What’s the Skinny On ADHD-Friendly Diets?
I wrote this in 2018 and have since shifted to a mostly vegan, but still high protein diet. After review, these tips and references still hold up!
I’ll start with a confession: I’ve spent most of my life following one diet or another. I’ve learned that the best diet is the one I’m willing and able to follow at the time, and that produces results. For me, interest is the key ingredient that I need to wrap my ADHD brain around to follow successfully!
About a year ago, I began following a dietary-protocol that has resulted in noticeable improvement in focus, increased energy, and 40lb weight loss to-boot! I’ve known for years that most ADHD diets follow paleo-diet-like principles of low sugar and high protein. What I learned is that an ADHD-friendly diet can be a great guide to an all-around, family-friendly diet, as well!
I like clear, simple principles to guide my thoughts for planning, shopping and preparing meals that keep me in line with my results. Following are some guidelines I use to help keep me and my family on track:
TIP 1) Protein is primary and high-quality fat is where it’s at! When cooking, I use coconut oil or butter. I include a source of protein at every meal. I balance the protein with carbohydrates from vegetables, leaf greens, nuts and occasionally from berries. My vegan friends replace meats with high-protein foods like green peas, quinoa, tempeh, and tofu.
I avoid packaged foods high in sugar and high carbohydrates that get stored in the body as fat. These include breads, crackers, cereals and foods with added sugars. For sweeteners, I use stevia and monk fruit.
You probably know that food labeling is required by U.S. law, and this is for good reason; most packaged foods contain lots of stuff that isn’t food at all. Ingredients labels can reveal suspected and known additives; agents and chemical’s that interfere, or contra-indicate our body’s natural support processes. Research suggests that a list of illnesses are tied to the additives in our diets. These additives result in inflammation and can produce some sinister outcomes. Chief among these are cancers, auto-immune conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, diabetes and Crohn’s disease 2).
TIP 2) When grocery shopping, I try to have recipes with me to use as a guide. It helps assure I have what I need and that I’m genuinely interested in preparing it. This way, fresh food gets used and there’s less waist.
I also use the rule of going around the perimeter of the grocery store first, and try to avoid the aisles. Why? Because in most chain grocery stores, the real food encircles the pre-packaged “fake-foods.” First, try loading up from the perimeter witg fresh protein, vegetables, berries and fruits. Then venture into the aisles, but only as you must, taking a “buyers beware” perspective.
TIP 3) Read labels and watch out for stuff like palm oil, shortening or partially hydrogenated oils. Avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), Sodium or Potassium Benzoate, Butyated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Sodium Nitrates, MSG and chemical colorings Blue, Green, Red or Yellow 1). A good rule of thumb is, if you need a chemistry book to figure out what an ingredient is, choose something else. Better yet, avoid foods that require labels at all. Real food doesn’t require an index of ingredients when what you see, is what you get!
TIP 4) Go organic whenever possible! I know, it’s expensive, but it helps ensure the quality of the produce and avoids inflammatory additives. I reconcile the extra-cost by improved health, increased clarity and energy!
TIP 5) For protein, look for organic and/or grass-fed and grass-finished red meats. Select wild caught seafood’s and avoid farm raised fish altogether. Remember to include berries, nuts and nut-butters for treats, and remember to check these labels too.
There’s no lack of information on ADHD friendly diets. It’s more of a challenge to sort out and use the volume of information available. It’s important to check with your doctor before any new diet. For more information, check out books by Dr. Terry Wahls, Tana Amen, RN & Daniel Amen, MD.