Your ADHD Diet Food List

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental condition usually diagnosed in childhood. ADHD symptoms include excessive motor activity and impulsivity, which leads to distraction and significant attention deficit. It affects 6.4 million American children, with males being 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. The symptoms usually start to appear between the ages of 3 and 6. While medication might be prescribed, doctors recommend adjusting diet, too. Studies from the past 10 years show that there are high numbers of ADHD among people with obesity. This demonstrates the importance of a balanced and healthy diet when trying to manage symptoms. So, here’s how you can improve your ADHD diet with an ADHD diet food list.

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What to add to your ADHD diet

It is important to know what specific nutrients people with ADHD are lacking in, in order to build an ADHD diet food list that will make up for these deficiencies.

ADHD Diet Shopping List - Iron and zincIron and Zinc

Multiple studies show a significantly lower level of iron and zinc in people with ADHD, despite them not being anemic.

Iron is an essential nutrient for the production of dopamine. Therefore, you should make sure you have plenty of it in your diet.

Zinc is important for the production and modulation of melatonin, which helps regulate dopamine function. The increased intake of zinc and iron can reduce ADHD symptoms.

Iron and zinc can be found in:

  • Eggs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Red meat
  • Seeds
  • Shellfish
  • Turkey
  • Wholegrain products

ADHD Diet Shopping List - Omega3 and Omega 6Omega3 and Omega6

Compared to others, those with ADHD have lower levels of Omega3 and Omega6. These fatty acids improve overall brain growth and function, and can control negative symptoms associated with ADHD. These symptoms include poor concentration, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and disruptive behavior. They are key to the improvement of ADHD symptoms.

Omega3 and Omega6 can be found in

  • Brazil nuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Salmon (and other cold-water white fish)
  • Soybeans
  • Oil
    • Canola oil
    • Olive oil
    • Fish oil
  • Tuna
  • Walnuts
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ADHD Diet Shopping List - BVits and PorteinB-Vitamins and Protein

Those with ADHD have significantly lower levels of B-vitamins. The lack of these vitamins has been associated with ADHD and other mental disorders in childhood and adolescence.

Protein is also important for brain function and it helps stopping sudden spikes in blood sugar levels, which has been linked to disruptive behavior among children with ADHD. Protein-rich food is also a good source of vitamins B2, B6, and B12. Protein is recommended in the morning and as snacks throughout the day to help keep blood sugar levels consistent.

B-vitamins and protein can be found in:

  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Liver
  • Meat
  • Milk
  • Mussels
  • Nuts
  • Oysters
  • Salmon
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Yogurt

adhd diet shopping list - complex carbsComplex Carbohydrates

A healthy eating pattern is also characterized by the intake of complex carbohydrates. They are macronutrients which supply energy without spiking blood sugar levels, unlike simple carbohydrates such as sugar. They should make up to 60% of the ADHD diet.

Complex carbohydrates are mostly found in

  • Apples
  • Grapefruit
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Kiwi
  • Legumes
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Tangerines
  • Wholegrain products

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adhd diet shopping list - avoidWhat Food is Not Good for ADHD?

Those with ADHD have higher intakes of nutrient-poor food such as high-sugar and high-fat food. Studies show that a diet high in refined sugar and saturated fat can increase the risk of ADHD and hyperactivity. A healthy diet, with high consumption of fruit and vegetables, can help prevent these outcomes. Dieticians’ advice is to restrict:

  • Antigens
  • Food coloring agents
  • Saturated fat
  • Simple carbohydrates
  • Sugar

However, sugar is particularly important to reduce.

Sugar can lead to a sudden surge in the blood sugar levels, which increases energy levels. Excessive energy can cause trouble with concentration and hyperactivity.

Also, avoid preservatives, and artificial dyes and colors. Especially avoid red and yellow coloring, and food additives such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Furthermore, if you are taking medication, most experts recommend that people consume less caffeine, or just avoid it completely, as it can make side effects worse.

What Other Things Can You Do to Help Your ADHD Diet?

adhd diet shopping list - helpWays to Help You Stick to Your ADHD Diet

ADHD people are quite impulsive and often make impulsive decisions, which gravitate toward eating fast food. Studies have shown a higher prevalence of binge eating behavior among them. An ADHD diet has to be directed toward planning, scheduling, and healthy decisions. Habits such as making a grocery list, getting all the ingredients at the supermarket, and knowing what time and how long it takes to prepare a meal, takes organization, planning, and time management.

