Let’s Make a Meal!

Earlier in the month, we explored starting the day with a healthy breakfast. Then we looked at providing a lunch that would sustain your child with ADHD throughout the school day and help avoid the afternoon slump. Now let’s take a look at involving your little one in the meal making process.

For some of us, meal preparation comes naturally. We feel we can beat even the best home cook on Gordon Ramsay’s television show, MasterChef. However, some of us dread the thought putting together the evening meal for the family. Whether you can easily put together the perfect well-balanced meal or struggle to put something edible on the table each night, we all have to start somewhere.

The good news is, just like any other skill, cooking can be taught. And just like cognitive training for people struggling with attention, you’ll get better the more you practice.

Cooking with someone with ADHD can be a challenge. With short attention spans, things will have to be kept simple and quick. Also, keep in mind that nutritionists recommend a diet high in protein and complex carbohydrates while keeping the diet low in refined sugars.

Here are some quick and easy recipes that will provide the right nutrition and start your child on the road to becoming a great home cook.  You will find that cooking with your child can be a great learning experience.  Your child will learn critical skills such as planning, time management, counting, fractions, money, weighing, measuring, and problem solving!

When my children were growing up, I started teaching them to cook at an early age. We started with simple things like making toast. Then we graduated to helping stir things (this gets a little messy, but be patient, it gets better). Eventually I tasked each of my sons with planning and helping prepare one meal a week for the family. Be prepared, you may be eating hot dogs with mac and cheese at first, or maybe PB&J, but this too shall pass.

As time went on, they both became more adventurous with their meal prep and it actually became a friendly competition on who could come up with the better meal. I have to say that after a couple of years, their meals were better than mine at times.  Plus it gave me a break from having to come up with something for dinner.

For teenagers, you can take it a step further. The Food Network’s show Chopped features chefs having to prepare meals from five random ingredients given to them in a basket. Imagine how fun it would be to give your budding chef random ingredients, and have them create a meal in an hour? On the show, the chefs are faced with some strange ingredients, for instance chicken in a can, or gummy worms paired with a pork loin. So be careful what you put in your mystery basket—remember you have to eat it!

For more information on health and nutrition Click Here

Watch Play Attention’s recorded webinar on nutrition here




Healthy School Lunches

Healthy School Lunches

Earlier this month I wrote about the benefits of a healthy breakfast. It is equally as important to provide your child with a healthy lunch to continue to fuel their body throughout the day.

The Internet does not lack evidence that typical school lunches tend to be unhealthy. While it may meet nutritional requirements, school lunches are laden with salt, fat, and calories. Because of the large volume needed to serve the average school’s population, cheaper grade products are used to feed the masses. Animal-based products used in the school-provided lunches are generally processed and contain a great deal of sodium, sugar, and fat.

Granted, First Lady Michelle Obama has heightened awareness with her Let’s Move campaign. With more than 32 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program, the First Lady is passionate about providing healthier options for these students. When she started Let’s Move in February 2010, she was quoted as saying, “The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake.”

If you consider the research done on food options and AD/HD, every meal should be considered a “make or break” for your child’s school day. Lunches that are high in protein and complex carbohydrates allow AD/HD students to focus better in the classroom and avoid the afternoon slump.

Lunches supplied from home allow better control. There are a lot of foods that come prepared for ease in putting together healthy options. It’s important when picking out lunch options that you read the ingredients. It is best to avoid prepared foods that are high in salt and sugar and contain a lot of preservatives.

In her blog, Register Dietician Rachel Brandies, MS, RD offers some really great ideas for healthy after school snacks. If you keep healthy snack options in your home and avoid buying the not-so-healthy snacks, you’ll teach your child and yourself to eat healthier. Choose frozen juice bars or yogurt over ice cream. Choose a cup full of high protein cereal over cookies.

For more information on Health and AD/HD, join Gay Russell, LCSW for a FREE webinar entitled Fueling our Children for Physical, Mental, and Emotional Health, Combating the A’s with Nutrition: Anxiety, ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, Anger, & Academic Challenges. The webinar is scheduled for January 22, 2015 at 11:00 am EST. Click here to register.

Starting Right: A Healthy Breakfast

Starting Right: A Healthy Breakfast

Breakfast is claimed to be the most important meal of the day. Yet research shows that 31 million US citizens skip this meal every day. Reasons vary from not enough time to weight loss. With growing brains and bodies, children need to continually refuel their bodies for good development. Research shows that children who eat breakfast come to school on time and are more successful.

How often do we get up and pour our favorite cereal into a bowl for our child or ourselves. While convenient, this sugary concoction may exacerbate the symptoms of AD/HD. It makes simple sense that adding sugar and carbohydrates may give that initial burst of energy, but that’s not exactly what one wants for someone who has a difficult time controlling their behavior.

