Simple ADHD-Friendly Food Swaps for Summer Picnics & Parties

Doritos. Hot dogs. Soda. The options on the table at cookouts and pool parties aren’t usually known for their nutritional benefits. And if you or a loved one has ADHD, some of the season’s most popular treats (think pop ice – i.e. those long plastic-wrapped freezer pops loaded with sugar and dye) are less than optimal.

Following a healthy diet is hard at any time of year. It’s even tougher when food is served as a free-for-all. Still, says nutritionist, chiropractor and functional medicine practitioner Dr. Kristen Bentson: “Healthy doesn’t have to be hard.”

A first rule for healthier choices, according to Bentson: Read food labels and check the list of ingredients.

Watch for added sugar, chemicals and ingredients with numbers — like “red dye #40” and “polysorbate #80,” Bentson says. “These unnecessary ingredients tax the body and have the potential to create reactions,” she says.

Some research suggests a connection between ADHD and red dye, stating that it may increase hyperactivity and other negative behaviors, according to Medical News Today. And this ingredient can be found in so many common snacks, drinks and foods (not just Twizzlers and fruit punch). Soda, cereals, energy and sports drinks, gelatins, candy, dairy products, gum and even protein powders contain red dye #40.

Simple Summer Menu Swaps

So what are some healthier options for summer food? Consider these ideas from Bentson:

Snacks: Instead of potato chips, Doritos or cheese doodles, try PopChips, PopCorners, popcorn or Bare-brand apple chips. Sieta grain-free tortillas and Hippeas organic chickpea snacks are another good option, Bentson recommends.

Frozen treats: Instead of processed frozen treats or ice cream loaded with sugar, artificial ingredients and dyes, try Good Pop brand organic freezer pops, says Bentson. The brand also makes Cherry n’ Lemonade pops that look exactly like the classic red, white and blue rocket-shaped pops. But these pops are made with 100% fruit juice, rather than sugar, corn syrup, artificial flavors and dyes.

Want to skip the dairy, or you have a child who’s sensitive to gluten? Grab a pint of Fronen, a frozen dessert similar to ice cream with no dairy, sugar or gluten.

Are you a fan of Dole Whip frozen dessert? A Yonanas maker creates a dessert with a Dole Whip consistency using frozen bananas and other fruits of your choice.

After you’ve made your morning smoothie (try plant-based milk, frozen mango, banana and chia seeds), grab some ice pops molds (BPA-free/stainless steel are a great option) and pour the leftovers in to make healthy, homemade ice pop treats, Bentson recommends.

Another barbecue friendly dessert (with or without ice cream): Try grilling some peaches or pineapples, and top those with your favorite ice cream, or frozen dessert.

Main meal and sides: “For hotdogs, be aware of nitrates, nitrites and other chemicals,” says Bentson. She suggests that you use the Applegate brand or look for ‘uncured’ grass-fed beef hotdogs or turkey hot dogs. They use celery power, a natural additive, instead of chemical nitrates and nitrites.

If there’s grilled chicken available, opt for that high-protein, high-flavor option over a corn dog or other types of “fair food.”

Reach for fresh raw vegetables instead of pickles (which are often preserved in liquids that contain food dyes) and look for salads that aren’t loaded with mayonnaise. You can also grill your vegetables — whatever is in season. Sprinkle them with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill them.

Are you looking for a gluten-free bun alternative? Try Gillian’s gluten-free onion rolls, Bentson suggests. A bonus: they’re also dairy free and soy free.

Instead of french fries, Bentson suggests roasting russet potatoes in olive oil and sprinkling them with salt.

Drinks: Skip the Gatorade or PowerAid, says Bentson. She suggests trying a packet of LMNT — a sugar-free electrolyte drink mix — instead.

Other healthier swaps to quench your thirst with something other than soda? Try real-brewed iced tea (go easy on the sugar), lemonade, flavored water or flavored seltzer.

Hanging out by the campfire? “Try roasting apples instead of marshmallows,” says Benston. She suggests filling the bottom of the bowl with granola, adding roasted apples and topping with Cosmic Bliss, a plant-based ice cream alternative that’s free of dairy and refined sugar.


Medical News Today

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