Let’s face it. When you leave food choices up to a child, they will pick foods based on how good they taste, feel or look rather than by what the food can do for their body or mood. A child with ADHD is no different, except that getting enough food can also be a problem due to a poor appetite. There are many reasons why kids with ADHD struggle with poor appetite. Topping the list include appetite suppressing medications used to treat children with ADHD, the ease of distractibility making it hard for kids to sit long enough at the table to finish a meal, and power struggles that can develop when parents worry and pressure their kids to eat more.
For kids with ADHD, we know that good nutrition can impact growth and development, and help reduce symptoms such as hyperactivity and distractibility. Medications used to treat ADHD can dramatically suppress appetite, so it is important to regularly monitor growth and nutrition. Not getting enough calories can really affect mood and worsen behavior like inattention and hyperactivity. Kids may feel frustrated, angry, unfocused or anxious, and not realize that eating can help them feel better. Chronically malnourished children ten to score lower on tests of cognitive function and school performance. These children may already be struggling with behavioural problems and school performance in relation to ADHD , so taking steps to improve the quality and quantity of your child’s nutrition can give her a better chance for optimal growth, school performance and behavior.
So if you are not supposed to pressure, force, bribe, distract or plead with your child to eat, then what as a parent can you do to get your kid to eat enough nutrition to sustain proper growth and development? Definitely, placing any kind of negative pressure to eat can cause feeding resistance. Your best friend will be to use your child’s own inner hunger signals to help improve intake. You can better expose your child’s hunger and willingness to eat more by following these tips:
I would love to hear your feedback and ideas that have helped with poor appetite and future blog topics for kids nutrition!
Karen Balko, Registered Dietitian