Boosting Calories when ADHD Medications Reduce Appetite and Cause Weight Loss.
Updated: Jan 9, 2019
Many children on stimulant medication for ADHD lose their appetite. This can sometimes cause them to not gain weight or to gain too slowly. If this isn’t corrected it can cause them to have slower growth as well. If your child is not gaining weight then here are some ideas to change that. This assumes that there are no food allergies or sensitivities or other medical concerns which would limit food choices.
The best meal of the day to boost calories (the energy that is in food) is breakfast. Medications have not yet started to work and so the appetite is usually good. Some children, however, are just not that hungry at breakfast time. For these kids it is best for them to get ready for school (wash, dress, brush hair etc.) and then eat breakfast last.
The best type of food to gain weight in a healthy way is from well produced animal fat. For vegans this is a bit more challenging. Foods like avocado, coconut, macadamia nut, cashew nut are good choices here. When buying eggs, meats and dairy it is really important to get pasture raised and grass fed whenever possible. Omega 3 (a very important fat) is high in grass fed beef and dairy but when cows are fed corn they gain weight too quickly, are unhealthy and the products from them are high in Omega 6, an unhealthy fat.
Make your own pancakes and waffles using good ingredients and adding an extra egg yolk into the batter. You can make a stack of them and freeze them with a parchment paper between them and they are easy to assemble in the morning. Put some fruit on them and even some real whipped cream. If you use maple syrup, use real maple syrup and limit it. French toast (use good bread) is enjoyed by many kids even those who don’t usually like eggs. Nothing beats eggs and bacon or sausage but, again, make sure they are well raised and produced. Avocado toast, banana with peanut or cashew butter and full cream yogurt are some other high calorie breakfast choices.
Students with ADHD have to be taught to notice that they have lost their appetite and to really make themselves eat and drink. They need to be reminded that if they don’t eat and drink they will feel ill and get stomach aches and headaches. Crankiness or tearfulness are often a result of not eating and drinking rather than a real side effect of the medication.
In general it is important to make sure that as large a variety of foods are being eaten including as many different colored fruits and vegetables as possible (eat a rainbow). Making afternoon smoothies with a variety of fruits and vegetables is a way to improve vitamin and mineral intake. Afternoon snacks (cheese, peanut butter sandwiches, yogurt) should be encouraged but not right before dinner.
For children who continue to gain weight poorly, a bed time milk shake can be great. Use real full cream ice-cream and whole milk. Add banana and/or peanut butter if those flavors are enjoyable and adding a teaspoon of ground flax seed will increase omega 3.
Do make sure that your child’s weight and height are tracked over time and adjust the diet accordingly.