Diet for ADHD/ADD in Children: A Case Study

This case study is based on Dylan, an 8 year old young boy diagnosed with ADHD.


  • Restless as a baby, never fed well (although breast-fed) and struggled to gain weight. All tests, including allergy tests returned as negative.
  • Hyperactive as a toddler. Never sat still. Impossible to potty train. Difficult with other children.
  • Age 4 started nursery school. Due to his being very demanding and difficult, an educational psychologist was called in, and behavioural therapy was attempted. Yet the problems continued.
  • When he started at primary school in Grade R, the problems continued: disruptive, and an excessive talker. Unable to read by age 7. Jumped on tables and unable to concentrate or follow instructions. Doctors identified that he was a bright child, but could not diagnose the reason for the disruptive and difficult behaviour. Finally age 8: the diagnosis of ADHD was made.
  • Despite the parents’ reluctance to use medication, Ritalin was prescribed, and as the parents were “at the end of their tether” they agreed to “give it a try”. The results were astonishing: such as the fact that within 6 weeks Dylan was calmer, and had learned to read. For the most part he started to do well academically, and, even though a few behavioural difficulties still happen these are significantly reduced.
  • Dylan experiences a few side effects: growth is slightly stunted; and his day-time appetite is significantly reduced to the point of his not eating enough. According to his specialists it is not an option to take him of the medication, so the family needs to learn ways of managing the side-effect of reduced appetite.


GOALS of Dietary Treatment for DylanADVICE GIVEN
1. Maintain ideal and stable blood glucose levels throughout the day. This has the benefit of reducing restlessness, nervousness, irritability, decreased attention span, aggression and destructive behaviour. By providing regular small meals and snacks will assist with the problem of reduced appetite as well.EAT LITTLE AND OFTEN

- Low GI carbohydrate foods (see list below*)
- a portion of protein (egg / dairy / meat / chicken / fish / peanutbutter / soya porridge

 Sweets, cold drinks, crisps, pies, pastries, cakes, biscuits, white bread, refined (and high sugar) cereals.

*Use low GI (Glycaemic Index) foods and snacks at regular intervals (at least every 3 hours) throughout the day.
 Low GI breads
 Low GI cereals such as oats, and soya-based porridges like Soya Life Porridge.
 Rice
 Durum wheat pasta
 Legumes including Soya (use the Soya Life range: SL porridge, SL milk, and SL Meal replacement drink). Other legumes to include regularly are baked beans, kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas.
 Baby potatoes
 Sweet potatoes
 Lots of vegetables
 Fruit spread throughout the day
2. Correct essential fatty acid imbalance in the body.Include more pilchards, salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines in the daily diet.
Add in other food sources of essential fatty acids such as soya to increase daily consumption.
Use a good essential fatty acid supplement on a daily basis.
3. Correct other micronutrient deficiencies that can be present in children with ADD, such as magnesium, zinc, Vitamins B6 and E.Sources of magnesium: nuts, including peanuts, dairy products, green leafy vegetables, legumes including soya, and wholegrains (Note: all of these foods have the added benefit of being low GI as well).

Sources of zinc, vitamin B6 and vitamin E: nuts, seeds, wholegrains and meat.
4. Encourage a good appetite for healthy food and snack choices, despite medication side effects.Each meal should be as colourful as possible, in order to optimise vital nutrient intake.

Where appetite is decreased, use the Soya Life porridge at Breakfast (easy to digest, and Low GI thus sustaining energy and concentration levels) OR the Soya Life Instant Meal Replacement Drink either as is or in a Smoothie format with fruit.
5. Encourage good gut health, to improve overall digestion and absorption and thus overall nutrition status and health; and to reduce occurrence of food allergies and sensitivities.A probiotic supplement has been prescribed for Dylan to use.

Soya Life Products meet the need for ADHD/ADD children

  • Low GI
  • Tasty and nutritious
  • Easy to digest when appetite is reduced
  • A source of essential fatty acids
  • Gluten and lactose-free for those intolerant of these foods
  • Free from colourants, flavourants and additives.


(Involve the Teacher to ensure that Dylan eats his snacks)

BREAKFASTLow GI cereal:Soya Life Porridge (quick and easy to eat and digest, minimal prep)
Dairy:Milk (mix the instant SL porridge with milk)
Alternative:Soya Life Instant Meal replacement Drink mixed with milk OR made into a smoothie with fruit such as berries or banana
FIRST BREAKStarch:Low GI bread OR Provitas OR popcorn OR Low GI bar
Protein:Peanutbutter / cheese / lean cold meat OR cheese wedges OR biltong OR nuts
Veggies:Cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, mini corn, snap peas, cucumber
SECOND BREAKFruit:A piece of fresh fruit
Protein: Yoghurt / nuts / biltong / cheese wedge
Alternative:Soya Life Instant Meal Replacement Drink: 125ml serving (½ a normal serving)
LUNCH Starch: Low GI bread OR Provitas OR durum wheat pasta
Protein:Peanutbutter / cheese / lean cold meat / chicken / tuna / sardines
Alternative:Soya Life Premium Porridge
LATE-AFTERNOONFruit / popcorn / yoghurt
SUPPER Starch:Baby potatoes / rice / pasta / sweet potato / mealie
Protein: Meat / chicken / fish / soya sausage or patty
Veggies:2-3 different coloured vegetables (e.g. broccoli, butternut and tomato)

In addition:

  • Dylan should be encouraged to drink water, instead of any sugared / flavoured drinks most of the time.
  • This dietary advice should ideally be followed most of the time. However, on birthdays and special occasions, treats can be allowed.
  • Healthy snacks / treats include: popcorn, nuts, biltong, low GI bars, smoothies, fresh fruit wedges / frozen fresh fruit cubes such as watermelon.
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