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Sugar and ADHD in Kids: What’s the risk?

Sugar and sweets around the holiday season can be hard to resist. After all, holiday dinners often include an abundance of pies, cookies, and other sugary treats. But, before passing the pumpkin pie and cookies, it’s important to remember the effect these foods can have on kids, especially if they have ADHD. 

“Sugar plays an important role in how ADHD presents itself, both in adults and children,” said Dr. Randall Duthler, Chief Medical Officer with ADHD Online. “What’s interesting about sugar is it touches the pleasure sensor of the brain, resulting in increased ADHD-related behaviors. At the same time, it’s highly craved by people with ADHD. So as we approach the holiday season, it’s important we think about how sugar affects children.” 

Try these tips to help your child enjoy a healthy holiday:

Moderation & Balance 

Eating in moderation is one of the best things you can do for your brain and body. 

“We want children to enjoy the holiday season, but they may need help managing their diet,” said Dr. Duthler. “Keep an eye out for what your child is eating and encourage them to eat other healthy foods alongside their dessert.” 

Eating a balanced diet is vital. Including enough vegetables, fruits, protein, and healthy carbs can help provide the body with the nutrients it needs. Eating only desserts or filling your diet with sugary treats will surely affect your mental and overall health. 

“It’s important that when you treat yourself, you are also providing your body with the nutrients it needs. If you don’t, this can lead to behavioral problems and irregular sleep schedules. You must make sure your child has a balanced diet and not just sweet treats. Moderation and balance are key.” 

Keep a Schedule 

One of the most important things you can do for a child with ADHD is maintain a routine, even during the busy times of the holidays. 

“Having a sense of regularity in their schedule will help immensely,” says Dr. Duthler. “It will help a child go to sleep and wake up at the same time, encourage productivity, and help their overall well-being.” 

Fun and Tasty Alternatives 

If you want your child to avoid the cookie tray, opt for delicious, healthy alternatives that are just as sweet. Try filling up on fruits rather than chocolate or swapping out ice cream in favor of frozen yogurt. Finding an alternative to curve a sweet tooth craving is doable, as there are plenty of options out there. 

Plus, you can make healthy foods look just as fun and appetizing as dessert. Create a rainbow with fruit and vegetables, for instance. Then, see how many colors you can incorporate! 

The holidays pose risks for any diet, but there is an added need to ensure children with ADHD monitor their sugar intake. But, of course, we all deserve sweets, so we encourage families to indulge in moderation. 

And from the entire ADHD Online team, we wish you a relaxing and safe holiday season.

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