By Katie Pierce
For kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD, mealtime can be troublesome. After identifying and evaluating kids with disabilities, you likely need to simplify their meals, especially if they struggle to eat and get proper nutrition. It takes work, and a lot of planning to have your kids with ADHD eat their meals.
Having your kids sit down, eat three meals a day, and eat their food without too many complications can be challenging; this doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here are x ways to simplify your mealtime with kids with ADHD.
Why Mealtime is Hard For Kids With ADHD
First, let’s address the elephant in the room: attention span. Kids with ADD or ADHD struggle with stimuli due to their low levels of dopamine activity. As they don’t find meals rewarding, they’re more unlikely to sit down and eat. Rather than do that, kids would instead try to do activities they enjoy.
Another issue is that many ADHD meds cause loss of appetite. While the reduction is not as significant as people expect, some kids are more susceptible to it. Again, this causes disinterest among kids who don’t feel hungry until their medication’s effects wear off.
Some kids also have a natural craving for sugar, which creates a surge of dopamine activity. This makes kids push away more nutritious meals and opt for sugar-laden foods simply because the former doesn’t deliver a sugar high.
Some children who have ADHD also have sensory hypersensitivity to several elements in food. This can be taste, smell, color, texture, and how the food’s made, which clicks in their head as repulsing food. All things said this could make them be selective eaters and have difficult mealtimes.
So, how do you solve this issue?
Give Them A Big Breakfast
One of the biggest issues parents of attention-deficit kids has is breakfast. You would want to give your kids a heavy breakfast with the right combination of carbohydrates and proteins. It’s best to do this before they take their medication in the morning.
A big breakfast gives them enough energy to last through the day. Even if they skip lunch or only have it light, they should have the proper nutrition until they’re ready for it. Therefore, if we’re going to have our kids have a well-balanced meal, we should start their mornings right.
See that they have access to their favorite foods but not the sugary stuff. If they like bagels, add in easy proteins like bacon and eggs. Give them some easy-to-eat meals with a side of fruit to create a full breakfast. Make sure their food has enough calories that will help fuel their day.
Let Kids Join In Meal Prep
Meal prep can be tiresome if you’re doing it for a big family. This worsens if your kids don’t eat the food you prep for them. If you have picky eaters or want to cut down on the workload for yourself, it’s best to let kids join your meal prep.
Let kids help in the small tasks when preparing lunch or dinner. Have them do simple tasks like washing the veggies and fruits, peeling, or even cutting them if you’re cooking. Let them help set the table with plates and utensils. Anything they can do to give them a sense of ownership will help them feel more comfortable.
When preparing a meal, involve your kid as much as possible. This, again, helps them get used to what they’ll be eating and how it tastes. It also sparks their creativity in thinking of making their dishes better.
Other foods like pasta, soups, and tacos can be even more fun to make. Let your child pick out their toppings, cheeses, and sauce. Letting them help with what they eat can give them a better appreciation of the food.
Make Meals Interesting
Parents often complain about how their kids don’t like their plates. They also complain about the number of sides they have to add-in. If your kids love colorful foods and fast food, they’ll likely prefer those over healthy meals. However, you can change this by introducing them to healthy foods that they’d enjoy.
A good way of making dinners more interesting is to have different courses. For example, you could have an appetizer, salad, main course, and dessert. Since kids love variety, this can also intrigue them more. Make healthy options available, though, so they wouldn’t think of unhealthy food all the time.
Another way to make your table more appealing is to have a specific theme. Do Taco Tuesdays or Spaghetti Thursdays to give them something to look forward to. Choose a grocery delivery platform that can provide scheduled deliveries for your home.
Serve Them Food With Extra Flavors
One way of helping your kids with ADHD is by serving them flavorful food during mealtime.
If your kid is picky, you can add flavors to their plates to make their new food choices more palatable. You can experiment with different herbs and spices to find what they’re into.
Take your child to the local market and buy them some sauces or dips, then have them dip some fruits or salads. You can also create your own dipping sauces with hummus, low-fat dressing, or salsa. Experiment with different flavors, and you might find something they like!
When plating their plate, have the kids do their part. Let them choose their sauce and spoon if they love to dip. Have them squeeze a lemon on their fish or sprinkle some spices on their vegetables.
Encourage Them To Try New Foods
If your child constantly has a hard time trying something new, encourage them to expand their palate. They might be okay with healthy food, but they won’t branch out from what they know.
To help them expand their palate, get them to experiment. Get them to select a few fruits and vegetables every week. Ask them if they want to try a new type of potatoes or if they have ever tried a kiwi before. If you usually serve chicken sandwiches, have them have a tuna sandwich for a change. If they hate olives, do them a chicken salad with walnuts.
Have them try unfamiliar but healthy food options. Add them to their grocery list and prepare your weekly menus with them in mind. This should help spice things up for your meals.
The Bottom Line
Getting kids with ADHD to eat can be difficult, but fortunately, you can make the entire process easier. Be patient and don’t get into a fight or give them too many ultimatums.
Insisting on your child finishing a meal or eating when they are not hungry can cause problems for everyone. They may remain stubborn, and this can make mealtime unpleasant.
Take a relaxed approach to mealtime and provide healthy menu choices. Make mealtimes easier for your child, so everyone can remain healthy and happy. Do your research and learn evidence-based processes that will help improve how you care for your children with ADHD.