Many children taking ADHD medications to control ADHD symptoms experience appetite suppression and weight loss. Children are supposed to gain weight and grow so weight loss in a child is dramatic when they are the correct weight. My 6 year old son has lost 5 pounds in the last three and a half months while taking a stimulant medication that drastically improves his classroom performance, behavior, and interaction with peers.
As parents, we know the medications are worth the side effects but we also know we cannot hinder our children's growth. The following are some tips and tricks to ensure your child stays healthy while taking stimulant medications.
High Calorie/High Fat Diet As with anyone, children will gain weight if they consume more calories and fat than their body requires to meet daily needs. The key is not to add the extra calories with chips and sweets but to add hidden calories to everyday eats (like adding powdered milk to baked goods). Milkshakes and peanut butter are the most widely suggested but here's a list of foods and food alterations to try.
cottage cheese Instant Breakfast® milkshake non-dairy creamer, whole cream, or half-n-half 5 heaping teaspoons powdered milk added to baked goods, milkshakes, or regular milk soy milk whole milk
MEATS and MEAT SUBSTITUTES add extra gravy or sauce to meats cheese add meats to casseroles, soups, stews, salads, or pizza tuna, shrimp, or white fish, fried or added to salads peanut butter eggs added to cakes, salads, casseroles, desserts, or breads
BREADS and STARCHES
buttermilk biscuit, croissant, muffin, pancake, or waffle potato chips or other chips banana bread or zucchini bread whole grain bread
oatmeal or Cream of Wheat prepared in milk instead of water
dried fruit canned fruit in syrup
vegetables mixed with added cheeses or sauces vegetables added to a salad with extra salad dressing
DESSERTS pastries, cinnamon roll, sticky buns, etc. cake cookie custard ice cream pie
pudding (prepared with whole milk or cream)
FATS avocado nuts butter or margarine cream cheese mayonnaise or salad dressing (especially creamy salad dressings) peanut butter sour cream
OTHER IDEAS cheese and crackers dessert toppings (like chocolate or caramel sauce) granola with dried fruit and nuts
trail mix with dried fruit, nuts, and candy jam, jelly, or honey on bread sauces and gravies on meats, potatoes, or vegetables
Never have them eat anything plain. If they like crackers, add cheese, peanut butter, or cream cheese spread. When eating bread, add spreads like jelly, honey, or peanut butter. Use creamy salad dressings and sprinkle on dried fruits and/or nuts. Add sauces to everything, like gravy on meatloaf and cheese sauce on the broccoli. Pack extra calories into your recipes. Add powdered milk to a glass of whole milk, a milkshake, or your favorite muffin recipe. Make instant hot cereals with milk or cream. Add nuts and dried fruits to baked goods. Bake with full-fat, high-calorie ingredients like whole milk, cream, mayonnaise, cheese. If your family is like mine, and probably like most, this high-calorie, high-fat diet would be a death sentence to some family members. Stock the full-fat and low-fat versions of many items you cook with and make two versions of the same thing for the family. I know it can be daunting to make two lasagnes for dinner and two batches of muffins, but it's worthwhile to keep your ADHD-medicated child growing and healthy.
Eliminate Distractions ADHD sufferers are easily distracted. Be sure to eliminate distractions at meal times so your child has the best opportunity to focus on the task at hand, eating to be healthy and strong. Be sure to turn off the television. Don't allow your child to read a magazine or the comics while eating. The neighborhood McDonald's with the PlayPlace is no good for a distracted child.
Make Eating Fun If meal time is a constant battle, children won't want to stay at the dinner table and eat. Their instinct will be to flee the situation. Also, be creative with the food. Ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins), a heart-shaped sandwhich, or put their meat, mashed potatoes, and vegetable on their plate in the shape of a smiley face. While you are stressed about their eating, they will not eat successfully if stressed too.
Use Rewards While you don't want to bribe your children to eat, a rewards system can be a great tool of encouragement. Create a chart with a reward each time they finish their dinner every night that week or something similar. They will learn that their are benefits to eating a healthy meal other than making mom and dad and doctor happy.
The bottom line, we don't have to choose between ADHD symptom management and healthy children. With a little extra effort, we can ensure our ADHD children grow healthy and strong.
Now, my son is a picky eater. And his super-speedy mind is a distraction when the TV is off and there are no toys or books at the table. I am committing to preparing his meals and snacks with higher fat and calorie content for the next two months to see if I can reverse his weight loss. As I find/create good recipes, I'll share them here. Please feel free to add your suggestions here as well. We can all learn from each other.