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How Diet Can Help ADHD Children Improve School Performance

written by: Donna Cosmato • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 1/4/2012

Proper diet and nutrition are key factors in minimizing the effects of ADHD on children's school performance. Knowing what, and what not, to feed children with an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is the difference between success and failure.

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    Diet and Nutrition May Be More Important Than You Think

    Did you know diet and nutrition are two major keys to helping children with ADHD improve learning and behavior? Learn how one easy diet plan helps ADHD children improve school performance and start incorporating these super brain-foods into your menu plans today. This diet plan utilizes familiar foods children love, like milk and eggs, and items that are easy to find, and inexpensive to purchase.

    Nutrition and ADHD

    Conduct disorders, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), respond rapidly to nutritional therapies. Identifying foods that trigger ADHD, and learning how to plan a diet rich with those foods works wonders to regulate ADHD symptoms. It is also a natural alternative to pharmaceutical drug choices like Ritalin. Eliminate these two items and watch ADHD children improve school performance and behavior.

    ADHD Trigger Foods

    Sugar: sugars alter blood sugar levels and are considered by most experts to stimulate hyperactive behaviors. The common forms of hidden sugar in foods: white or cane sugars, high fructose corn syrups, sucrose, dextrose, and fructose.

    Caffeine: It leaches minerals from bones, especially calcium, and diminishes bone and joint health. Since caffeine is a stimulant and most children with ADHD are already over-stimulated, eliminating it from their diets makes good sense.



    Cold water fish, like salmon and tuna, are top brain-feeding foods for children with ADHD. Fish are nutrient rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids; research shows these vital fats improve brain function. The brain craves essential fatty acids (EFAs) like omega-3 and omega-6 because growing brains need these fats for fuel. ADHD diet plans should feature fish at least twice a week, however, be sure to follow a few tips for safe fish consumption. FDA safety guidelines recommend avoiding fish with known high mercury levels like shark, swordfish, or king mackerel. Wild caught fish are the best option to choose to minimize potential toxin levels.

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    Top Food Choices for Children



    Eggs are a rich source of protein; to avoid pesticides or hormones, choose eggs from free range chickens. Opt for eggs enriched with omega-3 fatty acids whenever possible.


    Some experts recommend eliminating milk from diets for children with ADHD because the protein in cow’s milk triggers allergies and aggravates ADHD. While the decision rests with you, the parent, ponder these facts. Goat’s milk is tolerated by most, including those who are lactose-intolerant. It supplies 13% more calciumthan cow’s milk as well as higher concentrations of other essential vitamins and minerals. In addition, goat milk promotes bone and joint health.


    Most parents determine their children are unable to differentiate between the tastes of goat’s milk versus cow’s milk. Because of the nutritional advantages, low risk of allergic reactions, and benefits of an environmentally friendly animal protein source, goat’s milk and other goat milk products are worth investigating.

    Nuts & Seeds

    Nuts and seeds supply protein to regulate blood sugar levels and stabilize ADHD, as well as vitamin B for improved brain function and lower stress levels. Some nuts, like walnuts, are nutrient-rich sources of omega-3 EFAs. Pumpkin seeds are bursting with fiber, protein, and iron. Small snacks of these nutritional powerhouses every two hours or so helps children with ADHD stay focused and calm.

    Green Leafy Vegetables

    Supplement other food choices with substantial portions of green leafy vegetables and see your student with ADHD become fitter and happier. Raw green vegetables, like broccoli and spinach, furnish the greatest amounts of nutrients, but may be difficult to find out-of-season. Frozen vegetables are the next best option, followed by canned vegetables if necessary. Check labels for hidden sugars and other dangerous additives.


    By eliminating food triggers and incorporating high nutrient, brain-nourishing foods into meals, you increase your child’s wellness. Take a few minutes researching how one easy diet plan helps ADHD children improve school performance and decide if it would benefit your youngster.

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    "Five Foods to Feed Your Child with ADHD - and 5 to Avoid", Weiss, Jean, MSN Health & Fitness, accessed 1/16/10,

    "Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)", Ehrlich, Steven D., NMD, University of Maryland Medical Center, 2009, accessed 1/18/10,

    "Got Goat's Milk",, 2006, accessed 1/16/10,

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    Image Credits

    "Farm Goat"/Public Domain Pictures/Michael Drummond

    "Fish eating fish eating..."/Public Domain Pictures/Frits Ahlefeldt

    "An Egg"/Public Domain Pictures/Petr Kratochvil