MANAGE YOUR CHILD’S DIET 

TO ASSIST BEHAVIORS ASSOCIATED W/ ADHD

Chantielle Harris, Nutritionist

 ADHD or Attention Deficit- Hyperactivity Disorder has become quite common in most recent years. In 2011 64.5% of the children in New Jersey were reportedly diagnosed and medicated.

Cdc.gov,2019

   My oldest child is brilliant. He has been performing well in school and blowing test scores out of the box since he started school. I would receive phone calls or letters from school for two reasons; either he was excelling, or his behavior was horrible. He is not a hyperactive kid by nature. He likes to read, play video games, or do anything digital. Yet his behavior in school was unacceptable. He would fidget in his chair,  move his classmates’ chairs, lose focus during lessons, basically he was moving to the beat of his own drum.

          In elementary school, my son was able to succeed without effort. He could sleep the entire class and get an A on a test. That changed when he accepted admission to an advanced intermediate school; his inability to focus was finally affecting his grades. As a result, he did not feel as smart as he did in elementary school. He was discouraged and felt an inability to control his impulses. At that point, he begged to be removed from his new school. I reminded him of his past accomplishments and encouraged him to work harder.  I removed video games and limited his screen time, but that was not enough. He continued to struggle in certain areas and began falling asleep in class. When the principal brought this to my attention, I was livid yet eager to find the root problem and a solution.  

          I took him to the doctor and expressed my concerns. The doctor gave me an observation packet to utilize at home, as well as one for his teachers. Once the doctor reviewed it, she stated that he was showing signs of mild Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. She said they could prescribe medication now, or wait until it progressed; however, she was candid in letting me know that if he began the medication, it would more than likely be long term. I asked her to let me think about it. The last thing I wanted was for my child to take medication for the rest of his life so I decided to research alternative medicine for  ADHD. All things pointed to a healthy diet and organizing a daily schedule that stayed consistent. If I am being honest, our home life was not extremely organized due to my work schedule; nonetheless,  I  was determined to make the necessary changes to help my son.

        I included him in the process. I said, “let’s try this diet for a few weeks, see if you notice any changes &  if it helps, we can share it with others.” I decided to approach it in the manner of a research project with him and I as a team. Since he loves science, there was less pushback from him and more effort.  I explained that he would need to know the food list and to make good choices at all times for this to work. He agreed and fully committed. For instance, when he was with his grandmother, he would decline the fast food stop, or the bag of Doritos because he was conducting research, not because his evil, snack hating mother had put him on a diet. If ever he was unsure, he would call or text me and ask if something was ok to eat. 

When I do protocols at work for patients, we give them a time limit, so I decided to do the same with this diet for my son. We eliminated foods for about 60 days then I slowly let him add in a treat here and there. If you google “diets for ADHD” or “foods to avoid for ADHD,” you will find a lot of conflicting advice, so I am sharing what we tried specifically and what seemed to work. He is currently thriving in school, I haven’t had one bad report from any of his teachers, and I haven’t heard from the principal at all; Last year we were like BFF”s! He finished the final two semesters with only  1 C on his report card and has maintained straight A’s this year thus far.

The Diet 

“The food you eat can either be the safest & most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.” – Ann Wigmore

            A lot of research studies conducted seem to agree that artificial sweeteners, certain dyes, chemicals, sodium benzoate, and simple sugars can trigger ADHD symptoms. Thus leading me to believe that our children’s current diet is the cause of this sudden high prevalence of the disorder. If that’s the case,  it makes sense to remove these ingredients to evaluate if the symptoms and behavior associated with ADHD would subside

We removed the following foods altogether: 

  • Soda
  • Chips
  • Fruit Juices
  • Fast Food
  • Corn
  • Red meat
  • Excess Processed meat
  • Excess Sugar
  • Dairy

I decided to remove dairy from his diet to eliminate irritable moods associated with lactose intolerance, as well as decrease the time he spent in the bathroom.  Mini nutrition lesson: We have two brains, one in the head and one in the gut. I wanted to improve both and leave no room for errors or “what if’s” since he was my only test subject.

I understand as a nutritionist that the brain needs the following for optimal productivity;  adequate amounts of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, Fiber, and the B Vitamins.

So we added the following foods to his diet:  

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Whole grain
  • Green Vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Oranges
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • pears

I taught my son how to read the nutrition label, as well as how to spot sugar in “sugar-free” products. My son loves cheese and cereal, so we purchased almond or coconut milk and almond cheese. He opted to snack on more fruits and vegetables and packed his lunches for school. If we were out, he would ask for an egg and spinach whole grain burrito from Wawa (very specifically) instead of a burger.

