What to Eat on the ADHD Diet

An ADHD diet can incorporate a broad range of healthy foods. The Ketogenic Diet can be a good option during the 5-month recovery period when a child is taking supplements and using Mucuna, since this diet incorporates plenty of proteins that they need to heal. However, it’s important to keep in mind the rules that I discuss below on what to not eat (i.e. just because you follow the keto diet doesn’t mean you can eat junk food… but your child could eat more homemade, whole-ingredient based deviled eggs if that’s what they’re craving). 


If you choose to implement a broader diet plan for your child and family, here are some foods to make sure that you incorporate in on a daily basis (when possible): 


  • Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables – Does your kid eat bananas by the bunch every day? Or could they eat a carrot salad for every meal? Could they drink a gallon of orange juice every day? Support their cravings for healthy, whole fruits and vegetables. Their body probably needs some nutrient present in the food that they’re craving, and at some point they may not crave that food anymore if their body gets what it needs. Fruits and vegetables are always good.  
  • Add in complete proteins – This includes all animal products, as well as tofu and some other foods (I list these below). Animal products are an essential on the ADHD diet. I recommend primarily chicken and turkey, but if your child craves red meat, pork, or fish, as with fruits and vegetables, it’s likely that their body needs some nutrients from those meats/animal products. Of course, fast food or unhealthy foods should be kept to a minimum (more on this later), but if you child seems to need chicken on a daily basis, support this need so that they can get what they need (it’s likely they’ll move onto another food or broaden their food tastes later on if they’re permitted to eat what they need during the healing process).  
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes – Eat plenty of these! They have lots of important vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Plus, lots of kids enjoy nuts and seeds as snacks, but even if your child doesn’t, there are a variety of ways to sneak these foods into other foods (use cashew milk in your child’s morning smoothie, bake a cake with almond flour, or make something like hummus that disguises the form of the beans to see what your child thinks of it).  
  • Hydrate! – Encourage your child to drink plenty of water during the day. If they’re willing, consider a seawater supplement to increase the hydrating power of a glass of water. If not, that’s fine too. Fresh juices, teas, smoothies, animal-based and/or plant-based milks are all acceptable liquids, too, if your child isn’t inclined to drink plain water in sufficient quantities during the day.  
  • Use natural sweeteners – I discuss which sweeteners to avoid below. Replace these with natural sweeteners instead. Raw honey contains trace minerals and even some vitamins, and by itself has healing powers. For kids with ADHD, raw honey is one of my favorite sweeteners (make sure that it’s RAW though… processed honey isn’t the same). Monk fruit powder or liquid tincture is also an excellent choice. Monk fruit is pure sweet without any kind of bitter flavor, and only a little bit is necessary to sweeten a drink or baked good to make it taste like it was made with sugar. Stevia (either as a powder or liquid) is also a good choice, though it may be slightly bitter if you use only the powdered leaf, so keep this in mind.

    NOTE: For making things like cakes and cookies in particular, I recommend adjusting the recipe by 1) adding a little extra flour until you get the desired consistency (do this at the end), 2) using MOSTLY monk fruit as a sweetener, 3) incorporating some raw honey (up to half the amount of sugar called for) for texture and a little extra sweetness, and 4) if the recipe calls for eggs, taste before you add the eggs in to make sure that the recipe is sweet enough (if it’s not, add more sweet of course).  
  • Eat sea salt – Himalayan pink sea salt or regular sea salt are both good choices. Sea salt is unrefined and contains trace minerals. Some parents may be worried about their children getting enough iodine, however, as we’ve noted elsewhere in this book, most iodine evaporates from “iodized” salt shortly after it’s opened. And then, you’re eating pure salt (with no other nutrients), in contrast with sea salt, which contains far more important minerals than regular table salt. 


A Note of Veganism and Vegetarianism

While a vegetarian diet that incorporates plenty of eggs or dairy products can be okay and provide all of the necessary nutrients, strict vegetarian and vegan diets can be extremely damaging since they don’t provide all of the essential nutrients, and none of certain extremely important nutrients like vitamin B12. This is even more true for children with ADHD. 


It’s a myth that a vegan diet can be balanced and provide all of the correct nutrients. Even with fortified foods, some nutrients are denatured or destroyed during processing, or aren’t well-absorbed outside of their “natural habitat”. Vitamin B12, for example, isn’t absorbed well when taken as an oral supplement. This particular vitamin can be administered as an injection, which is bioavailable to the body, but most people won’t be able to access and/or afford semi-regular vitamin B12 injections. And therefore, if they’re following a vegan diet, they won’t be getting almost any vitamin B12 (with or without a supplement). 


