakes and savoury snacks may still contain them.
Observe the effects of
Additives. Some have been linked to increase hyperactivity but it seems that different additives affect different people and some people are not affected at all. If you think this is an issue for you then keep a diary of your symptoms and food intake then check the labels of any suspect foods. You might be impacted by any additive but start by looking out for:
• E102 Tartazine (yellow)
• E110 sunset yellow (orange yellow)
• E122 Azorubine Carmosine (red)
• E133 Brilliant Blue (blue)
• E211 Sodium benzoate (preservatives)
Things you might want to try
Several studies have shown that people with ADHD have lower levels of zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron and phosphorous. Of course, this may simply be because people with ADHD find it more difficult to eat a balanced diet.
Studies looking at the impact of using supplements have shown very mixed results. If you are concerned that your diet is poor then start by trying to make some changes to improve it. Once you’ve done this you may want to try a multivitamin/multimineral supplement.
There is no need to choose anything expensive but as we all struggle to get enough vitamin D, pick a product with at least 10 microgram (shown as ug) vitamin D. Take this for 8 weeks and see if you notice any benefit. If you don’t notice any benefit then just find an inexpensive vitamin D supplement that provides 10 micrograms and continue with that during the winter months .
If you want to explore the potential benefits of vitamins and minerals further consult your dietitian. Never take high/mega dose supplements or a cocktail of multiple different supplements. This can be very dangerous, as high doses of some nutrients can be toxic.
Stay tuned for more tips. Next time: How to organise your kitchen.
If you would like some personalised support, get in touch here.