Some articles stated that caffeine would trigger ADHD effects, however, there are a few studies which show that it helps by mimicking the same effects medication would, since it is a stimulant.  We opted to try it, and He was allowed to have one small serving of hot cocoa in the mornings before school. (I am not sure if it helped, however, it did not hurt our results, and it  was a treat he looked forward to daily.)

 When you are looking for improved function from the body due to a change in nutrition, you have to understand that it will not work as fast as medication. Medication, in this case, will mask the symptoms for short periods. A diet protocol is working from the inside out. Give the protocol at least 30-60 days to show improved behavior. You’re looking to obtain long-term effects, and these do not happen quickly. 

Organization at home 

This part was pretty simple. Adding a dry erase board in our kitchen helped a lot. We agreed on a daily schedule for afterschool. I also keep a calendar with the monthly activities and events in the kitchen for him to see. When he gets home, he completes homework, changes his clothes, and completes any tasks written on the dry erase board. M-F there are little to no changes, Saturday and Sunday he can relax unless there is an event on the calendar. His younger brother is also accustomed to the schedule and is excelling in Kindergarten. It has been one full year today since we tried this little experiment. He is no longer on the diet; however, he still watches how much dairy and sweet treats he enjoys. He rarely eats red or processed foods because I do not cook them. He even stays away from soda and fruit juices, but he has the freedom to enjoy one with permission here and there. Unlike medication, his diet was temporary, and the symptoms were not masked, they disappeared.

After this experience, I reminded myself to check in with him more. I ask my children questions about school, friends, feelings, and general conversation. My child was under a lot of stress in the first year of the new school, and I realized that children experience high-stress levels, just like adults. Other factors to monitor are sleep, energy, mood, and physical activity. Lack of sleep can cause low energy and an aggravated mood. In contrast, the inability to calm the mind at night can interfere with sleep. Ensure that your child has some form of outlet for energy and set screen time limits. My son can earn 2 hours if his homework and chores are completed at a decent time during the week.

ADHD is a serious condition that plagues both adults and children. The symptoms vary for every individual, and the symptoms recognized in my son are just a few of the many. Paying attention to changes in your child’s behavior, moods, sleep patterns, etc., and addressing them accordingly is vital to their stability and your sanity. If you think your child is demonstrating symptoms of ADHD contact your physician to have a proper evaluation, and consider utilizing the diet and organizational tips shared in this article. Even if your child is not diagnosed with ADHD, implementing these tips into daily life will still be beneficial. 

Here are a few great resources to help you better understand how food can affect behaviors and cognitive responses of ADHD:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nutrition-and-adhd

https://blog.brainbalancecenters.com/2014/04/understanding-leaky-gut-syndrome?_ga=2.54042283.2039886282.1574219389-1119495995.1574219389

This article contains recipe’s;

https://www.everydayhealth.com/adhd-pictures/healthy-snacks-for-kids-with-adhd.aspx

New Year New Me

How not to lose weight this new year.

Chantielle Harris, Nutritionist

   I have decided to share some information regarding weight loss . I share information on this topic daily as this is my current 9-5 career choice as a nutritionist. I love having conversations with my clients and changing the way they look at the weight loss process.  The proper diet has been argued for centuries and general information online can be contradictory. This is usually because online articles are specific to one topic of nutrition. For example, if you want to learn how to eat healthy, you shouldn’t look for weight loss or diet information online because you will likely not get the correct information.  This blog post will focus on weight loss since this is a common goal in the New Year. 

          First, I would like to say that  If I could compare nutrition and weight loss to anything, I would compare it to rocket science. It takes some trial and error, some understanding of your body, a full metabolic work up, allergy and intolerance information, hormonal knowledge and many other factors. There are, however, 3 things that can make the process of weight loss a total bust.. These 3” Don’ts”, as I call them, are common mistakes I have come across in my experience working directly with weight loss clients. 

#1-Don’t try very low calorie diets

  Very low calorie diets don’t NOT work– however you should be under the supervision of a medical professional when utilizing this type of protocol. The medical provider should monitor you weekly,  with a specific goal for a short amount of time. After this time has ended you will still need to do exactly what I will be suggesting at the end of this blog in order to not regain the weight immediately.  With that being said, understand that  following a very low calorie diet or VLCD,without any guidance can cause a plethora of issues. The first issue could be binge eating. When utilizing a vlcd on your own,  you will become extremely hungry and eventually give into these cravings while mentally trying to make up for all of the time you spent ignoring your hunger.  Eventually vlc diets can cause the body to store fat. Science is not wrong, a calorie deficit is definitely necessary, but let’s not forget for the normal middle aged adult the calorie intake is about 2000 calories, so eating 800 calories and burning 200 more with exercise leads you with little to no energy to do daily life tasks. Long term, this could actually backfire. Your body can enter “starvation mode”. I have read countless articles where fitness individuals argue that starvation mode is not a real thing, but I am here to tell you it is. 

