Listen to your body. This is huge. It’s your very own body, and unless the mind transfer that’s so popular in sci-fi B-movies becomes a reality, it’ll be the only body you’ll ever have. Pay close attention to what you’re eating and then record how you feel afterward. Keep a running journal in a notebook or blog. As time goes by, you’ll see the trends and learn from them.
Read those food labels. With two kids at home, I do a lot of grocery shopping. I spend hours reading food labels. While we still don’t exactly know what causes ADHD, it is a well-documented fact that elimination of food additives and refined sugars from the diet of an ADDer definitely has a positive impact on ADHD symptoms (for more info about this check out the Feingold Association). I try my best to buy food that’s clean and free of any weird, funky chemicals.
I’ve also learned over the years of trying to watch my weight that just because something says ‘Light’ or ‘Low-Fat’ doesn’t automatically mean it’s good for you. A lot of low-fat stuff is super high in carbs and sugar and as far as my body goes, both of those are killer. Believe it or not, eating the fatier, low-carb versions actually has a better effect on me.
Of course ideally, I’d love to be able to buy 100% organic food, but where I live (Indianapolis), the variety of organic produce is limited, plus its super expensive. I’m a practical guy and try not to be too compulsive about all this, so I do the best I can; if I can get organic, I do, if not, I try to buy the least processed items I can find.
Strategize your shopping. Here’s a rule of thumb for the grocery store: Shop around the perimeter of the store. That’s where fresh foods like the meats, produce, and fresh baked goods (with more whole grains) are located. The middle aisles are where the processed foods live. (for years, sometimes).
Don’t fear your caffeine. Because the chemicals inside the brain of a person with ADHD work differently than in those of regular folk, caffeine can have both a stimulating and a sedative effect depending on time of day. In the morning when I drink coffee it has a tendency to pick me up and help me get focused (due to it stimulant effect) and in the evening it has more of a calming effect, actually helping me to wind down and get ready for bed. Might not work for everyone, but definitely works for me. (I’m going to do a separate blog on the subject of Caffeine and ADHD soon.)
Look to the diabetic diet. Several of my relatives have diabetes, and since sugar is an enemy of the ADDer, I’ve used some of their guidelines to help me make better dietary choices. So look for diabetic-approved foods.
Load up with protein in the morning. Instead of sugary cereals and confections, make sure you/your kids get protein – eggs, bacon, sausage, or a protein shake/bar. Protein provides longer-lasting energy than fast-burning carbs. This is especially important for kids taking meds. They lose their appetites because of the meds, so they need the sustained energy that proteins can give.
I hope these suggestions can help on the road to optimizing your diet for your ADHD. Food is a subject close to my heart, so expect to see more posts about this subject.
To close, here’s a recipe for a simple, delicious smoothie that’s low on sugar and high in protein.
Chocolate-Banana Smoothie (similar to a Starbucks Vivanno)
½ banana (go easy because bananas can be sugary)
8oz 2% organic milk
2-4 packets of Splenda (sugar substitutes are controversial, but my body just responds better to Splenda than sugar)
½ cup ice
1 tbsp cocoa
2 heaping scoops of vanilla protein whey powder
Blend all ingredients. It might take a couple of tries to find your desired sweetness. Once you do, you’re set with a quick, tasty protein blast.