Many authorities find that a breakfast high in protein is most beneficial for people with attention challenges. In her article in Additude magazine by food and nutrition researcher Laura Stevens offers her take on the benefits of the right breakfast for people with AD/HD.

Click here to attend a free, health webinar on Thursday, January 22nd @ 11:00 AM EST.
Topic: Fueling our Children for Physical, Mental, and Emotional Health.  Combating the A’s with Nutrition:  Anxiety, ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, Anger,  & Academic challenges.

So how does one create the perfect protein breakfast on an already hectic morning? There are many ways to incorporate protein. Some easy make-ahead ideas can be found on the Internet. With a little planning, these high-protein breakfast ideas become “grab and go” for hectic weekday mornings.

It makes sense to start each day in the best possible way. What we put into our bodies is closely related to how we perform throughout the day, but diet alone is not the complete answer to the test. Cognitive attention training along with a healthy diet will create long lasting results when battling AD/HD. Play Attention, the world leader in feedback-based attention training, along with a high protein breakfast, will set anyone up for success.

Barb Rollar


Have a Happy Healthy New Year

Have a Happy Healthy New Year
By Barb Rollar

When considering the diet of a child who struggles with AD/HD, there are numerous foods that can exacerbate the symptoms. Just like a food allergy, incorporating certain foods can be a trigger. Here are some simple tips that will help your child.

  1. Organic is best – By removing hormones and antibiotics that are often injected into animals, and pesticides used in growing vegetables, you’re improving the quality of the food going into your AD/HD child’s body. For more information on a healthy diet for someone with AD/HD visit http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adhd-diets
  2. Remove processed foods – The human body is designed to break down food, take in nutrients, and eliminate waste. In other words, it’s designed to process food. If you put food that is already processed into the body, it has little to do. Therefore, metabolisms become sluggish. When you put foods into the body that it can break down, it functions properly.  In addition, most processed foods are high in sugar and salt, contain food dyes, and are high in carbohydrates, all which has been proven to trigger AD/HD symptoms. For more information on foods to avoid, visit http://www.activebeat.co/diet-nutrition/managing-adhd-15-foods-to-avoid/?utm_source=bing&utm_campaign=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_keyword=adhd%20diet%20for%20children
  3. Food Dyes, flavoring and preservatives – When purchasing food, read the labels. You’ll be surprised at the number of food dyes, flavoring and preservatives are in the foods we buy. My rule of thumbs was that if any ingredient started with the letter “x,” or if I was unable to pronounce any ingredient, it went back on the shelf.
  4. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store – If you think about the layout of your typical grocery store, the perimeter is where the healthiest foods are. Most grocery stores have the produce section, meat, deli, and dairy sections along the perimeter. The interior of the store contains aisles laden with high sugar content foods, processed foods, and lots of carbohydrates.
  5. Having a healthy diet may help alleviate some ADHD symptoms. Combining a healthy diet with attention training with Play Attention can be a powerful combination. Visit www.playattention.com

For more information on various food topics, visit http://www.playattention.com/category/adhd-diet/


Introducing Dear Sheer Genius

Dear Sheer Genius,

We are pleased to introduce our new advice column, Dear Sheer Genius. This advice column will be sent out every week and we invite all of you to write to our very own attention specialist, Sheer Genius. You may write Sheer Genius and ask questions about Play Attention, attention problems, education, behavior shaping, parenting concerns, peer relationships etc.!

Sheer Genius is here to help!

Who is Sheer Genius?

Sheer Genius is the virtual member of the Play Attention family. His outstanding knowledge and experience is incorporated into Play Attention to help guide you through our program every step of the way!

How do I submit a question?

To submit your question please click here or email sheergenius@playattention.net. If your question is selected you will receive a personal email from Sheer Genius and your question/answer will be posted on our website as well as our Facebook page. We will only use your first name if you provide it.

Sheer Genius looks forward to hearing from you!

Photo: Introducing Dear Sheer Genius,
We are pleased to introduce our new advice column, Dear Sheer Genius.  This advice column will be sent out every week and we invite all of you to write to our very own attention specialist, Sheer Genius.  You may write Sheer Genius and ask questions about Play Attention, attention problems, education, behavior shaping, parenting concerns, peer relationships etc.!
Sheer Genius is here to help!
Who is Sheer Genius?
Sheer Genius is the virtual member of the Play Attention family. His outstanding knowledge and experience is incorporated into Play Attention to help guide you through our program every step of the way!
How do I submit a question?
To submit your question please click here or email sheergenius@playattention.net.  If your question is selected you will receive a personal email from Sheer Genius and your question/answer will be posted on our website as well as our Facebook page.  We will only use your first name if you provide it.
Sheer Genius looks forward to hearing from you!

Diet and ADHD Symptoms

The February 5, 2011 issue of The Lancet reports that researchers in the Netherlands and Belgium were able to significantly reduce ADHD symptoms through restrictive dietary measures.

