When you have ADHD, it is easy to eat a diet that is high in sugar because ADHD symptoms seem to work against eating a healthy diet. Eating healthy meals and snacks requires forward planning, organization, memory and time management skills— all of which can be challenging when you have ADHD.
The 2 mains reasons why people with ADHD love sugar are:
When we eat sugar, it gives us an energy boost and tiredness melts away.
Feel Good Factor
Eating sugar gives you a feel-good factor because your serotonin levels increase after you have eaten it. This makes you feel happy and calm. In her book ‘Natural Relief for Adult ADHD’ author Stephanie Sarkis says people with ADHD often self-medicate with sugary foods as a way to feel better.
However, the good effects of sugar are short lived. Within a few hours of eating something sugary, your energy and mood are low again.
Eating refined sugar causes many health problems including cavities, weight problems, a suppressed immune system and a higher risk of diabetes.
Here are 6 tips to reduce sugar in your diet when you are living with ADHD.
Sugary food is convenient because it’s often portable and pre-made. For example, in the morning it is much quicker to grab a muffin and eat it on your commute than to boil an egg and sit down to eat it for breakfast. Living with ADHD means that you might find yourself dashing from one activity to the next. Brainstorm ways that you can make healthy eating easy and quick. This might include spending time on the weekend preparing snacks and meals to grab and go during the week.
Sugar is everywhere! You can easily find it in vending machines, at gas stations, and at other convenient locations. If you forgot to bring healthy food with you, it is much easier to find a sugary snack than a healthy one. Since ADHD affects your memory, you might forget your lunch on some days, which means it’s good to have a plan B. Keep some nuts and other non-perishable food in convenient places such as at work, in your car and your bag so that you always have access to food that doesn’t contain sugar.
Many drinks have sugar in them, from cola, energy drinks to designer coffees. Often people with ADHD self-medicate with these drinks because of the caffeine they contain. If you find cutting out sugary drinks difficult, reevaluate how you are treating your ADHD.
Why do you want to stop eating sugar? Is it to lose weight? Is it due to a physical health issue? Is it to help clear brain fog? It helps to get really clear on your goal because it gives you motivation as you are making lifestyle changes.
Identify your danger times and develop a strategy. For example, many people who take ADHD medication report that their danger time is when the medication starts to wear off. They become ravenous, and they need to eat right away. Plan for these times so that you don’t reach out for your favorite sugary treat.
When we take things away from our diet we can feel deprived, which doesn’t feel good. Rather than just removing sugar from your diet, make additions too. Vegetables, fruit, protein, and water all help you feel good without having the highs and lows of sugar.
By Jacqueline Sinfield, Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician