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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Proper Nutrition for Children with ADD

01/10/1999

Question:

I live with family and a take care of there two children. The ten year old was just dignosed with ADD. We fially got his medicne (Adderall) regulated enough so that he sleeps on a decent schedule and is now at least eating something. My question concerns the fact that he only wants to eat the same things over and over. Ham sandwiches, koolaid, and freeze pops. I feel that he should try to eat some fruits and vegetables adn a variety of food, especially after a week of almost noyhing but ham sandwiches. He feels that as long as he is eating it shouldn't matter what he is eating. Where I am very glad he is eating at all I am worried that he is not going to get all the nutrients and vitamins he needs from eating the same thing all the time. Should we try to get hom to eatb other things or will he just finally start eating wanting to eat other things. Is this something we should be concerned about?

Answer:

One might think that science has advanced enough to understand most of what we need to know about nutrition, but we have not. We know that a well balanced diet seems to be very important to healthy physical and mental growth. On the other hand, many children, particularly between the ages of six and 14, have "terrible" diets by well-balanced standards, yet they appear healthy, happy and bright. I have cared for many children who go through years of refusing all but whitish foods (noodles, milk, bread, apples without peels, and maybe a few canned peas) or who refuse all green vegetables, or all yellow vegetables, or any meat except processed hot dogs. Most of them appear to do well. Of course, without the biologic substrates (chemicals necessary for biologic reactions--often vitamins or minerals) they certainly may be affecting their lifespan or intellect or even their ability to attend. Sometimes we can detect the results of specific food catagory deprivation (such as anemia from no iron, very dry skin from no healthy oils, or wound healing problems from no vitamin C), but it is usually not that obvious. My personal view is that a variety of all food groups, fairly low fat, and minimal (or no) animal protein is a great way to go. The other side of the coin is, is the food worth battling over with the child? Often the answer is "no". There are many schools of thought on how to get him to eat other things. My kids can't have dessert unless a well rounded meal is eaten. For one, that means he always gets the green down because he's a sugar lover. For the other, except in the rare instance that we have a dessert he really likes, he could care less about dessert. Luckily, he likes a few dark green vegetables. But, then again, there is something to be said for not having refined sugar desserts and something to be said for not setting up desserts as a reward, etc. Some possibly helpful things to try: 1. Ask the child's doctor what his/her belief is on the subject in the hope that all of the adults can rally behind the same philosophy. 2. Have his doctor speak with him directly, face to face. I have had many parents tell me that my talk with their 10 year old about eating differently had more impact than theirs, because I am the doctor. 3. See if you can get a large, glossy chart of the nutrition pyramid (teacher supply stores often carry them inexpensively) and put it up in the kitchen, and talk about it. 4. Give stars on a calendar for every day he gets a vegetable in or a fruit in (two different color stars). 5. See if he likes thinly cut vegetables dipped in a low fat ranch "dip" (dressing) or a dip made of ketchup and low fat mayonnaise. 6. Try thin apple slices lightly coated in cinnamon sugar. Best of luck to you.

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Response by:

Susan Louisa Montauk, MD
Formerly Professor of Family Medicine
University of Cincinnati