Best and Worst Drinks for an ADHD Child

by | Aug 21, 2023 | ADHD Symptoms, Natural Remedies

There’s something lurking in many homes that can increase hyperactivity and even potentially lead to aggressive behavior.

Curious what it might be?

It’s soda!

A study in 2015 showed that hyperactivity increased by 14% with every sugar sweetened beverage kids consumed. It also correlated aggressive behavior with soda.

Nonetheless, soda – and other drinks that can have negative effects – continue to be served to kids with ADHD on a regular basis.

As you might already know, food choices play a crucial role in naturally supporting ADHD, but the beverages your child consumes can also significantly impact their well-being and ADHD symptoms.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the world of drinks, exploring both the best and worst options for children with ADHD.

By understanding the ingredients that can exacerbate or reduce symptoms, you can make informed choices to support your child’s cognitive function, mood stability, and overall health.

Why It Matters What Your Child with ADHD Drinks

The beverages your child consumes are more than just thirst quenchers.

They contain a variety of ingredients that can influence their physical health and mental well-being, including their ADHD symptoms.

Sugary and artificially colored or flavored drinks, in particular, have been linked to heightened hyperactivity and reduced attention span.

The additives, colors, and excessive sugars found in some beverages can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and difficulty in focusing.

By selecting the right drinks, you can help create an environment that nurtures your child’s cognitive function and emotional balance.

Problematic Ingredients to Avoid In Beverages for Kids with ADHD

Certain ingredients in beverages have been shown to have a negative impact on children with ADHD.

Here are some of the worst offenders:

❌ High fructose corn syrup

❌ Artificial food colorings (such as Red 40and Yellow 5)

❌ Artificial sweeteners (like aspartame)

❌ Excessive amounts of sugar

These additives have been associated with increased hyperactivity and impulsive behavior in children.

It’s important to be vigilant and check labels for these ingredients before allowing your child to consume a drink.

 

Beneficial Ingredients to Include

On the flip side, some ingredients can have a positive impact on ADHD symptoms.

Nutrient-rich beverages containing vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can support cognitive function and emotional regulation. For instance, drinks rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc may promote focus and calmness.

 

The Best and Worst Drinks for Kids with ADHD

When considering beverages for children with ADHD, it’s essential to focus on hydration and nutritional value.

Among the best options are water, herbal teas, and smoothies.

These choices provide hydration without introducing excessive sugars or additives.

On the other hand, sugary sodas, energy drinks, and artificially flavored beverages should be limited or (ideally) avoided altogether due to their potential to exacerbate ADHD symptoms.

 

Best Drinks for ADHD Kids

✔️ Water

The absolute BEST thing for children to drink is water, and in particular spring water.

Beyond its fundamental role in keeping our bodies hydrated, spring water also supports the body’s overall well-being. With its natural mineral composition and pristine source, spring water becomes a conduit for essential nutrients that aid in various bodily functions.

Additionally, spring water’s inherent purity serves as a gentle yet effective detoxification agent, assisting the body in flushing out toxins and promoting optimal cellular function.

Some children, though, struggle to drink enough water. In this post, I shared 8 tips and tricks to help you get your child drinking more water.

✔️ Smoothies

Along with water, another drink that can be very helpful for children with ADHD is a smoothie.

Smoothies can be a fantastic and delicious way to support children with ADHD. Packed with nutrient-rich ingredients, smoothies offer a convenient method to provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can aid in managing ADHD symptoms.

The combination of fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious elements in a smoothie can help stabilize blood sugar levels, providing a steady flow of energy throughout the day and reducing the likelihood of mood swings and hyperactivity.

Additionally, smoothies make it easy to sneak in healthy ingredients like leafy greens, berries, nuts, or collagen (here is my favorite bone broth collagen powder to add to smoothies) that can contribute to improved cognitive function and focus.

You can make smoothies with a variety of fruits and veggies, but here is a basic guide:

🍓 Frozen fruit chunks- I fill the blender half full of this.

🍓 Something with a creamy consistency- Add banana, avocado, or a cup of coconut milk yogurt.

🍓 Chia seeds, flax seeds, kale, etc – Add in some extras to give the smoothie additional nutritional value.

🍓 Unsweetened almond milk or dairy free milk – I fill it to cover 1/2 to 3/4ths of the frozen fruit on the bottom. If the consistency is too thick to blend, I add a little more at a time.

Click here for one of my favorite berry smoothie recipes.

✔️ Tea

Tea (especially green tea) can offer a range of benefits for individuals with ADHD.

Certain herbal teas, such as chamomile and peppermint, contain natural compounds that have calming effects on the nervous system. These properties can help reduce feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and hyperactivity often associated with ADHD.

Green tea, known for its antioxidants and the amino acid L-theanine, may promote improved focus and cognitive function while also providing a gentle energy boost without the jitters often associated with caffeine.

Incorporating teas into a daily routine can also provide a soothing ritual that supports emotional well-being and relaxation.

However, it’s important to note that caffeine-containing teas should be consumed in moderation, as excessive caffeine intake can potentially exacerbate ADHD symptoms.

As always, consulting with a healthcare professional before making dietary changes is recommended to ensure the best approach for managing ADHD.

Worst Drinks for ADHD Kids

❌ Soda

Soda is a poor choice for children with ADHD due to its potential negative effects on their symptoms.

The high sugar content in soda can lead to rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, which may contribute to mood swings, irritability, and difficulty concentrating—common challenges for individuals with ADHD.

Additionally, the artificial food dyes and additives found in many sodas have been linked to increased hyperactivity and behavioral issues in some children.

The caffeine content in some sodas can further exacerbate hyperactivity and restlessness.

Opting for alternative beverages, such as water, smoothies, and herbal teas, as mentioned above, are healthier choices that can support stable energy levels and overall well-being in children with ADHD.

❌ Energy drinks

Energy drinks can have detrimental effects on kids’ health. These drinks contain high levels of caffeine and sugar, which can lead to rapid fluctuations in energy levels and contribute to restlessness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating—symptoms that are already prevalent in children with ADHD.

The excessive caffeine intake from energy drinks can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and further impacting their ability to focus during the day.

Moreover, the combination of caffeine and stimulant medications commonly used to treat ADHD can potentially lead to overstimulation and increased heart rate.

It’s crucial to prioritize healthier beverage options for kids, such as those mentioned above, to promote steady energy, better focus, and overall well-being.

❌ Caffeine

Parents often ask me about caffeine found in coffee and wonder if it might be a more natural way to address ADHD symptoms.

Coffee is natural; however, caffeine is still a stimulant with many harmful side-effects like loss of appetite, dependency, and withdrawal.

I am dedicated to providing the safest alternatives and addressing the underlying stressors. Masking symptoms does little to address what derailed development in the first place. For that reason, I do not recommend

While caffeinated tea may improve alertness and concentration in some instances, it is best to avoid giving it to children with ADHD as it can have varying effects.

Healthier Alternatives:

Instead of reaching for sugary sodas and energy drinks, explore alternatives that are both refreshing and beneficial.

Create fruit-infused water by adding slices of citrus fruits, berries, or mint leaves.

Herbal teas can provide soothing hydration, while naturally sweetened beverages like coconut water offer essential electrolytes.

Smoothies made with nutrient-rich ingredients like leafy greens, fruits, and dairy-free yogurt can be both delicious and supportive of cognitive health.

Here are a few healthier alternatives for frequently-consumed beverages:

Sports drinks:

Many sports drinks, while marketed as sources of hydration and energy, often contain a range of negative ingredients that can have adverse effects, particularly for children.

One major concern is the high sugar content present in many sports drinks, which can lead to rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, contributing to mood swings, irritability, and difficulty concentrating – all of which can be particularly problematic for children with ADHD.

Additionally, artificial colors, flavors, and additives are commonly found in these drinks, and some studies have suggested a possible link between artificial additives and hyperactivity in children.

Moreover, excess consumption of these drinks may contribute to obesity and dental issues due to their sugary nature. Excessive caffeine content, often present in energy-boosting sports drinks, can worsen restlessness and insomnia, further impacting a child’s ability to focus and function.

For parents of children with ADHD, it’s important to carefully read labels and opt for healthier alternatives that provide genuine hydration without the negative additives, helping to support their child’s overall well-being and managing ADHD symptoms more effectively.

Instead of the more popular brands of sports drinks (that are full of TERRIBLE ingredients), I like this brand – Ultima Refresher.

