Foods to Eliminate for Attention Deficit Disorder?

Updated on August 17, 2009
C.O. asks from Saint Paul, MN
18 answers

My daughter has what may be termed a mild case of attention deficit disorder. It is only noticeable when she is doing structured activities with others her age and I can see that she is so much more distracted than the other kids. (example: dance class) I have heard that eliminating certain foods can help some kids with ADD. Wondering if anyone has had success with any special diets and if there are any books out there that I could be reading to help me help my daughter? I don't want her to be at a disadvantage because she has trouble focusing. Thanks for any recommendations you have.

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So What Happened?

Thank you for such wonderful and insightful responses! I will take all the advice and try one elimination at a time so I can see what effect each has on her. I also intend on looking into gluten free products as I noticed that they are becoming much easier to find. I love this site and all the caring moms out there!

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answers from St. Cloud on

When my son was quite young, about 8, I was told by an Army physician that two of the best things to avoid in foods were artificial flavors and artificial coloring. He was ADD and it really helped him. When I remarried some years later, I married a man with 3 children and two were ADHD and avoiding these items was very helpful. Also, it helps to limit the sugar. Good luck.



answers from Minneapolis on

I know it sounds awful but Gluten free, sugar free and artificial color and flavor free. It makes you wonder...what else is there? I'm just as lost as you are.

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answers from Green Bay on

Hi C.,
We went off all artificial colors and flavors, it helped. Now that he is 15 it doesn't seem to make as big of difference.
mamasource business owner



answers from Madison on

I have heard the two biggest food eliminators for autism, ADHD, epilepsy, and a few others are gluten and casein (milk protein). Another major one, as someone mentioned, is MSG.

Do some investigating via the Internet, so that you know specifically what gluten is all in (wheat, rye, barley, oats and their byproducts), what casein (found in cow milk products) is all in (it will surprise you), and ALL the different names MSG is manufactured under. MSG is known as an Excitotoxin. I'm allergic to casein, but am able to eat products with whey; your daughter should be able to as well.

Basically, you need to give up most processed foods and go totally organic. My daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder. We are attempting this conversion; yes, easier said than done, especially since my daughter has food issues as well. However, I muself am soy and gluten intolerant and have a casein allergy, so our household is about as clean as it can be of these ingredients.

My husband also has the casein allergy; he enjoys drinking rice milk. I'm not a big fan of rice milk, but I do like goat milk. We also use goat butter and goat and sheep cheese. Sheep cheese tends to be a little sharp; I buy a hard cheese from Spain that I grate like Parmesan. For goat cheese, I have found a raw milk mild cheddar cheese that, when shredded, looks and tastes just like mozzellera. We buy the bulk of our food at Whole Foods. I know. Just swallow hard and pay up. <grin> We've had to adjust other areas of our finances so that we can afford to buy organic groceries. However, I've seen a difference in all of us, and I especially think it's been helping my daughter.

Another thing I'll toss out there is to have your daughter tested by an Integration Doctor or a Nauropathic doctor for heavy metal posioning. My daughter was very, very high; she's on her 3rd chelation right now, and I'm looking forward to getting her urine retested to see how much lower all her concentrations are (they should be at zero). I was also tested and have gone through 3 chelations myself.

So then I asked myself; if I'm 40 years old and have this much heavy metals in my body, how is it that my 9-year-old daughter can have even MORE than me (be more toxic) if she hasn't lived as long as I have? So I went on the Web and started investigating this and discovered that some people are unable to detoxify their own bodies! Yes, it's true, and there is a genetic test you can take that will inform you whether or not your body can detoxify, whether it is a 50/50--either you can or you can't, or if you're a Poor Metabolizer, which means your body is unable to detoxify just about anything, including prescriptions or OTC meds.

My daughter and I had the genetic test done (CYP 2C9), and we both came back as Poor Metabolizers. Since my daughter has the EXACT same mutations as I do, that means my husband also is a Poor Metabolizer, because my daughter can't have my mutations unless she also gets the exact same mutations from her father. This is possibly why, at the age of 41, I am very ill and my daughter has SPD; her body wasn't able to cope with all of her childhood antibodies for earaches and sore throats and her childhood vaccines.

It's a wonderful thing to know how your body metabolizes, because it makes a world of difference as to how you eat and take care of your body. If you know when you're young that your body is a Poor Metabolizer, it's a lot easier to get rid of the things your body can't handle; thus, you have less reason for your body to be fed things it can't handle (like soy, gluten, casein, other food intolerances, seasonal allergies) and you won't end up with chronic conditions, or anti-inflammatory conditions (like me).

If you'd like my info, or just to chat, you can contact me.



answers from Omaha on

Just read your blog--I am a registered nurse and believe I can help you with ADD--if you will contact me and give me your phone number and where you are located I would be glad to visit with you--my e-mail is



answers from Minneapolis on

Check out the Feingold Diet. Just google it and check out the information they have. When I was a special ed teacher, I had several families that tried this and were very pleased with the results as well as how much healthier they ate! Our oldest doesn't have ADD, but she is a whole different wild kid when she eats anything with artificial colors in it, such as candy or freeze pops. We don't buy those things, but sometimes it can be hard to avoid at birthday parties or Grandma's house.



answers from Minneapolis on

You've gotten lots of great advice about diet, I would like to add that regular exercise is extremely important for all kids, but even more so for those of us with challenges in focusing. All kids need to get a minimum of 60 minutes every day of rigorous exercise.