However, these skills can be a struggle for people with ADHD.
However, there are some simple steps that can take to help you stick to your diet.

  • Schedule your meals and be disciplined – take half an hour on Sunday to prepare a meal plan for the week. You’ll know what ingredients you will need to buy, how long it takes to prepare each meal, and it will take fast-decision-making off your back.
  • Don’t skip breakfast – ADHD people tend to skip breakfast. This means their metabolism rates reach a low point during the day. Because of this, the body starts craving fat, carbohydrates, and sugar. This will make you lose control of your food restraint.

adhd diet shopping list - other tipsOther Useful Tips

Get a test for food allergies and nutrient levels in your blood. You’ll then have a guide for what nutrients you need to focus on, and what food and ingredients to avoid. Allergies to preservatives and artificial dye might be common, which worsen ADHD symptoms. Having this knowledge will certainly help you maintain control over your symptoms.

When shopping, read food labels carefully. This will be your best guide when selecting products. Content matters more than packaging, presentation, and marketing. This will also help you to determine which food is high in simple carbohydrates, high in fat, and high in sugar: all of which you should be avoiding.


adhd diet shopping list - cureCan ADHD be cured by diet?

It is not clear yet whether a poor diet is the cause of ADHD or rather its result. Currently, treatments for ADHD only help to control it and prevent it from getting worse. While 6.1% of children in the US are being treated with medication, studies show an amazing improvement of the symptoms through diet control. Statistics show a link between ADHD, obesity, poor diatery habits, and low levels of important nutrients in their body.

So, whilst it’s unclear whether proper diet can be a “cure”, it’s certainly something that is important to symptom management.

adhd diet shopping list - sugarDoes sugar make ADHD worse?

While it’s still controversial whether or not sugar is a cause of ADHD, or if there is a direct link between ADHD and sugar consumption, sugar does influence hyperactivity because it can quickly enter the bloodstream. This makes rapid changes to glucose levels and triggers excessive adrenaline production. The consumption of added sugar, sugary snacks, and drinks should be drastically reduced.

Sugar should preferably be consumed as part of a main meal and in a natural form (cow or sheep milk, unsweetened dairy products, and fresh fruit). Drinks that should be avoided are sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) such as smoothies, fruit juice, and sweetened milk products. Therefore, it’s best to stick to water or unsweetened drinks.

What foods should a child with ADHD avoid?

An unhealthy diet increases the risk of hyperactivity or ADHD occurrence in children. Therefore, parents and care-givers should start developing good dietary habits in children as soon as possible: avoiding simple carbohydrates, high-fat, and high-sugar food items.

Food you should absolutely avoid is:

  • Deep-fried food
  • Candy
  • Food containing MSG (such as bullion cubes, seaweed, and soy sauce)
  • Honey
  • Junk food
  • Potato chips
  • Processed juice
  • Products made from white flour
  • Sauces (such as BBQ and ketchup)
  • Soda
  • Syrup (such as corn and maple)
  • Sugary snacks
  • Unskinned potatoes
  • White rice

ADHD Food List

Now that you’re a little more knowledgable about what food and nutrients you should be eating more or, and what to avoid, please find below your ADHD diet food list template. Feel free to add things you feel are missing, or take away anything you don’t want to eat.

ADHD Diet Food List Template

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Lean Meat, Seafood, & Eggs

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Liver
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Salmon
  • Shellfish
  • Tuna
  • Turkey

Healthy Oil

  • Canola oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Fish oil
  • Linseed/flaxseed oil
  • Olive oil


  • Almond milk
  • Coffee
  • Green tea
  • Tea
  • Water

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Chia seeds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Linseed/flaxseed
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts


  • Black-eyed beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Red kidney beans
  • Soybeans
  • White beans


  • Cheese
  • Cow or sheep milk
  • Yogurt


  • Asparagus
  • Aubergines/eggplants
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel’s sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Courgettes/zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Rocket/arugula
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes


  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Grapefruits
  • Kiwi
  • Pears
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

ADHD Diet Shopping List - Template

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