Managing diet in your child with ADHD

Getting kids to eat healthily can be a struggle – and it’s often a fight between you, a plateful of broccoli and a cross-armed child, shaking their head. Nutrition, a good sleeping routine and exercise can all work together to improve the overall wellbeing of a child and help manage the symptoms of ADHD and the side-effects of ADHD medication. Here are some highly effective habits to improve your child’s diet, boost health and keep the side-effects of medication under control.

Weight and height chart
Find a simple weight and height chart to tack onto a wall in the house (or keep one in a designated file) to monitor any changes in your child’s weight and height. Although your child might lose and gain weight occasionally, it will eventually stabilise. If there are any noticeable changes, contact your doctor to make sure your treatment and medication plan is correct.

Supplement when necessary
If your child is losing weight and seems to have a decreased appetite or dry mouth as a result of ADHD medication, supplement their diet with a nutritional shake or smoothie. This will boost their caloric intake for the day and make sure they’re taking in enough nutrition.

Eat when hungry
It’s important for your child to be able to munch on something nutritious whenever they’re hungry – if it’s between meals, offer them a healthy snack. Around meal times, particularly in the morning and evening, encourage your child to finish their food and eat as much as they can if their tummy is rumbling.

Super supper
If your child has a small appetite and eats tiny amounts throughout the day, as opposed to one or two large meals, don’t force them to eat their supper all at once. Rather split dinner into two or three sessions, to prevent their tummy from being too full and distressing their stomach.

Cook together
Try to get your child interested in food. Take them shopping with you, encourage them to pick out their favourite foods and allow them to help you in the kitchen when you’re preparing meals. Let them help by doing simple cooking tasks like mixing and mashing.

Snack smart
Make sure your house is stocked with some nutritious and delicious snacks for your little one to munch on between meals – fruit, nuts and whole wheat crackers with cheese are all good options.

Establish routine
At mealtimes, ask your family to sit and eat together around the table – never in front of the TV. Try to create a calming environment in which your family can eat together and engage with each other. Decide on a time for supper and try to stick to it, to set up a routine in the house and don’t let mealtimes be interrupted.

 Ask for help
If you’re seriously struggling with getting your child to eat healthily (or at all), don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional who can refer you to a dietician for help. They can offer useful, practical ways to encourage healthy eating habits.