June 21, 2024

The following is a personal essay, and not a medical recommendation endorsed by ADDitude. For more information about nutrition, speak with your physician.

When it comes to food and snacks, my 10-year-old daughter, Natalie, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and I look for different things. Natalie wants to eat brightly colored food shaped like a Disney or Nickelodeon character that comes in a cool package. To help her stick to good eating habits, I look at boring ingredients lists and nutritional information. Intent on ADHD-proofing her diet, I avoid foods that contain artificial colors and sweeteners (and preservatives), and seek out ones with healthy levels of iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as protein and fiber to regulate her blood sugar levels.

Luckily, I’ve discovered some fun and healthy snacks that Natalie and I see eye to eye on.

Snacks That Are Low on the Bad Stuff, High on the Good Stuff

Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
These look and taste like artificially colored and flavored snacks, but they contain no dyes, additives, or preservatives. They’re certified organic, made with real fruit juice, and they have 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. The colorful, bunny-shaped treats are packaged in individual pouches, like other brands of fruit snacks, so our kids can eat like their buddies while remaining chemical-free. To find a store that carries them, visit Annies.com.

Stonyfield Organic YoKids Squeezer
Although Yoplait now offers Simply Go-Gurt — a more natural version of its market-leading product, Go-Gurt — Stonyfield Organic YoKids is our pick among single-serve yogurts, because of its commitment to the big O. YoKids organic yogurt comes in portable, squeezable tubes and doesn’t contain preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, gelatin, or high fructose corn syrup. While yogurt marketed to kids is often sickeningly sweet, YoKids contains 25 percent less sugar than leading kids’ brands. Most major supermarket chains carry Stonyfield yogurt, but if yours doesn’t, go to Stonyfield.com.

Barilla Plus Pasta
Pasta made from white flour isn’t ideal for kids with ADHD. The rule in my house is, The higher the fiber in a food, the better it is for my daughter’s hyperactivity — and my stress levels. Barilla Plus pasta looks and tastes like traditional pasta, but its higher protein and fiber levels prevent blood sugar levels from spiking and then crashing. The “Plus” is 360 mg. of omega-3 fatty acids, from ground flaxseed, which is good for our kids. And there are shapes for all my favorite recipes, so it’s the only pasta I buy. Learn more at Barilla.com.

Snacks for Brain Power, Better Moods

Without noontime fuel, our children’s moods and academic performance will likely suffer as the day wears on. I send my daughter Natalie to school with foods that make the most of every bite and swallow.

Chobani Champions Greek Yogurt
Natalie likes the grown-up version of Chobani Greek Yogurt, with fruit on the bottom. But she loves Chobani Champions — an already-blended, creamier version of the original, packed in kid-sized containers — even better. The first Greek yogurt made for kids, Chobani Champions is free of preservatives and dyes. A 3.5-ounce serving delivers 100 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 12 to 14 grams of carbs. Visit Chobani.com.

Naked Juice Protein Smoothie
Some kids find drinking more appealing than eating, according to pediatrician Karen Harum, M.D. “For those kids, we recommend a high-protein drink at lunch.” Naked Juice’s Protein Zone smoothies are perfect. Available in Pineapple/Coconut/Banana, Mango (Natalie’s favorite), and Double Berry flavors, the smoothie has no preservatives or sweeteners. One serving (half of a 15.2-ounce bottle) contains several servings of fruit and delivers 220 calories, 16 grams of whey and soy protein, and about 35 grams of carbs. Visit NakedJuice.com.

Brain Fuel: “I’m Not Hungry, Mom”

Loss of appetite is a common side effect of ADHD medication in children. If you hear this familiar refrain, try the following five tips.

  • A single serving. Avocado, yogurt, cottage cheese, peanut butter, brown rice, turkey, and granola pack hefty nutritional value in a single serving.
  • Food first, pill second. A high-protein, high-calorie breakfast starts the day off right.
  • Liquid meals. High-protein shakes and smoothies are tasty ways for your child to get his daily share of nutrients. Limit juice intake, though. Drinking more than eight ounces each day will make your child too full to eat. Just say no to soda.
  • Fortified foods. Include enriched whole-grain breads, calcium-infused juices, or snack bars with a day’s dose of vitamins and minerals.
  • More better meals. Eating four small meals a day is a good way to spark appetite. Refined foods, like Twinkies, don’t count.

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