This theory has long been advocated by such notable groups as The Feingold Association (http://www.feingold.org/). However, their studies have been limited to smaller groups and anecdotal evidence. While their findings have been compelling, medical doctors and adversarial attacks by the processed food industry quashed overall acceptance of dietary restriction. The NIMH give only limited credence to the theory.

Feingold and other advocates of the restrictive diet have suggested that the introduction of food additives can affect the human immune system sometimes causing reactions like hyperactivity, inattention, and even eczema, asthma and gastrointestinal problems. In light of research about food colorings and hyperactivity, the British have taken steps to eliminate certain preservatives and food dyes from their food supply.

The study published in the Lancet was funded by Foundation of Child and Behaviour, Foundation Nuts Ohra, Foundation for Children’s Welfare Stamps Netherlands, and the KF Hein Foundation.  The researchers placed  100 children from Belgium and the Netherlands into two groups: one that received the restrictive diet and the other that only received advice on healthy eating habits. The group that received only advice on healthy eating was the control group. All of the children had been diagnosed with ADHD and were between the ages of 4 and 8.

The children were placed on the restrictive diet for a period of five weeks. They were allowed to eat only rice, meat, vegetables, pears and water. Later, the children were allowed to additionally consume potatoes, fruits and wheat. The researchers assessed ADHD symptoms during this period.

Over the course of the next four weeks, researchers reintroduced processed foods into the restricted diet group. The researchers selected foods that were previously considered to negatively affect body or immune responses.

Nine children withdrew from the restrictive diet group. Attrition in all studies is common. Of the forty-one children who completed the restrictive diet program, 78 percent had a reduction in their ADHD symptoms, compared with no improvement in the controls. Assessment was performed using an ADHD symptom scale that ranges from 0 to 72 points. Higher scores in the scale indicate more severe symptoms. The average reduction was 24 points, a significant reduction.

Thirty children who demonstrated decreased ADHD symptoms resulting from the restrictive diet were selected for reintroduction of foods outside the restrictive diet. This was deemed the ‘challenge test.’ Nineteen of the thirty children had a relapse in symptoms on the challenge test. Sensitivity to foods thought to produce high immune response didn’t seem to produce any greater negative effects than foods thought to produce lower immune response.

Limitations of the study include restriction to ADHD; it cannot be discerned whether it would apply to ADD. Secondly, not all children responded to the restrictive diet. Of those who did respond, responses to foods seemed to be equal no matter what processed food was introduced back into the diet. Additionally, under this research design, it was not possible to have a blind control; parents knew what group their child was in. If they also knew the expected outcome of the study, it might have influenced the outcome.

On the practical side, the restrictive diet is very difficult to follow consistently. However, if your child seems to respond well when you remove certain processed foods, this research seems to support your observation although the certainty about diet and ADHD symptoms has not been clearly established by this study.

ADHD and the Western diet

A study published online in the international Journal of Attention Disorders examines the possible link between ADHD and a ‘Western-style’ diet in children.

The study was conducted by Perth’s Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Australia. The researchers found that a diet typically consumed in the Western world consisting of ‘fast foods,’ sugar/corn syrup, processed meats and flour, fried, and refined foods nearly doubled the risk of an ADHD diagnosis. This Western diet is rich in total fat, saturated fat, refined sugar and sodium.

“We found a diet high in the Western pattern of foods was associated with more than double the risk of having an ADHD diagnosis
compared with a diet low in the Western pattern, after adjusting for numerous other social and family influences. We looked at the dietary patterns amongst the adolescents and compared the diet information against whether or not the adolescent had received a diagnosis of ADHD by the age of 14 years. In our research, 115 adolescents had been diagnosed with ADHD, 91 boys and 24 girls,” says Associate Professor Wendy Oddy.

The Perth researchers analyzed the dietary patterns of 1800 youth and separated them as having  ‘Healthy’ or ‘Western’ patterns. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fish was designated as a healthy pattern.

Dr. Oddy added, “When we looked at specific foods, having an ADHD diagnosis was associated with a diet high in takeaway foods, processed meats, red meat, high fat dairy products and confectionary. We suggest that a Western dietary pattern may indicate the adolescent has a less optimal fatty acid profile, whereas a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids is thought to hold benefits for mental health and optimal brain function. It also may be that the Western dietary pattern doesn’t provide enough essential micronutrients that are needed for brain function, particularly attention and concentration, or that a Western diet might contain more colors, flavors and additives that have been linked to an increase in ADHD symptoms. It may also be that impulsivity, which is a characteristic of ADHD, leads to poor dietary choices such as quick snacks when hungry.”

Of note, the scientists were unable to determine if poor diet causes ADHD or ADHD leads to poor dietary choices and cravings – a problem of antecedence.  Furthermore, the researchers had to determine and adjust for social and family influences. This, in itself could greatly skew final data. 