The book "Spark" by Dr. John J. Ratey (who has also written a well regarded book on ADD/ADHD called "Driven to Distraction") is a good resource for learning about the importance of exercise for children (and adults) to learn, focus, and avoid the symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, and depression.



answers from St. Cloud on

+ The artificial coloring. Ex. red dye #

+ Gluten

+ High fructose corn syrup


+ Pesticides.... ESPECIALLY buy organic fruits and vegetables. (Google dirty dozen and buy those top 12 most highly sprayed ones organic for sure.....)


+ Avoid candy as much as possible. Anything that is pure sugar would be best to avoid......

+ Sugary breakfast cereals. Either buy unsweatened or organic. My kids LOVE Rice Krispies (or Crispy Rice) and we just drizzle honey on top!

Good luck.



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi C..
I don't have any books myself. If you'd like, email me and I could email my neighbor for info-- her son.
They've done a periodic gluten free diet. Lot's on that now.
She also get 2 forms of pure omega 3 fatty acid from me-- it's really helped. See my post above from today-- Tracy and the morning sickness. Omega 3 is so vital for brain health. It's difficult especially with kids to get it in food.
She also used our energy tab-- it does have a paradoxical effect on some kids-- healthy natural thing to use with vitamins vs ritalin type meds. Those meds and our Liftoff did not work with her son-- not for everyone.
It's a lot of trial and error.
Keep reading up-- only do one thing at a time so you're able to differentiate what is doing what. It's nice to get it sorted before school age. It did take my neighbor 3 years so keep at it.

About me: 48 yo perfusionist, wellness coach , wife, and mom to 7 yo twin girls.

B. J



answers from Minneapolis on

C. - I would personally eliminate anythng with simple sugars such as pop, candy, sweets, baked goods. I would also eliminate as much high glycemic carbs such as white flour, white rice, white bread, white potatoes, most breakfast cerals, highly processed foods. Best to stick with things that are whole such as fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, whole grains (pasta, bread). Also read the labels, and eliminate as much high fructose corn syrup from her diet as possible.

For a great reference on glycemic index, check out For great reference and even some recipes check out I have her book if you live in the south metro and want to borrow it.

Also, don't be fooled by artificial sweeteners. Don't make the mistake to eliminate regular pop and give her diet pop. While you can find information both pro and con about artificial sweeteners (such as they turn to formaldehyde in your body), the truth is they are artificial and our body doesn't really know how to process the chemical. Your best to avoid it completely.

The more you can do to keep her off of drugs, the better she'll be in the long run. Again, drugs are artificial and create free radicals in her body.

The last thing I would do is put her on a high quality nutritional supplement.

Best to you,



answers from Minneapolis on

One major thing I learned about foods for ADD in grad school is eat mainly protein for breakfast!! Breakfast foods these days are mostly carbs and sugars, all of which only last an hour or 2 in the stomach and cause the child to be hungry, not be able to focus, and start acting up.

My nutrition professor said that people should give their kids left overs from supper for breakfast (ie. potroast, hamburger, ham, etc.) Even things like cheese and yogurt can help too. That way the protien helps them stay satisfied until lunch time and they can focus better on what they are working on!



answers from Appleton on

I know MSG can be a factor in children with ADD. I would also say start using foods that are more natural and not processed. Eliminate canned and processed foods from her diet and see if the reduction in salt and MSG help to improve her behavior. Also get rid of soda and maybe foods with artificial colors and flavors, the caffiene and artificial flavors/colors can often effect ADD/ADHD children.
The dance class should help her to focus and learn disipline. Martial arts classes will also help with this. I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and there is a belief that the movements in TKD and having to learn to do all moves with either the right or left side help to connect the brain waves from right to left brain and therefore help with ADD and ADHD.



answers from Minneapolis on

I have a highly active son who has not been diagnosed with ADD (he is only 3), but we have removed red dye completely from his diet for over a year now because we see such a change in him when he eats it. We inform everyone who cares for him not to give him anything with artificial color. Another big one to remove is high-fructose corn syrup. We limit sugar intake, especially if it is white sugar. Keep foods natural and limit processed foods as much as possible. Soda pop is really terrible for kids with ADD. As a teacher who worked with lots of kids with behavioral problems, I found diet made a huge difference in behavior.



answers from Cedar Rapids on

I'm glad to see that the Feingold Diet was already mentioned and I'm just adding my encouragement for you to look it up!

My son is only 2, but VERY strong-willed already so I started looking into books and diet changes that might help him control his temper a bit better. I love the book "Raising Your Spirited Child" and our family has also found it very easy to switch to the Feingold Diet. My husband says he feels better and more focused at work and I'm 8 months pregnant and feel great about how much healthier I am eating this time around! There is a one-time fee to become a member of their website but you get a ton of helpful materials including a shopping guide that truly does have name-brand items that I buy at Wal-Mart. I have yet to go to a specialty store for anything on the diet plan.

Good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

I had read an article once where a mom eliminated foods with red dye in them, and her son (with ADHD) had much better days when he didn't eat red dye. (Found in foods made with chocolate, breakfast cereals, etc.)



answers from Duluth on

If you can, try to go gluten free. If you cannot mannage that feed her as little processed food as possible. Keep the breads & wheat cereal to a minumum. And of course try to keep her sugar intake down. Natural sugars are best (honey, maple agavae, unprocessed cane), avoid high fructose corn syrup & artificial sweeteners.

Also make sure she gets ther fatty acids. A good & easy way to do this is Coromega. It is a suplement you can find at pretty much any whole foods store & some pharmacies. It is easy to take, tastes good & you will see a difference once she starts taking it.



answers from Eau Claire on

Hi C.,

I think its great that you are trying to find nutritional ways to help your daughter. So many people dismiss symptoms or try a medication instead. Here is the website of a nutritionist I have met who has a lot of good information on this subject.

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