I am an advocate for explaining the mind-body connection- and starvation mode is one instance where it can not be denied. The mind overrides the body in the instance where it feels like you may be in danger then begins to send signals to make the body conserve energy (which means it will burn less calories) in order to protect you from starving. The scientific name for this process is called adaptive thermogenesis. I see clients every day and have for the past 3 years and I have personally encountered individuals who run into this issue more times than I can count. When they finally decide to eat more- they are surprised by how they begin to lose weight. If you are an athlete or someone who uses your body for work, for example a fitness instructor, landscaper, factory employee, you will also experience extreme fatigue and a loss in strength due to not fueling your body correctly. 

#2-Don’t purchase diet pills, magic weight loss drinks, and other supplements that claim immediate weight loss with no work.

There is NO MAGIC or QUICK fix for weight loss. 

Successful weight loss is not easy, it is a time consuming process that requires a solid plan, specific goals, motivation  and willpower. Keep in mind that anytime you make a slight change in diet and or add physical activity you may see an immediate loss. If using a product, it can make you urinate a little more causing water weight loss. This weight loss will be regained quickly. Detox trends are great to help with cleansing toxins from the gut microbiome, however they should not be used as a solo source for sustainable weight loss.. You still need to l eat healthy during and after a detox and hydrate well. Inevitably all roads lead to the necessity of healthy eating and behavioral change.

#3-Don’t Embark on your weight loss journey blindly

           The one mistake I see the most is when people embark on a weight loss journey with no specific plan and no clear guidelines other than eating salads or drinking some type of concoction or pills hoping for the best. If there is no clear plan how can you be productive. Where are your salads coming from? How nutrient dense are these salads? Lettuce is 96-98 percent water and contains 0% of all vitamins and 11 mg of potassium, which is not a lot.  Then the lettuce is topped with salad dressing which is full of saturated fats, sodium, and sugar.  Another mistake is not eating. As described in the 1st part of this post, you now understand how  that does more harm than good. All 3 of these weight loss tactics may lead to a loss of 3-10 lbs. However this weight loss is highly unsustainable. One binge session, or one week back to your normal routine will add the weight lost, plus an additional few pounds.

                   Focus on the following instead

Overall behavior changes

  Some behavior implementations may include the following:

  • Move more than you sit
  • Try to change up your grocery list and prepare healthy meals daily. For example If you currently eat fried foods and heavy starches every evening for dinner- begin to bake or grill your proteins and opt for lighter sides for dinner. 
  • Make sure your plate always has green vegetables. 
  • Eat 2 fruits daily. 
  • Go for a walk on monday and weds. Mornings before you shower. 
  • Instead of meeting a friend or business partner for drinks, meet them for a walk, swim, or fun cardio based exercise class. 

         You will need to make time for your health. I suggest  penciling  in workouts, meditation, and meal prepping into your weekly schedule to ensure it happens. For me- if it’s not on my schedule it usually doesn’t happen. So I have to meet myself in my yoga studio every morning at 7:30 am. It’s a standing meeting with myself for my sanity. This is a behavior I added about 6 years ago. 

Learn & ask for help

  Learn what eating healthy in general means, a calorie deficit of 500 calories only. Losing 1 pound weekly is the best way to go so you should plan your time frame and set goals accordingly. Learn what foods carry what nutrients. When you look at your plate- you should be able to know what the food on it will give you. For example; when eating an apple, I know I will get fiber, vitamin c, and potassium. 

SMART goals

Set goals for yourself using the SMART method. 

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time based

An example for a smart goal  is listed below.

“I will lose 20 lbs in the next 5 months by removing soda, white sugar, fast and processed foods from my diet and using my stair climber for 30 minutes Tues, Thurs, and Sat. I will go grocery shopping and prep m-weds meals on Sunday. Then Prep thurs-sat meals on Weds.” I will weigh in every Monday Morning, starting Next monday. I am doing this so that I can walk up the steps in my home without breathing heavily.

        It is specific as to how many lbs they will lose by using specific actions. It is measurable as they will be weighing in. It is attainable since they have given themselves 5 months  time to lose 1 lbs per week. It is relevant to their health since  they feel as though they would like to not be winded going up the stairs. Lastly, it is time based (5 months time)

This New Year, focus on the above three tactics and you will find success reaching your goals. If you would like more help with coaching refer to the services tab and book a consultation today. Happy New Year!