Feeding the Active Brain
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is commonly treated with stimulant medications such as methylphenidate (Ritalin). Studies show that these medications suppress appetite in children, resulting in a slower rate of weight gain and growth. These side effects may be reduced significantly by taking breaks from the medication such as during the summer months or school breaks. Another approach to taking these medications may be to look at the overall diet of the children and family. The entire family can benefit from some of the suggested guidelines to assist with feeding the active brain.
Consider foods that can enhance brain performance as well as stimulate brain activity. For example, consume breakfast foods that contain higher levels of protein than carbohydrate. This means that sugary cereals are off the menu. In general, breakfast cereals are usually all sugar and carbohydrate, which may be the worst option for an ADHD brain as well as for anyone who is watching their weight. Consuming a breakfast that is high in carbohydrates and sugars will most likely not sustain a person very long and the feelings of hunger will return shortly after breakfast. Plan to consume or serve breakfast foods that are made up of 60% to 70% protein and 30% to 40% carbohydrates, while other meals of the day can be based on a 50/50 percentage. For example, plan a breakfast that includes eggs or egg whites, breakfast meat or meat substitutes, low-fat cottage cheese, toast, and peanut butter. Protein supplements may be an option to increase the amount of protein for breakfast; think about adding protein powder (soy) to a breakfast smoothie.
Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day. This will help you avoid consuming sugar-sweetened beverages and will also keep your body hydrated. Mineral supplements may be helpful; speak with your primary care physician about taking a vitamin supplement containing minerals. Consume essential fatty acids such as flaxseed and primrose oil, aiming for about 1 spoonful a day with food (add to soups, sprinkle on oatmeal, or mix into salad dressing). Eliminate all trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils - read food labels to help determine their presence); this may be helpful for ADHD as well as for heart health. In general, individuals with ADHD and everybody else will benefit from reducing consumption of food additives, refined sugar, and processed foods. Remember to consume at least 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables, and make healthy choices throughout the day.
Cool Taco Pasta Salad
Makes 6 servings
- 3 oz uncooked pasta, cooked
- 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
- 1/2 cup fresh tomato, chopped
- 4 oz mild green chilies, drained and diced
- 1/4 cup onions, diced
- 2 Tbsp sliced black olives
- 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
- 3/4 cup salsa (mild or medium) chunky
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- Cook pasta according to package directions, without adding salt or fat to cooking process.
- Combine pasta, corn, tomato, chilies, onions, olives, and cilantro in a large bowl.
- Combine salsa and chili powder in small bowl; mix well. Pour over pasta mixture; toss to coat.
- Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
Breakfast Pudding - High-protein and Low-carbohydrate
- 1/2 cup almond meal*
- 3 Tbsp water
- 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
- 1/2 cup berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries) frozen (will take about 30-45 seconds longer to cook) or fresh
- Top with sugar-free jam, nuts, or substitute peanut butter for the berries.
- Combine meal, water, and egg in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook for 45 seconds on high.
- Add berries and/or other mix-ins and cook for another 45 to 60 seconds. Stir and eat.
*Almond meal - Both almond flour and meal consist of ground-up almonds. Almond flour is most often made with blanched almonds (no skin), whereas almond meal can be made either with whole or blanched almonds (high in Vitamin E).
Healthy Cheese Lasagna
Makes 4 servings
- 6 oz whole-wheat lasagna noodles
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1 cup bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup mushroom, sliced
- 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbs parmesan cheese
- 3 oz mozzarella cheese (part skim), shredded
- Cook pasta according to package directions, without adding salt or fat during the cooking process and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Combine tomato sauce, onion, pepper, and mushrooms.
- In a separate bowl, combine cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 Tbsp of Parmesan cheese.
- In 8 x 8 casserole dish, combine half the pasta and layer the cottage cheese mixture and the mozzarella. Top with the tomato mixture and the rest of the pasta.
- Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Freeze leftover servings in individual containers and reheat for another meal.