The British have performed similar studies examining the role of refined or processed foods and ADHD.  Certain food colorings were found to influence hyperactivity.  Knowing this, in addition to research that indicates better cognitive function through better diet, it would be wise to greatly reduce or totally extinguish consumption of fast food, refined and processed foods, etc. if one wishes to maximize one’s cognitive potential.

Diet alone will not solve the ADHD riddle. Cognitive training, memory training, behavioral shaping, and attention training are key ingredients to the solution.

ADHD and Food Additives: European Food Standards Agency calls for ban on six artificial colors

For years, parents have complained that certain artificial additives to brightly colored cakes, soft drinks, and candies, had caused their children adverse reactions such as hyperactivity, skin problems, mood volatility, headaches, etc. after consumption.

The Food Standards Agency (“FSA”) recommended ministers call for manufacturers to remove six artificial colors by the end of 2009. The FSA also urged a European Union-wide ban. This reversed the FSA’s decision last month when it dismissed calls for action on the additives.

According to The Independent, “The FSA’s advice to parents will be strengthened to warn them about the dangers of the E-numbers tartrazine (E102), quinoline yellow (E104), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and allura red (E129).”

The Independent further reports that, “These colors and the preservative sodium benzoate (E211) were linked to hyperactivity in a £750,000 study by Southampton University, which found they made primary school children become distracted and fail a computer attention test.

The researchers estimated that 30 per cent of cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) would be prevented if companies removed the colors used in the £13bn-a-year global additives industry.

If the ministers elect to have the dyes and additives banned, the UK’s biggest producers of confections, soft drinks, ice cream, and others will have to reformulate their products.

The Independent:

The Southampton researchers had warned the seven additives were as harmful as lead in petrol, which was banned after it proved to lower children’s IQ by five points. Their research, in The Lancet in September, was the evidence that artificial additives worsened the behavior of normal children as well as those diagnosed with ADHD.

Dame Deirdre Hutton, who chairs the Food Standards Agency, said: “It is the agency’s duty to put consumers first. These additives give color to foods but nothing else. It would therefore be sensible, in the light of the… study, to remove them.”

The board decided to take no action on sodium benzoate because it was “a preservative” rather than a color. E211, which is linked with other potential health problems, is found in many soft drinks including Diet Coke, Irn-Bru, Lucozade and Fanta, and its removal would pose a significant technological and financial challenge to drinks companies.

The FSA stressed that its decision “does not mean there is an immediate ban”.

Campaigners welcomed the first decisive move in the UK against additives, whose effect on hyperactive children were first identified in 1975. Richard Watts, of the Children’s Food Campaign, said: “This decision is good news for children and parents, who have known for many years that these additives affect children’s behavior.” Anna Glayzer, an Action on Additives campaigner, said the FSA had put the consumer first. “We will be keeping a close eye on the industry to see what effect the voluntary ban has.”

The Food and Drink Federation said the recommendation was “bizarre”, as manufacturers were already removing the additives. “[Most] products don’t contain these colors,” a statement said.

The six colorings facing a ban:

Tartrazine (E102)
Synthetic yellow dye found in sweets, biscuits, mushy peas
Disney Winnie the Pooh Cake Kit, Lidl orange jelly, Bacardi Breezer tropical lime, Asda mushy peas
Health effects:
causes hyperactivity, linked to allergic reactions and migraine.

Quinoline Yellow (E104)
Description: Synthetic dye in sweets, pickles, smoked fish
Products: Aero orange, Galaxy Minstrels, M&Ms, Bassett’s Sherbet Lemons
Health effects: Causes hyperactivity and is linked to rashes. Banned in US.

Sunset Yellow (E110)
Description: synthetic yellow dye found in sweets, ice cream, fizzy drinks
Products: Cadbury Creme Egg, Haribo Jelly Beans, Irn-Bru
Health effects: causes hyperactivity and linked to stomach upsets and swelling of skin.

Carmoisine (E122)
Description: Synthetic red dye found in ready meals, sweets
Products: Love Hearts, Galaxy Minstrels, Cadbury Mini Eggs, various lollipops
Health effects: causes hyperactivity and is alleged to cause water retention in those allergic to aspirin. Banned in US.

Ponceau 4R (E124)
Description: synthetic red dye found in sweets, biscuits, drinks
Products: Bassett’s Pear Drops, Halls Blackcurrant Soothers, Supercook Alphabet Icing
Health effects: causes hyperactivity and is believed to cause problems for asthmatics. Banned in US.

Allura red (E129)
Description: synthetic red dye found in sweets, soft drinks, Turkish delight
Products: Fry’s Turkish Delight, Cadbury Mini Eggs, Maynards Wine Gums
Health effects: causes hyperactivity and may bring on allergic reactions.