ADVICE

Healthy diet may help kids with ADHD focus

Two girls playing with fruit and vegetables

A healthy diet, rich in fruit and vegetables, may help kids with ADHD improve their ability to focus, according to a new study.

As part of a larger study, researchers asked parents of 134 kids with ADHD symptoms to complete a detailed questionnaire about the typical foods the children ate.

The children who ate more fruit and vegetables showed less severe inattention symptoms, co-author Irene Hatsu says.

Earlier research on the same children found those who didn’t have reliable access to nutritious food had a higher incidence of more severe emotional dysregulation symptoms.

Additionally, in a separate study, the researchers found taking a specific multivitamin and mineral supplement was associated with improved ADHD and emotional dysregulation symptoms.

Together, the three studies show a healthy diet that provides all the nutrients children need may help reduce their ADHD symptoms, Hatsu says.

“Our studies suggest that it is worthwhile to check the children’s access to food as well as the quality of their diet to see if it may be contributing to their symptom severity,” she says.

“Some symptoms might be more manageable by helping families become more food secure and able to provide a healthier diet.”

5 ways to get your kids to eat more fruit and vegetables

1. Chop them up

Kids may be more inclined to eat fruit and vegetables when they’re chopped into bite-size pieces. They’re easier and more fun to eat that way.

2. Grow your own

If you plant a veggie patch with your children, they’re more likely to want to eat the fruits of their labour.

3. Be supportive but persistent

It’s quite normal for kids to reject new foods. If they don’t like a new vegetable the first time you introduce it, give them more opportunities to try it again, on other occasions. Sometimes they need to try small amounts 10-12 times before they become acceptable. Praise them for giving new things a try.

4. Be a good role model

There’s not much point insisting your kids eat food you won’t eat. If you want them to eat plenty of vegetables, make sure you do too!

5. Serve them raw

Often children will prefer raw vegetables over cooked ones. If your kid doesn’t like cooked carrots, for instance, they may enjoy raw carrot sticks. If they turn their noses up at cooked cabbage, finely shredded raw cabbage might be more palatable. Raw tomatoes and red capsicum often go down better, too. You can pair them with a little hummus for dipping, to get the added benefits of chickpeas.

First published: May 2022

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