Treating A Child’s ADHD Through Diet (Part II)

Though I usually advocate baby steps as a means to adopt a healthier lifestyle, sometimes more drastic measures are required. When serious medical issues afflict us or our children, skipping the chips may not do the trick.

I recently interviewed Samantha, mother of two, whose 8-year old child was diagnosed with ADHD. After eighteen months of disillusionment with medication, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Below I share Part II of Samantha’s amazing story of treating ADHD through diet. Click here to read Part I.

How did Mark adapt to the new diet? The rest of the family?

We call it the Healthy Food Diet and explained what we were doing from the get-go.  We are changing all of the food we eat to help us feel better, get stronger and be smarter.  Mark’s sister, Jess, was a baby at the time, so she had no say!  My husband has always left me in charge of the kitchen, so I shared information from the books I was reading, as I was reading them, but he really had no idea of the extent to which I was ready to thrust the family.  I just did it!

I explained to my husband that if we were going to give this a fair chance for Mark’s sake, we both needed to be supportive role models and show him how great this is.  Naturally, we tried our fair share of awful dishes, but it was for the greater good and exploration! We quickly learned what we liked and what we disliked, and tried to never repeat the dislikes.

Do you include gluten in the family’s diet?

We tried gluten-free products early on to see if they would make a difference in Mark’s behavior, but he absolutely hated the flavor of all of the products we tried. Mark’s interest in the new diet meant everything, so liking the food he ate was critical for this to be lifestyle we could build on.

Have you been able to stick to the Healthy Diet?

For the most part, with one major lapse last year.  Mark travels to camp every summer for four weeks.  The first year he was on the diet, I shared my food requests with the camp and they did their best to accommodate. I even went as far as to have his pediatrician write a note about the importance of his diet (I told him what I wanted him to say!).

The second summer, which was over a year ago now, I asked Mark to make good eating decisions and left it to him. He didn’t always make the best decisions, and he came home with a few new “bad” favorites.  These favorites trickled into our kitchen and the healthy diet became history.

When he recently started school, Mark told me that he hasn’t been feeling as good as he used to.  He started talking about his lack of energy and how he just didn’t feel as interested in things as he did in the past. He also told me this feeling had been going on for about a year and he’s sad about it.

We sat for a second and tried to determine the cause. That’s when I remembered his diet changed after camp. I reminded him that we went off the healthy food diet after camp, and didn’t get back on.

I reminded him “junk-in = junk-out” and that’s what might be happening.  Without hesitation, he said with loud excitement, “I wanna get back on the healthy food diet…today! Now!”

So we did, all over again.

What do you manage what he eats at school?

I pack lunch — hot and cold.  If it’s good enough for home, it’s good enough for school!

How do you handle kids’ menus on the occasions you eat out?

I usually have my kids eat something healthy before we go out.  Depending on where we’re going, I try to set-up expectations ahead of time by explaining the importance of the healthy food diet and understanding that all chicken nuggets are not created equal (if you know what I mean).

I usually order for them and explain in advance the type of food the restaurant offers. The will only pick at it anyway, because their tummies are already full. In other words: Out smart ’em!

How do you find time to make home-made breads and pasta?

I work from home so the breads really are not as physically time consuming as one would think…30 minutes (max) of my time! And that’s 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there.  Pasta’s a different story, which I suggest leaving for weekends when you want a little helper in the kitchen with you.

Do you ever splurge on desserts?

Yes, but not the sugary kinds.  I’ll make the cookies or cupcakes (using my natural sweat substitutes: agave nectar, applesauce, bananas, berries, etc.). In regards to ice cream, we do splurge on frozen yogurt and have Clemmy’s sugar free ice cream.

On a personal note — I cheat!  I do like an occasional Haagen Dazs Coffee & Chocolate Chunk…I am human.  I also indulge in flavored creamer in my coffee…Don’t mess with my mornings.  I do need to be awake for all of this!

What else have you learned through this experience?

I think so many of us have been hearing how bad fast food is for so long that our idea of good food and bad food has become warped. In my opinion, a salad from McDonald’s is still bad for you, because it has been treated with preservatives, insecticides, and who knows what else. And just because mom made meatloaf or dad BBQ’d chicken on the grill, that’s not necessarily healthy either.

Since I made the decision to change our family’s diet, I have become an avid label reader. I’ve learned to really understand the labels on everything I buy and see them now as a caution, not just a list of added spices and stuff.

I’ve learned when cooking, less ingredients is usually more. Thankfully, my children approve!

How is Mark doing now?

He’s now 9 and still involved in Taekwondo.  He just earned his Jr. black belt and wants to become an instructor someday. We’re so proud of him!

Note: The names in this interview have been changed per privacy request of interviewee.

Melinda Hinson