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Link between ADHD and Picky Eating


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a mental disorder that commonly affects children and can also be seen to adults. It includes problems on focusing to certain tasks, inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. A child can either be inattentive for most of the time, mostly hyperactive and impulsive or a combination of these two symptoms. A person with ADHD may have difficulty in concentrating, paying attention or following instructions, remembering details, staying organized, controlling impulses when certain emotions arise and even staying still is a challenge for them. But, there is also another habit or behaviour that can be associated with ADHD such as being selective in their food. There is a study that looked over different eating habits, and mental assessments were conducted.

They found out that there is a link between selective eating habits (commonly called as picky eating) and psychological disorders. Explaining that the more critical the eating habit is, the more severe the disorder. In addition, picky eating has been associated with other mental issues such as anxiety and depression. In fact, a study from Duke Medicine stating that 20 percent of children aging 6 to 12 are selective eaters. This study also mention that picky eating can also be a sign that a child is showing health concerns that moves beyond their diet. This article, you’ll know the common between ADHD and Picky eating.

Children can be picky eaters in different ways and they become afraid of the idea to eat in a restaurant rather than eating inside their house, this case is very common especially for those children with ADHD. This can be very challenging for the parents. A normal picky eater would likely separate anything that is green on their plate yet continues eating the remaining food. But for children having ADHD condition, it can be very demanding. When a child with ADHD cannot tolerate green foods, a small portion of that something that they can’t bear can lead to hyperactivity, impulsivity, lack of sleep or even irritability.

This could cause an elevation of the symptoms of ADHD for several days since a child that deals with ADHD can be very sensitive in terms of everything. Studies have also shown that a child with ADHD tends to ignore nutritious foods, such as vegetables and fish instead favours food that contains sugar. According to Roberto Olivardia in his The Picky Eater Survival Manual, stating that children having this condition whose brains show low levels of dopamine activity. Explaining that they are more predisposed to crave sugars due to the surge of dopamine that sugars deliver to the brain that leads the children in favouring sugar than vegetable and fish since such foods cannot deliver the sugar that the ADHD brain wants.

adhd child with mom

As picky eating become a marker of something that cannot be observed on just one look. It is important for the parents to be very vigilant when children become selective about their foods since that selective eating can be a sign of something serious, there are ways on spotting and identifying them and various ways on how to cope up with such behaviour. Picky eaters are commonly observed during childhood. Children who are picky eaters tend to limit their amount of food, restricting their intakes of foods particularly vegetables, reluctant in trying new foods and often having strong likings of foods.

This behaviour can often cause anxiety for the parents since this would lead in providing different meals for their children who have ADHD, a meal that is different from the rest of the family. Parents tend to struggle in terms of feeding, preparing special meals and reacting on their child’s eating behaviour. Most of their concerns are about the variety of nutrients their child might be getting. Selective eating is preventing the increase in dietary variety leading to an unhealthy composition of nutrients a child might have and would result to different health issues.

There are factors that actually led children to be picky in their foods. Factors such as pressuring them to eat, personality factor, parent practices or feeding styles and late introduction of chewy foods. Again, this behaviour can lead in various health issues (mentally or physically) such as leading to a higher risk of being underweight or poor body growth and this behaviour can also lead to different eating disorders. Children may have experienced a negative association with eating or having sensory issues that cause anxiety among certain foods. There are various strategies that could actually help a picky-eater child.

A child that lacks an interest in food can actually start a battle in the house especially if it involves children that are diagnosed with ADHD. In order to cope with your picky-eater child, it is important to involve them in preparing their foods especially those children with ADHD. Kids having this condition will tend to develop ownership and pride in the meal. It is also essential to keep food in the house that you want your child to eat and making their meals creative since the creative presentation of foods has a great impact on kids which will make the child to the food eat his or her food. It is also advised to take note of your child’s appetite and not forcing them to eat even if they are not hungry at that time. It is better to have a portion of healthy food available whenever he or she wants it.

As picky eaters tend to pick on sugary foods or drinks, it is vital to serve water as the only refreshment available in the table. A selective eater usually gets little nutrients from their foods because of their limited diet. It is important to sneak up food that they don’t like (yet helpful for them) into the foods that they usually like. Children are easily distracted during meal times especially for those who have ADHD. It is greatly recommended to cut down distractions by turning off televisions and any devices while eating. This would greatly prevent your child from being overstimulated and would focus on finishing what’s on his or her plate.

This is not an easy job for parents especially when the selective eating habit is added to ADHD. But it is always important to remember that you can do something about it yet change can’t happen overnight. In dealing with this condition, it requires patience and great love.

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At The ADHD Centre, we offer an ADHD Test Online for you to know or confirm if you or a loved one happens to have ADHD and if you would like some further guidance and support on managing your ADHD then please contact us at The ADHD Centre on 0800 061 4276 or via

The ADHD Centre also offers holistic ADHD treatment and cares for both children and adults. We are also affiliated with other ADHD clinics and organisations to maximise our services. Are you living in the UK? Lovely! We also offer an ADHD Online Assessment via Zoom for Healthcare. So wherever you are in the UK, know that the ADHD Centre is always available for your ADHD needs.

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