By: Angela Ardolino and Deirdre Pizzoferrato

It’s enough to drive you crazy.  Your child can’t concentrate on anything, sitting still is impossible and homework is out the window. Why is this happening? Many kids will be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, and more.  ADHD is the most common diagnosed behavior problem in the U.S. But before you choose to medicate the problem, consider how their diet may be playing a role.

What to avoid?

1. Sugars – sugar based breakfast cereals, pastries and syrups.  Processed sugars and carbohydrates leave your kids hyper at first and then feel hungry and tired by the time lunch comes around.

2. Additives – avoid artificial flavors and colors.  These items have been linked to hyperactive behavior and learning disabilities.  These additives also affect sleep and have been linked to autism.

3. Preservatives – chemical compounds like sodium nitrate which is commonly used to preserve bacon, ham, hot dogs, processed meats and sodium benzoate found in soft drinks, fruit juices, salad dressings and other foods — causes some children to become more hyperactive and distractible than usual.

4. Soda pop.  High consumption of sugary drinks like soda and mostly all sweetened beverages cause a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar leaving kids irritable, tired – and even hungry! Hydrate with water!

5. Toss the Junk.    Alongside lacking vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, junk foods reduce the body’s uptake of nutrients that improve children’s concentration. There is a huge assortment of “grab-and-go” snacks available on the market today. While a convenient option to homemade snacks, processed snacks are often high in sugar, salt and fat. When stocking up, check the label. Aim for snacks that contain less than 20% daily value for sodium and fat, and less than 7 grams of sugar per serving.
What To Do

1) Check for Allergies.  Make sure your child isn’t allergic to any foods.  Remove foods that may contribute to problems like wheat, dairy, sugar and tomatoes. Your pediatrician can administer an allergy test and recommend an elimination diet.

2) Check for Vitamin Defiency.  Children who are deficient in Vitamin B1 or Iron for instance can behave combative, cranky, and sensitive. Check with your pediatrician to make sure your child isn’t deficient in any essential vitamins.

3) Eat Your Breakfast.   According to a recent Feeding Family Survey by the American Dietetic Association, many kids and adolescents are substituting a balanced breakfast with quick and convenient snacks and bars, or skipping breakfast all together. It may sound cliché, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Not only does breakfast jump start your metabolism, but it provides energy necessary for concentration and learning.  Studies have consistently shown that kids who skip breakfast have lower test scores than kids who do. In addition, kids who eat a breakfast high in sugar and low in protein and fiber run the risk of a sugar crash, which has a direct affect on concentration, energy levels and mood.

4) Teach your children.  Teaching your children to how to have a healthy diet will have a bigger impact if you set the example. Eat right, get some exercise, and make a healthy lifestyle a family affair.
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And Beanstalk Express, founded by parents for parents, Beanstalk Express® is a child nutrition information and resource company passionate about ending the epidemic of childhood obesity in America.