Hot Chocolate:

Hot chocolate mixes, often marketed as comforting and indulgent treats, can unfortunately contain a range of negative ingredients that can pose challenges for children’s health, especially for those with ADHD.

A primary concern is the high sugar content commonly found in these mixes, which can lead to rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, contributing to mood swings, hyperactivity, and difficulty in maintaining focus – all of which can be particularly problematic for children with ADHD.

Additionally, many hot chocolate mixes contain artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, which have been linked to potential behavioral issues and allergic reactions in some children.

Some mixes also contain dairy, which is highly inflammatory, as well as hydrogenated oils, which are sources of trans fats that have been associated with inflammation and other health problems.

Moreover, the caffeine content in some hot chocolate mixes can exacerbate restlessness and disrupt sleep patterns, further affecting a child’s ability to manage ADHD symptoms.

Instead of the typical hot chocolate mixes, I recommend getting cacao, and then adding your preferred dairy free milk and if needed, a dash of honey as a sweetener. I like this brand of cacao: Navitas organic cocao.

Flavored Drink Mixes:

Kool-Aid and similar flavored drink mixes may seem like fun and colorful options for kids, but they often come with a host of concerns that make them a less-than-ideal choice, especially for children with ADHD.

These drinks are notorious for their high sugar content, which can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels followed by crashes, potentially exacerbating symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention.

What’s worse, the artificial colors and flavors used in these products have been associated with negative behavioral reactions in some children, including those with ADHD.

The lack of nutritional value in these drinks, coupled with their empty calories, can contribute to an imbalanced diet and hinder the child’s overall health.

Additionally, some of these flavored drink mixes may contain additives, preservatives, and even certain artificial sweeteners that can disrupt gut health and potentially impact mood and behavior.

Instead of the typical flavored drink mixes (that are full of artificial flavors and colors), I like this brand of flavored water: Hint water.

Soda/Pop:

As mentioned earlier, soda, which is often laden with excessive amounts of sugar and artificial additives, flavors, and colors, poses significant health concerns for kids.

Beyond its high sugar content, which can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of obesity-related health issues, soda consumption has been linked to a range of negative effects in children.

The sugar rush followed by a crash can exacerbate hyperactivity and inattention, making it challenging for kids to focus. The artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives commonly found in sodas have been associated with behavioral issues in some children, potentially intensifying ADHD symptoms.

The caffeine present in many sodas can further contribute to restlessness, nervousness, and disrupted sleep patterns.

Regular soda consumption can also impact dental health, weakening tooth enamel and leading to cavities.

Given the lack of nutritional value and potential harm, it’s wise for parents to limit (or ideally eliminate) soda from their children’s diets and instead encourage them to choose healthier beverage options that promote overall well-being.

Instead of traditional soda/pop, I recommend checking out the brand Olipop. Though water, smoothies, etc are still a better option than even this, if you are looking for a specific alternative to soda pop that you can serve as a treat, this brand is a good one.

Importance of Checking Labels

Vigilance is key when selecting beverages for your child.

Always read labels carefully to identify any potential allergens or additives that may exacerbate ADHD symptoms.

Opt for products that are free from artificial colors, flavors, and excessive sugars.

Whenever possible, choose organic options that prioritize quality and purity.

A good rule of thumb that I teach all of my clients is, if you can’t recognize an ingredient on a product, it’s best to avoid the product altogether.

Conclusion

As a parent of a child with ADHD, your choices can significantly impact their overall well-being.

When it comes to beverages, the selection is crucial for supporting cognitive function, mood stability, and emotional regulation.

By avoiding drinks loaded with sugars and artificial additives and opting for nutrient-rich alternatives, you can create an environment that nurtures your child’s health and helps manage ADHD symptoms effectively.

To learn even more about how to support a child with ADHD using natural strategies, check out my free 15 minute ADHD masterclass, where you will discover additional strategies that can help you reduce symptoms FAST.

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About the Author'

Hi, I’m Dana Kay, and I am a Board Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Practitioner. My goal is to assist families who have children with ADHD, through nutrition and functional lab testing and to discover HIDDEN stresses and dysfunctions, as well as implementing a holistic and all-natural family approach to health and wellness.

Book your free call with one of my expert team members to help you take your next step toward a healthier, happier home. There is absolutely NO RISK. It’s free, and there are no obligations. All we will do is chat about how we can help you get to where you want to go!