ADHD can be a challenging disorder to live with. It is often hard for parents and children alike, who sometimes feel like they are walking on eggshells around one another.
Suppose you have a child that has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In that case, the chances are high they are very picky about what they eat. Many children with ADHD don’t like to eat anything new. ADHD affects 1 out of 10 children, which means that quite a significant number of families struggle with picky eating in their ADHD children.
Directly and indirectly, this affects the entire family, including parents and siblings of the child who has ADHD. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are tips to help families overcome the challenge of picky eating in their kids and create happy families. That’s precisely what this article aims to cover.
4 Tips to Solve Picky Eating in ADHD Children
Picky eating can inevitably lead to malnutrition due to the reduced intake of healthy and nutritious foods.
Board-certified holistic health and nutrition practitioner and founder of the ADHD Thrive Institute and The ADHD Thrive Method 4 Kids program, Dana Kay, astutely believes that medication is not the only option to induce children with ADHD to try new foods.
As a mother of a child with ADHD, experience has shown Dana Kay that a more holistic and long-term sustainable approach can help change the narrative of picky eating for families worldwide. She believes that ADHD children can indulge in nutritious foods without medication.
Here are four simple tips recommended by Dana Kay to help families manage the issue of picky eating in their ADHD children.
1. Only Introduce One or Two New Foods at a Time
Simultaneously introducing several new foods can be overwhelming and stressful for both children and their parents. It’s best to always pair new foods with familiar food that your child enjoys. That way, there’s a seamless blend, and it’s not too obvious that you’re bringing something new on board.
Let’s make this a bit more practical. Right now, get a note and write down two foods you’re confident your child will eat. Then besides those two foods, write down two new foods for your child to try. After completing the list, leave the note somewhere in the kitchen, and put a checkmark or tally beside the new foods every time your child tries them.
Taste buds take time to adjust to new flavors, so you might have to offer the food 15-20 times before your child begins to like it. This requires some patience and perseverance, but it’s worth it in the end.
2. Try New Foods During the Time of Day You’re Certain Your Child Will be Hungry
When a child is hungry, there’s often less resistance to new foods. Be observant of the time of day your child gets hungry the most. It could be at night, noon, or even early in the morning. When you introduce new foods during these times, they’ll be more open and willing to taste them.
For example, if your child is starving when they come home from school, offer them a new food you’ve wanted to try out. They might be more receptive to it during snack time than they would be at dinner because of how hungry they are.
3. Be Calm and Upbeat During Mealtime
When things aren’t going the way you want, or your child is exhibiting certain behaviors that you don’t like at the dining table or during mealtime, you need to master the art of patience and be calm.
Dana Kay emphasizes the importance of this: “When my boys were younger, I used to encourage them to crunch their food like a bunny rabbit or give that food a lick like a puppy dog, and we would all giggle about it. That simple trick often took the tension out of dinner time,” she advises.
For older kids, take a joke book to the dining table and share a joke before the meal. You can also tell a joke about every new food they try. Lightening the mood at dinner time makes them feel more comfortable and accepted and can also make them more willing to try new foods.
4. Food Chaining
Dana Kay highly recommends food chaining when dealing with a picky eater. She often uses this technique for families in her ADHD Thrive Method 4 Kids Program.
Food chaining is taking a food your child already enjoys and changing it slightly, so as to slowly adjust a child’s taste buds to new textures and flavors. Food chaining involves changing the shape, seasoning, or cooking method of a particular food so that a child eats the same food in different ways. For example, you can prepare a potato in a million different ways. You don’t have to change the food they enjoy; just change how you serve it. Change the texture, shape, seasonings, and preparation. Include herbs and spices. Just keep introducing it in new and different ways!
“You can also deep fry, pan fry, make into mash or tots, add spices, or combine with sweet potato mash. It’s all about changing things slowly and carefully, starting from a base that your child already enjoys. A child needs to try a new food about 15-20 times before they eventually eat and accept it,” Dana Kay advises.
Finding a Balance and Creating Happiness
Families with ADHD children typically have a lot of stress points, which can cause damage to the parent’s or child’s mental health if not handled properly. However, accepting your child for who they are is an excellent way to improve their overall happiness and help them realize how loved they indeed are.
Overall, keep trying different options for the picky eater. It’s all about finding a balance. Never be too pushy about making them eat something new, and at the same time, don’t give up on offering them healthy and nutritious food. Also, don’t punish or scold your picky eater. Help them understand that you only want the best for them.
Get to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Treat them in a positive way where they can excel at their own pace. Try to spend time together and do activities that make your kids happy. With the right practices and a great deal of patience, picky eating in ADHD children can be solved. Take it one step at a time, and soon enough, picky eating will become a thing of the past.