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Does someone in your household struggle with focus and attention issues? This post is for you!
First and foremost, I highly recommend getting the book This Is Your Brain On Food by Dr. Uma Naidoo. She does an amazing job of parsing out what to eat and what to avoid for many different mental health challenges. Much of the information in this post is sourced from her book.
The Best and Worst Foods for ADHD
GOOD FOODS for those struggling with ADHD
There are many specific nutrients that studies have shown to help symptoms of ADHD, or any focus and attention challenges. I'm listing those helpful nutrients, along with good food sources for them. Note that there is a lot of overlap with some foods containing several of the nutrients our ADHD suffering kids need.
*ZINC rich foods include: nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds, aka pepitas), beans and peas, poultry, seafood (especially oysters, which are a zinc super food! Also crab and lobster), and whole grains such as oats.
*Foods high in IRON are also helpful for ADHD including: fish and shellfish (tuna, oysters, clams, shrimp), lean red meats (especially grass fed beef and bison), poultry dark meat (legs and thighs), legumes (peanuts, lentils, and beans like kidney, lima, and navy), spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, tofu, oatmeal, and dark chocolate.
*MAGNESIUM is another important mineral and can be found in: nuts and seeds, avocados, fish (especially salmon, mackerel, and halibut), tofu, bananas, leafy greens, whole grains like oats and quinoa, and dark chocolate
*Foods rich in POTASSIUM include: avocados, bananas, cucumbers, potatoes and sweet potatoes, spinach, watermelon, beans (white beans and black beans), mushrooms, oranges, and peas.
*POLYPHENOLS help alleviate oxidative stress on the brain. Studies have shown that those with ADHD are at greater risk of such oxidative stress. Good sources of polyphenols include berries (especially chokeberries and elderberries), cherries, artichoke, olives, eggplant, onions, kale, herbs and spices (especially cloves and peppermint), cocoa powder (not processed into foods and not heated, add to smoothies), nuts and seeds (especially chestnuts and flax seeds) and green tea.
*VITAMIN B1, also known as THIAMINE, is helpful for increasing focus. Good food sources include: asparagus, beef (grass fed), cauliflower, nuts and seeds (especially macadamia nuts and sunflower seeds), legumes (lentils, beans, peas), Brussels sprouts, eggs, kale, oats, oranges, fish (salmon and tuna), nutritional yeast, and seaweed.
*Foods rich in VITAMIN C are also critical for those with ADHD including: chili peppers and sweet bell peppers (especially yellow), guavas, black currants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kiwis, herbs like thyme and parsley, citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, nectarines, mandarin oranges, etc.), papaya, and strawberries.
Just as important as including helpful foods, it's also critical to avoid foods that might exacerbate symptoms of ADHD. Below are items to cut back on or even better - eliminate altogether, if possible.
FOODS TO AVOID for those with ADHD
*DAIRY - This includes all cow's milk products like cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Recent research indicates that for many, the A1 beta-casein may be the cause of GI issues, while the A2 milk proteins are less troublesome. There are some new dairy products on the market that include only the A2 proteins, so you can look for those A2 protein milks and milk products. Luckily there are also many milk alternatives like rice, coconut, almond, and cashew to name a few. Additionally, many people who have issues with cow's milk can safely drink goat's milk or sheep's milk (and eat goat and/or sheep cheese).
*GLUTEN - There is evidence that suggests a correlation between ADHD and celiac disease (those with celiac are more likely to struggle with ADHD symptoms). Whether or not your child has celiac, they may benefit from removing gluten from their diet. There is a mountain of anecdotal evidence in addition to scientific studies showing a correlation between a gluten-free diet and improved ADHD symptoms. Avoid feeding your child products that contain gluten ingredients like wheat, barley, and rye.
*SUGAR - There are so many reasons to limit sugar intake for overall health, but for kids with ADHD, it can be even more important. Help your child avoid sugar-laden products like sweet cereals, cookies, candy, sodas, and anything sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
Making sweeping changes to your child's diet is not only difficult for your child, it will be challenging for you, as well. I recommend focusing on adding in as many of the "good foods" as your child likes, slowly introducing more and more over time. At the same time, decrease access to the "bad foods" without making a big deal of the changes.
If your child is struggling with severe ADHD symptoms, I recommend seeing a qualified nutritionist (I can recommend several).
If all this feels overwhelming - I CAN HELP! This is exactly what I do in my coaching business - I help kids eat more of what is good for them and eat less of what is NOT good for them. I get their buy-in and commitment, keep them accountable, and celebrate each and every small success. And the parents reap the rewards of a child well-fed who is feeling better and is better able to cope with life's challenges.
Please don't hesitate to contact me for a complimentary consultation. I'm here to help. ...
Creating New Holiday Traditions
What do the holidays mean to you? Let's start with Thanksgiving - which is coming up fast. For our family, it's all about creating a special meal and spending quality time with our family and friends. Throw in some game time and a movie or two and you have the ultimate May Family holiday gathering. Unfortunately, this year isn't the best time to get together with people who don't live in your household.
Rather than focus on what we CAN'T do, I'd like to shine a spotlight on some things we CAN do! Below are some ideas I have either heard or read about or have done myself.