If you insist on following a vegetarian diet, make sure that you and your child both eat eggs on a regular basis (at least once a week), or consume goat’s milk products/organic cow’s milk products, to ensure that you’re getting adequate amounts of vitamin B12. For your child, consider a dose of animal-based foods every day during their healing process. There are many nutrients present in animal-based foods that are absolutely essential for a child with ADHD, and without these nutrients, their recovery will be much more difficult if not impossible (in the case of a vegan diet, for example). I can’t stress enough that a VEGAN diet specifically is NOT suitable for ANYONE, and is not sustainable in terms of human health (particularly for children, and even more so for children with ADHD who are trying to heal their brains and bodies). 


What to Avoid on the ADHD Diet

The foods to avoid on the ADHD diet are just as important as the foods to eat for healing. Make sure to carefully look at both sections to make decisions about meal planning and snacks for your child and family. 


  • Processed, refined foods – What does this mean, really? What’s a processed, refined food? To start with, if you’d consider something a “junk food”, it probably shouldn’t be living in your kitchen pantry (this includes foods like Doritos, potato chips, packaged cookies and cakes, Hamburger Helper, etc). Another thing to consider is the number of ingredients in the food product you’re buying. If the food product isn’t a whole food (something you might find growing in the wild, that is… salsa doesn’t grow on trees, after all, so it’s not a whole food), test it according to these rules before putting it in your cart:
    • Does the food have more than 5 ingredients? Check the ingredients more closely.
    • Are any of the ingredients unnatural, on the list below, or words that you can’t pronounce? Double check these. Some ingredients might be fancy words for naturally-occurring, perfectly safe ingredients (like pyridoxine, which is vitamin B6). Others might be sneaky preservatives or chemicals. If these ingredients are the latter, put the food back. 
  • Avoid artificial and natural food colorings and flavorings – Unless the food you picked up off the shelf clearly specifies it’s natural flavoring or coloring (for instance, beetroot powder produces a bright pink shade that’s perfectly natural), then natural doesn’t mean anything and falls into the same category as artificial. These additives can be particularly harmful to children with ADHD and have even been proven to cause symptoms of ADHD (Red #40 is one that some readers may be aware of). If a food product contains a natural or artificial food coloring or flavoring, put it back on the shelf and move on.  
  • No refined or artificial sweeteners – In terms of refined sweeteners, this includes white sugar, brown sugar, cane juice, brown rice syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and others. Artificial sweeteners include aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, and neotame.

    SPECIAL NOTE: Sugar alcohols like erythritol are generally considered to be safe and harmless. ALthough I haven’t read anything to indicate that these are truly harmful, I have however observed that these sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal disturbances since our bodies can’t digest them. For children with ADHD, gastrointestinal problems (gas, stomach cramping, etc) can be very uncomfortable and can cause them to act out or lose focus. Therefore, these sugar alcohols should also be avoided (keep a special eye out for them when looking for monk fruit and stevia products. Many of these also contain erythritol).  
  • Avoid cow-based products and pork – Though your child may need these meats for a period of time, it’s important to be aware of the source of these. Pork should generally be avoided entirely because it may contain the Trichinella spiralis parasite, and because some kids with ADHD may already struggle with a heavy parasite load, it’s important to avoid any other potential sources of parasite exposure. The beef and dairy industries in the US and many other countries, unfortunately, treat the cows extremely poorly and many of these cows are loaded up with antibiotics regularly (these antibiotics then make their way into the meat that you eat and the milk that you drink). Therefore… I recommend avoiding most commercial beef and dairy products.

    However, I don’t necessarily have anything against beef or dairy milk, as long as you know for sure that your child doesn’t have a sensitivity to either of these foods. If you have a source of raw dairy milks or cheeses or beef made/produced by a local farmer who treats their cows well and doesn’t give them antibiotics, then go ahead and enjoy these products! Again, it’s important to be aware of the source of these products. The chemicals present in meat (as I mentioned in the last paragraph) can be problematic for kids recovering from ADHD.

    NOTE: Buffalo meat is a healthy alternative to beef that can be cooked in a similar way and has a similar flavor. 
  • Avoid heating oils and oils that have been heated – According to Dr. Johanna Budwig, an expert of fats and oils, oils that have been heated or overly processed lose most of their nutritional value and can be considered “dead” (or in other words, devoid of any normal electrical charge). Focus on using extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and similar unheated, unrefined oils in cooking, and avoid deep frying or heating oils to encourage your child’s cells to “recharge” and heal (their body will replace the “dead” oils around their cells with the “live”, healthy oils that they eat; in addition, these unrefined oils tend to contain higher levels of omega-3s and omega-6s, both essential for children with ADHD). 


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