About this time of year, many parents start to worry about their kids and what to do about maintaining a healthy ADHD holiday diet. So many great things come with the holidays. You have parties and families and gifts and lights. There is so much to find joy and happiness in that there’s almost nothing that could drag down the season.
That’s right, there’s almost nothing that could drag down the festivities. There is one thing, though, that almost all of us dread thinking about this time of year. That one thing just happens to be what we almost can’t avoid: the food.
From cookies to candy canes to gift baskets and holiday parties, the bad food almost stalks us during the holidays. The worst foods for ADHD just wait for our guard to go down for their moment to strike. During the holidays, it seems like they have ample opportunities around every corner.
Part of maintaining a comprehensive ADHD management plan, though, involves making sure you eat healthy on a consistent basis. This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat sugars and sweets and everything you really want every now and then. It does mean, though, that you really do have to pay attention all the time and make sure that a sweet break doesn’t become a regular habit. The issue with holidays is that you have several weeks of many events that can lead to a repeating pattern of poor eating.
The holiday season typically stretches from the end of Thanksgiving through the beginning of January. That’s more than a month that you need to make sure you stay on top of your eating. In this post, we want to give you some pointers on how to maintain a healthy and balanced ADHD holiday diet.
Host your Own Parties
One of the best ways to effectively manage your ADHD holiday diet is to stick as close to home as possible. You don’t have to control everything about the holidays, but in order to manage ADHD well, you need to know the environments you and your kids go into. If your child has ADHD, you need to especially keep a close eye on what they eat when you go out to a party. Wouldn’t it just be much easier to host the parties yourself so you know what’s on the menu?
When you host your own holiday parties, you can keep tighter control on what people have to eat and drink. Benefits of hosting your own party also include that you know what your kids end up eating. At a party outside of your home, you don’t necessary know, unless you watch your kids like a hawk, how much your kids eat of the not-so-good food.
Managing your ADHD holiday diet with your own parties can be done in different ways. First, you can do this by providing all the food and drink yourself. In this case, you can think of alternative holiday recipes to provide similar holiday treats but with less sugar and sweets. You can also make sure that fruits, nuts, and vegetables get their fair share of representation.
Alternatively, you can manage what people bring if you want people to bring things to your party with a set sign-up sheet. You can limit the number of spots for sugary options and load the list with good food choices. This way others can contribute to the party, but you still can help limit the bad food options present.
Think of Creative Healthier Ingredients
One of the good things about our modern society is that there exist many alternative options. No matter where you go or what you want, it seems that you have options for alternatives. In a world where food and gluten allergies are everywhere, this applies no less so to food. We have meatless hamburger options, after all, some of which taste pretty good. In this environment, if you want to find healthy alternatives, you can almost be certain they do exist out there somewhere.
The reason many times our ADHD holiday diet goes awry is because we just want to eat the foods we love that we associate with the holidays. We all have traditional holiday food. It’s not our fault that most of that food might be bad for us. We just want to celebrate the season, and we want to celebrate it with food that reminds us of the season.
Don’t worry; no one wants to rob you of your traditional holiday food. We just want to help you make that food better for your health. At first, we all fear the same thing when we hear healthy food alternatives: will it taste the same? It all depends. A lot of it depends on how you cook it or where you buy it.
Some recipes present better alternatives than others. Some alternative ingredients work better than others. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try searching for healthy food alternatives. This just means that you need to take your time and do your research well and expect to try and try again.
The fortunate thing is that many people have tried recipes out before you. To find ideas on alternative foods, check out this article or this post. Look online and in print for more options and ideas.
Limit the Sweets at Home – Save them for Parties Out
One great way of helping to manage your ADHD holiday diet involves keeping your home as a sweets-safe zone. If you do end up going out for holiday parties, have those opportunities as your “cheat” times. We all deserve some sweets every now and then. For the holiday season, you just need to learn to keep those opportunities to a minimum. The best way to minimize your exposure to bad food options might just be to keep them out of your house altogether and only eat them when you go out.
