Is mealtime stressful in your house? I hate to admit but most of the time it is at mine. I have visions (ok probably more like delusions) of us all sitting peacefully around the table eating a healthy meal that I so lovingly prepared for my family. The reality looks something a little bit more like this…
- the kids jumping in and out of their seats (thank you ADHD)
- when they are sitting down they are fidgety and sometimes even lying sideways out of the chair
- the dog is circling beneath our feet
- words like disgusting and YUCK are used to comment on the food I just slaved over (I know this is an impulse issue but it still makes my blood boil)
- the carbs are usually gobbled up in no time and the protein and veggies go untouched (despite my pleas that a diet high in protein and no processed foods is what is best for the ADHD mind).
- and don’t get me started on the begging/pleading for dessert
Of course I have read the studies suggesting that dietary changes may improve symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity in children with ADHD. I know that most food dyes are like a ticking time bomb, but how do I get my kids to buy into this? I’ve done some research on how to pitch this to my kids and while I’m no expert I hope this will help you too.
Don’t Pressure Your Kid to Eat
I know you are thinking….what??? Is she crazy? The only way I get my kids to eat is by negotiation at the dinner table. Hear me out for a minute. The idea is we want our kids to eat and put the right foods in their bodies. Unfortunately pressuring them to eat these foods is sending the wrong message. According to Alisha Grogan, mom and pediatric OT, over at Your Kids Table, “So here’s the thing, when some kids (often picky eaters) feel pressured to eat they often feel they need to protect themselves further and close themselves off from being open to new or different foods.” This goes against what I’ve been doing for years to make sure my daughter is getting enough protein but I really want her to have a healthy relationship with food and this seems like the most logical tactic.
Eating Structure and Routine
As a Type A…this is something I have been doing from the start. My rule is we eat every few hours and nothing but water in between. Are there exceptions? Of course! but this rule helps them come to the table hungry. One thing that works really well at our house is our weekly menu. I will go into further detail on this in another post but the kids love the structure of knowing what’s for dinner each night. Yes, I still get complaints when something like fish pops up on the list but I always try to make sure there’s at least one thing they like to eat on the plate.
Cheerios to the Rescue
Do your kids like Fruit Loops? Well mine do too but they never make it into my grocery cart. I’m not a total tyrant. There are special occasions like birthdays or St Patrick’s Day (Lucky Charms) where a sugary cereal will find it’s way into my house. What is the compromise? Cheerios! It’s a breakfast cereal that they like but not laden with food dyes and sugar. Of course it is served with some fruit and bacon or greek yogurt. My point here is to try and find the compromise. In addition to ADHD my daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder making her averse to certain types of food and textures. Once I find a food she likes I will experiment with healthy ways to prepare that food. We tend to repeat recipes a lot…but that does take the guesswork out of meal planning.
Is this the Martha Stewart vision of a family meal…of course not! I’m dealing with the cards that I have been dealt. I have a family that has a hard time sitting still and taking time to pause for a family meal but I am unwilling to let ADHD take away this important piece of every day life. Instead of giving into the chaos I will continue to make accommodations that work best for everyonee…bite by bite.