Many parents are torn when it comes to treating their children’s ADHD symptoms. Children may have trouble with concentration, hyperactivity and other learning and behavior problems, but parents may dislike the idea of treating these problems with medications — especially for very young children.
Several diets have been found to greatly diminish ADHD symptoms in many children. Some of the most beneficial ones are an all natural diet, the Feingold diet, the GAPS diet and a gluten free, casein free diet.
An all-natural diet is the best choice to start when looking at making dietary changes to help improve your child’s health and/or behavior. Eliminating artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners and preservatives can have a drastic effect on children’s behavior. The FDA estimates that around 5 percent of American children react badly to artificial colors alone. Many preservatives are petroleum based (as are artificial colors). All of these ingredients can have profound effects on children.
Adopting an all natural diet is relatively easy but it can feel intimidating at first.
Here are some tips to make it easier.
- Serve whole foods and prepare dishes from scratch when possible.
- Read labels and avoid processed foods.
- Pick simple foods to pack for lunches and meals on the road. Good foods on the run include nuts, fruit, plain potato chips, all natural granola bars and string cheese.
- Instead of heading through drive-thru for a quick meal, stop at a grocery store and head to the natural food section for on-the-go options like organic yogurt and a Lara bar.
- When eating out, choose restaurants that cook with natural ingredients (local food co-ops often have their own restaurants) or ones that offer lots of simple foods like broiled meats, baked potatoes, real fruit, and salad bars with healthy options.
- Be sure to look for non-food sources of chemicals in your child’s diet. Children’s toothpaste, vitamins and medicines are often full of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, for instance, and they’ll sabotage your child’s healthy eating.
- Make lists of foods your child can enjoy and focus on those instead of what your child cannot have.
- Stock up on all natural treats to have on hand if your child is offered taboo foods somewhere else. If your child’s teacher gives out candy, provide some organic lollipops or something similar for her to offer your child (you might also suggest healthier rewards such as stickers).
- Involve your child as much as possible in growing, buying, choosing and preparing healthy foods. Many children get far more excited about eating vegetables they helped grow in the garden or trying new foods that they helped pick out at the grocery store, for instance.
- If you’re new to all natural cooking, consider joining Pinterest and creating some boards with recipes and tutorials. After a few searches you should be able to identify people to follow who pin good recipes, too. My own all-natural pinterest board is here and I have everything from recipes for homemade sauces to instructions on making tortillas.
The good news is that more and more parents are choosing all natural diets for their children and there are more products, web sites, cookbooks, snacks, blogs, restaurants and other resources for those following a natural diet than ever before.
Expect to stick to the diet for at least a week or two before seeing results. After an initial detox period, you’ll probably be able to see pretty immediate reactions if your child has a “trigger” food like candy with food coloring. Some children only react to certain additives, such as red dye #3 or yellow #5. Most parents choose to avoid all artificial ingredients anyway.
You may also see worse behavior in the beginning, as your child detoxes and also adjusts to new tastes and missing some foods. This is normal and temporary. It helps to serve favorite healthy foods during this time to help make the transition easier, and also to increase non-food fun as a family.
Not only can an all natural diet help manage children’s ADHD symptoms, but it also helps prevent illnesses and can set them up for a lifetime of healthy living. The whole family can benefit from changes like that.
You can find additional information and support at the 45 Real Food Snacks for Kids blog and All Natural Families on Facebook.
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