In your own home then, do everything you can to rid your house of any junk or sweet foods during the holidays. Put an embargo on the bad foods coming in. If you don’t have the convenient option of just grabbing the junk food, then you will have to eat the good stuff at home.
This strategy still allows for you to enjoy your favorite holiday traditional food. It just limits the spaces in which you have to face the temptation of the food. Half the battle of maintaining a healthy ADHD holiday diet involves removing the temptation. Using this method helps eliminate some of the fight and lessens the need for you to constantly fight your cravings.
Turn off the TV at Meals
Not only do you have a lot of parties during the holiday season, you also have many special events to watch on TV. With so much going on, we tend to have the ever-present issue of FOMO (fear of missing out). We want to catch everything, watch every movie, and be at every party. With busy schedules and limited free time, though, few of us can make most or all of the things we want to attend or see during this season.
This brings us to a discussion of when and how we eat. During the holidays with so much on TV, we are tempted more than ever to eat our meals sitting around the TV. To help out our ADHD holiday diet, though, we need to avoid eating in front of the TV as much as possible.
Eating in front of the TV tends to make us eat more than we normally would. In these instances, the TV becomes the main event instead of the meal. If we don’t focus on eating, we tend to get lazy and just eat as a matter of habit. Many times, with watching TV and eating, we end up eating through the entire show just to fill up the time even though we may have stopped being hungry long before then.
To make things simpler for your ADHD holiday diet, turn the TV off. Make meals a priority and use them to really focus on what and how much you eat. Eat around the table with family, if you can. Instead of focusing on an event or a show, focus on people around you and enjoy the meal. Eating this way will help you better recognize when you feel full and help you stop eating before you eat too much.
Focus on Smaller Portion Sizes
A final great tip for managing your ADHD holiday diet well involves making sure you have smaller portion sizes. Our diets around the holiday season usually go off the rails quickly because our eyes are bigger than our appetites. We see the party buffet line and we just want to eat everything. In reality, though, our stomachs can’t handle all that food. Not only that, our brains and ADHD symptoms also don’t need all that sugar.
In order to keep on track with your healthy eating, you need to make sure to stick to small portion sizes. Trying multiple different foods can be ok, as long as you do it well. If you want to sample several options, you should get just a bite or two at the most. This means getting a serving spoon or less of a food option.
After you make a first go around of the food options, you need to next learn to stop there. Many of us might start with the right portion sizes on the first trip, but we screw up our good work with making multiple trips back. When it comes to your ADHD holiday diet, you need to stop when you’re ahead before you make yourself sick.
Get what you want to eat on the first trip, and then move on to something else after you finish your plate. Don’t hang around the food line to tempt yourself. Get involved in an interesting conversation or play a game.
Focusing on portion sizes sounds like one of the last things you want to do during the holidays. Really, though, with eating correct portion sizes, you can solve most of your problems around your ADHD holiday diet. Ultimately, you need to strive for eating a consistent amount of food during all seasons.
Finding the Right Balance for Your ADHD Holiday Diet Takes Work
We all tend to think of the holiday season as a time to take a break. In our culture, we almost never take a break from anything. We work long hours at our job, take little to no vacation time, and have long commute hours. We rush and rush and rush and work every day of the week. In many of our minds then, our only time to stop the rush is the holiday season.
As a result of the imbalance in our regular lives, we tend to go overboard with the idea of taking a break. Most of us don’t want to think about anything during the holidays. We don’t want to plan or work to find better alternatives. We just want to eat, relax, and have a good time, much to the detriment of our ADHD holiday diet.
We’re not going to tell you that finding the right balance for your ADHD holiday diet will be easy. It most likely won’t be easy at all. Rather, it will take a little bit of planning and forethought, and a lot of patience and self-restraint. While few of us want anything to do with any of these things during the holiday season, putting in a little effort can pay enormous dividends for our overall health.