Have nearby friends or family members cook their usual "special dish" for Thanksgiving, like Aunt Mary's amazing sweet potatoes or Grandma's melt-in-your-mouth butter rolls. Then every cook puts their dish into individual containers for the other households. Designate a drop off location where all the components of the big meal are exchanged so that each household gets a complete meal. It's like a take home potluck.
Rent a tent (or convert your garage) for an open-air Thanksgiving cafe. A few well-placed heaters, tables spread apart and following common sense precautions may allow for a few family members or friends to safely visit.
Consider starting a completely new, smaller meal tradition with just the members of your immediate household. Having a meal with a turkey breast (or a couple of thighs), two side dishes and one tasty dessert treat might be enough to celebrate this special time of year without being overwhelming. It can be a great opportunity to get the kids involved in the cooking. Teach them how to prepare one or two of your own speciality dishes.
With no extended family in town, my own family has often scrapped the traditional Thanksgiving meal for something entirely different. One year we made stacked enchiladas with homemade enchilada sauce and homemade refried beans. It's a favorite in our house, so making the non-traditional feast was perfect for us. Get creative and enjoy any favorite meal together.
For some, like my younger son, food allergies make the holidays extra stressful with seemingly everything being about eating. Focusing on activities that do NOT revolve around food can make this time of year fun for all. Choosing a movie series like Star Wars or Harry Potter for a movie marathon over the long weekend could be a new tradition. Having a family game tournament could bring some friendly and fun competition to the holiday. My dad and I always worked a jigsaw puzzle in November or December. Even after I moved away from home and would visit during Thanksgiving or winter break, he'd have a puzzle on a card table ready for us to tackle together.
Thanksgiving is an opportunity for each of us to remember what we're grateful for. Have your children express themselves in a fun way to show what THEY are thankful for this year. One child might write a poem, another may prefer to paint a picture, while yet another might compose a song, write a short story, record a video, or create a dance. Let the kids have fun with this project and maybe the adults can get involved too.
Turn your family's gratitude into action and write thank you notes to front line workers like firefighters and EMTs, doctors and nurses, delivery truck drivers, grocery store clerks, etc. Or write notes to residents at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation facilities, single friends living alone, or an elderly neighbor. Many people are secluded, lonely, and missing their friends and family members. What a great way to brighten someone's day! Contact a local facility to write to seniors or others confined indoors or you can support a nationwide organization like Love For Our Elders (loveforourelders.org/letters).
Whatever you and your family decide to do, please be safe and stay healthy.
I'd love to hear what your family has planned for this holiday season. Please share with me on my Facebook page:
Happy Thanksgiving!!! ...
9 Benefits of Health Coaching for Kids and Teens
1. Reduced homework time - I worked with a first grade girl with ADHD who took more than 2 hours to complete homework (with her mom's help). The teacher said it should be done in approximately 20 minutes. After working with me, homework time dropped from 2+ hours to 30 minutes or less.
2. Increased intake of healthy fruits and vegetables - One 15 year old client had a very limited diet which included virtually no fruits and vegetables. Over the course of our sessions, she tried at least 10 fruits and 12 vegetables and eventually began eating at least 6 different fruits and 3 different vegetables on a regular basis. At the end of our coaching together, this client even stated, "It feels normal now to eat healthy."
3. Kids learn about "questionable" ingredients - A tween boy I coached thought drinking a diet lemonade powder was a healthy choice. I had him research each ingredient on the label and report back to me what the ingredient really was and why it was in the powder mix. After discovering there is a questionable artificial sweetener and a mold extract in the formula, he decided drinking water or making real lemonade was a much better option.
4. Improved mood - Many of my parents report happier kids after health coaching sessions. Poor diets contribute to poor mental health in a variety of ways. A 3-year-old girl with Eosinophilic Esophagitis that I worked with showed noticeable improvement in her mood once we removed several troublesome foods from her diet.
5. Better sleep - Kids who eat better and are less stressed during the day are able to sleep better at night. One parent had trouble getting her elementary school aged son to go to bed and stay there. We brainstormed several reasons for the problem and a variety of solutions to address it. After a few months and several new strategies in place, the bedtime challenges were gone!
6. Fewer battles at home - When kids are stressed out, we parents become stressed as well (or vice versa). This can lead to more altercations between parent and child. One client was experiencing frequent opposition from her young daughter. Once we pinpointed a few causes for the stress (friend issues at school, struggles with homework, lack of self esteem) we were able to address the problems and reduce the bickering. Both mom and daughter reported getting along better and feeling more calm.
7. Clients can learn cooking skills - I worked with a young woman with Down Syndrome who was looking to be more independent. We worked together at her house to gain proficiency in the kitchen. She learned how to prepare several healthy meals as well as food prep, cooking, and general kitchen safety.
8. Increased self esteem - Kids and teens not only feel better physically when they eat healthy foods, they also feel better about themselves. I have worked with kids who are underweight, overweight, anxious, unsure of themselves, and/or are just not happy with their bodies. One client stated after working with me that "I feel better about how I look - I feel healthier." THAT is a huge improvement over the frustrated young woman who wasn't happy with her body before our health coaching sessions started.
9. Kids learn goal setting and achievement strategies - The kids I work with learn firsthand how to set goals, brainstorm ideas, address obstacles, readjust goals (as needed), and celebrate successes. These are skills the children can use in all areas of their lives through adulthood. One teen boy texted me months after our sessions had ended to share a health milestone he had achieved. He was so very proud of himself and he knew I would be, too! ...