At the start of my ADHD education I categorized the ADHD diet with chiropractors and neurofeedback treatments. Now that I’ve been on this journey for a few years I know EVERYTHING has the potential to affect our brain. Trial and error is the name of the game. I am open to try ANY treatments to get my family’s emotions and wandering minds in check. Here is a loose timeline of how we began using diet to treat ADHD in our household.
Phase 1-Protein Focus:
When I initially planned meals around brain health, I focused on protein and fats. For the ADHD diet to help, protein must be presented at every meal. I don’t think mac and cheese cuts it (even organic). As a family, we were good about avoiding most additives and food dyes (ADHD 101). However, we needed a protein push. The carbs were taking over more than just the pantry.
So, we considered protein intake for each meal.
Breakfast is important and I’m home to make it. My eldest started eating eggs every morning, WITH his pumpkin bread (or toast, or cereal). Then we packed tuna for lunch, or PB and J to get those healthy fats into our brains during the school/work day. All 5 of us live off omega gummies (a flax and fish blend), as well. Dinner was protein-enriched pasta with meatballs, chicken stir fry with rice, or fish sticks with broccoli and cheese. Do these sound like healthy dinners to you? I thought they were, but felt I was missing something. One year into this version of the ADHD “diet,” we made another change.
Phase 2-Clean Eating Focus:
When we only focused on protein, I realized I was going the processed route, without meaning to. We’ve now redesigned our ADHD Diet regimen. I redefined “protein” and made fruits and veggies the main part of each meal in our home. I made this switch to see if a “cleaner” diet could help our ADHD brains. Here’s the “diet” I tried:
We’re pescatarian (some fish and seafood, no meat, no diary) with as little processed foods as possible. This has been a MAJOR CHANGE for our family. The two rewards within a few days:
1. Family members are using the bathroom more often! Thumbs up.
2. My eldest has no more bags under his eyes. (He was slightly allergic to dairy, we think.)
In terms of food prep, Mami and Papi have to learn to balance meals, differently. We add ingredients like dry beans, quinoa, sprouts and brown rice to our cooking repertoire. For now, were still doing eggs, but my son was INCREDIBLY AFFECTED by the documentary, “What the Health.” If you haven’t seen it and are happy with your current eating habits, DON’T WATCH. It’s brought me back to my vegan 20’s with a vengeance.
Now, here are the rewards for me (no meat or fish, no diary, some egg whites, lots of fruit and greens):
- I’m focusing better and getting tasks done.
- I haven’t taken medication since the horrible trial I co-piloted with my son 2 summers ago, and yet I’m getting laundry done and returning library books on time without it.
- I’ve been able to plan my day (the night before) and stick to the schedule pretty well, even with 3 kids at home all day during the summer.
- I am more engaged with whatever task I’m working on. Whether it’s writing, making a salad, or playing with my daughter.
What skews these results: I’m a teacher and I only work 2 out of 8 weeks in summer. I have not been grading papers or making lesson plans at home since I’ve been vegetarian. However, I have been getting up at 5AM to write blog posts, exercise and listen to my 2 favorite podcasts. Is it the lack of the job grind that gives me focus, and not the diet? I’m not sure. I’ll have an update in the next few weeks after I’ve finished my summer work.
Have you made dietary changes to reduce your ADHD symptoms? What’s worked for you? Comment below.