The best and worst foods for hyperactive kids

Hyperactive children are jokingly called “disaster children.” There is so much energy in them that sometimes even a team of adults cannot keep them. But are these children to blame for their restlessness, impulsiveness, forgetfulness and inattention? Doctors and scientists are confident that it is not, and offer effective solutions.

A little about ADHD

Jennifer Güstra-Kozek is a licensed psychotherapist who treats children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive- compulsive disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome . And she is the mother of a hyperactive child. As a physician and parent, she prefers a holistic approach to helping children with ADHD. 

“There are numerous scientific studies that demonstrate the link between ADHD, anxiety, depression, sleep problems and nutritional deficiencies in the human body. This does not mean that your child has behavioral problems because he or she does not have a balanced diet. But adding healthy foods to his menu can help alleviate ADHD symptoms. ”

Jennifer’s opinion is supported by Emily Curda , a licensed dietitian specializing in children’s health and nutrition: “As a child’s body grows, nutritional deficiencies can have a very noticeable effect on it.”  


Investigation of 2014. published in by European Journal of the Clinical Nutrition’s shows that a healthy, nutrient-rich diet is associated with better emotional health in children and the use of junk food is associated with emotional disorders.   

Food for a child with hyperactivity

According to a 2014 study published in Children magazine , hyperactive children are often deficient in iron, magnesium, vitamin D and zinc. What healthy foods contain the listed substances?  

Iron. Its best source is meat and seafood. First of all, these are beef and lamb, as well as oysters, sardines, shrimps, liver, beans, lentils, egg yolks, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts. 

Magnesium. This valuable substance is found in almonds, black beans, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, many vegetable oils (flaxseed, sesame, peanut), cheese, cottage cheese and dark chocolate, almost all types of meat, fish (sturgeon, haddock, saury, cod, halibut) , fruits and berries (cherry, kiwi, pineapple, feijoa, raspberry, peach, pear). 

Vitamin . “Sun” vitamin is produced in the human body under the influence of bright sunlight. But in the cold season, many people are deficient in this substance. Get the “additive” can of food supply : eggs, caviar, beef liver, tuna, sardines, shrimp, salmon and herring.  

Zinc . Without a sufficient amount of this mineral, the coordinated work of the immune system is impossible. Zinc is involved in the production of more than 100 enzymes and acts as an antioxidant in the body. Therefore, special attention should be paid to its content in food. Zinc can be found in peas, chickpeas, brown rice, eggs, oysters, poultry, beef and mushrooms, spinach, seeds, and nuts.

Details on ADHD diets

Given the developmental characteristics of children with hyperactivity, experts sought to develop nutritional systems that would help them feel better and not experience emotional overload. However, studies on “ADHD diets” have been mixed. According to the WebMD edition , there were few data obtained and they all required further study. 

However, experts were of the opinion that anything that is good for the brain is likely to be beneficial for children with ADHD. And it was recommended to pay attention to food that “energizes” the brain. It:

High-protein foods legumes, eggs, dairy products, meats, and nuts. They are recommended to be consumed in the morning when the child is getting ready to go to school and used as snacks in the middle of the day. These foods help improve concentration and focus. 

Complex carbohydrates. They are found in fruits and berries: oranges, tangerines, pears, kiwi, apples. You should lean on them in the evening. According to some reports, this will help you fall asleep as soon as possible. 

Food with Omega-3 fatty acids . Walnuts, brazil nuts, vegetable oils, and white fish are excellent sources of unsaturated fatty acids. The doctor may also recommend that the child start taking fish oil.

On a note!

The main task of parents of hyperactive children is to include these foods in their diet. And here you can not do without tricks. If the child does not like fish, it can be served chopped up as part of the fish soup, interrupting the fishy taste with aromatic spices. And if the baby does not want to eat salty porridge, you can offer him sweet one with an abundance of berries, slices of fruit and dried fruits.

Foods to avoid

In 1975, it was first suggested that artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives could contribute to the development of hyperactivity in some children. From that moment to the present time, this idea is a subject for heated debates between scientists and doctors. A lot of studies have been carried out that have proved: there is a “grain of truth” in this!

The American Academy of Pediatrics agreed that eliminating preservatives and food colors from the diet of hyperactive children is a wise decision. The list of “taboos” includes:  

Desserts in bright rich colors containing artificial food colors red 40, blue 1, blue 2, yellow 6 and yellow 5. The ban includes M & M’S sweets , lollipops , chewing gum, ” jelly ” and other treats. Thus, scientists have shown that the blue 1 food additive inhibits the development of nerve cells, and the red 40 dye is a provocateur of allergic reactions and the development of ADHD symptoms.


According to Neurotherapeutics , the amount of food coloring in children’s meals can contribute to the development of ADHD symptoms even in healthy children.  

Sugar. Foods high in sugar can stimulate behavioral problems in hyperactive children. Children are sensitive to fluctuations in blood glucose levels. And while research is still being conducted on this, scientists from Yale University have already voiced the opinion that children show a more vivid reaction to changes in the amount of blood sugar than adults. 

Within a few hours after the drop in glucose levels in the body of children, a large amount of adrenaline was released, which caused excitement, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating. Therefore, the general recommendation from scientists is that sweets should be given to children with ADHD after meals, rather than as a separate snack.

Processed food . French fries, chips, pizza, hamburgers, cold meats and other products containing preservatives to extend shelf life.


A study of 2007, published in the prestigious medical publication of The the Lancet showed that the preservative sodium benzoate (E 211) is associated with increased symptoms of hyperactivity in children.   

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