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Child Development

What Is A Good Breakfast For A Child with ADHD? Try These Options

February 8, 2023
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    Some parents have a harder time getting their children to eat breakfast than others. If your child has ADHD, you may be particularly familiar with this struggle. Your child could be a finicky eater, have a low appetite, or struggle with their morning routine due to ADHD symptoms.

    Unfortunately, those who don't eat properly find themselves more distracted, restless, and impulsive. Regular, balanced meals throughout the day keep blood sugar stable, promote optimal functioning at school and other areas of life, and are necessary for good health overall.

    So, what can you do? In this article, we'll talk about ADHD and the importance of eating breakfast, healthy breakfast ideas for ADHD, and tips for a great morning meal.

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    ADHD And The Importance Of Eating Breakfast

    Despite being regarded as the most important meal of the day, breakfast is also one of the most skipped meals. We know, for example, that children who eat breakfast experience a number of different health and academic benefits in comparison to those who miss their first meal of the day. Families of kids with ADHD must do all they can to set their child up for success, and a balanced diet with regular meals and snacks is a big part of that.

    Alongside other treatments, proper nutrition is associated with improvements in ADHD symptoms. But again, with ADHD, kids might face a number of different challenges that make things harder. With that in mind, having suitable breakfast ideas is very important for families of kids with ADHD.

    Does the type of food you serve matter?

    While all foods fit into a healthy diet, some are more nutritious than others. When it comes to breakfast, especially before school or other important activities, the type of food you serve matters. Sugary cereals are convenient but don't give your child the nutrition they need to perform throughout the day. Ideally, a balanced meal should incorporate complex carbohydrates, protein, a fruit or vegetable, fat, and dairy or non-dairy alternatives. High protein breakfasts with complete proteins (food sources that include all nine essential amino acids) are ideal for those with ADHD because they help kids stay satisfied and focused.

    Balanced Breakfast Options for ADHD

    The best breakfasts for those with ADHD will be relatively quick to put together, easy to eat, and of course, enjoyable. If you struggle to find healthy breakfast ideas for your family, you're in luck. Refer to the following list of breakfast ideas for kids with ADHD.


    Oatmeal is an excellent source of whole grains, and the best part about it is just how customizable it is. It pairs well with berries, which give the oats a pink, purple, or red hue many kids enjoy, other frozen or fresh fruits, and virtually any other of your child's favorite add-ins. To add protein, add in protein powder, milk products (like greek yogurt), or high-protein non-dairy alternatives. Peanut butter or mixed nuts can help you amp up healthy fats and add a bit more protein, too.

    Some parents make oat muffins or oatmeal bakes for kids who prefer the texture.

    Breakfast burrito

    Breakfast burritos are a fantastic option for kids who prefer savory foods. They're portable and balanced, too. Many parents use eggs, cheese, vegetables, and other ingredients their child likes. Depending on what's in your child's breakfast burrito, you might be able to make and freeze them ahead of time.

    "Grazing" or snack plates

    What if your child prefers to graze or eat multiple small items instead of a more concise meal? Snack plates with appropriate ingredients can make breakfast fun for kids who tend toward this style of eating, as many people with ADHD do.

    Examples of items you might add include cheese, mixed nuts, whole grains, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, or fruits. Think beyond breakfast foods - there's nothing wrong with ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins), whole grain crackers, and other items you might not think of as traditional breakfast ideas.

    Pair the plate with a glass of milk, skim milk, whole milk, low-fat milk, or non-dairy milk.

    Recommended reading: The Gluten-Free Diet for Kids with ADHD: Does It Actually Help?

    Scrambled eggs

    Scrambled eggs are easy to eat and relatively quick to cook. You can pair scrambled eggs with whole grain bread or potatoes and fruit or vegetables for a balanced meal.

    Yogurt parfaits

    Yogurt parfaits taste like dessert, but with the right ingredients, they make for an excellent balanced breakfast. Many parents add fresh fruit, whole grain cereals or granolas that are low in sugar, and other toppings.

    Check the label on the yogurt to see the protein and sugar content.

    Avocado toast

    Avocado adds fiber and healthy fat to any meal. Mashed avocado on toast with eggs, turkey bacon, or another protein source makes for an easy, balanced meal.

    When kids aren't in the mood for a savory breakfast, toast with peanut butter, especially when paired with a micro-nutrient-dense side like fruit, is a simple alternative.

    Whole grain cereals

    Whole grain cereal is fast to prepare, and with the right sides, it can make for a balanced breakfast. Pair whole grain cereal and milk (whether that's skim milk, low-fat milk, or non-dairy milk) with a hard-boiled egg, a protein source from dinner the day before, breakfast sausage, or another protein. Add an orange or another fruit to balance the meal.

    Banana and nut butter

    A banana with nut butter is a classic flavor combination, and it takes less than a minute to prepare. Some kids can't eat peanut butter, but as you likely know, there's a host of other options on the market. Almond butter, soy nut butter, or sunflower seed butter are liked by many kids. If your child needs to take it on the road, get school-approved (allergy-friendly) packets of nut butter or put your child's favorite nut butter in a small container.

    Dinner leftovers (with plenty of protein and healthy fats)

    Some people prefer leftovers and other non-breakfast foods for their first meal of the day, and that is more than okay. If that's your child, dinner leftovers are a low-prep breakfast option. As a bonus, dinner foods often include lean meats and other protein sources. Just make sure that the leftovers you serve make for an adequate, balanced meal.

    Note: Joon is a to-do app and game designed for kids with ADHD and related disorders. If your child has trouble organizing and executing daily routine tasks, like eating breakfast, brushing their teeth, or finishing household chores, Joon is for you. How does it work?

    Parents download the Joon Parent App first and make a list of real-life tasks for their child. Kids connect with a separate app called Joon Pet Game. When children finish tasks, also called quests, they get rewards in the game that allow them to take care of a virtual pet. You can add as many tasks as you want, and there are audio buttons for kids who do not yet know how to read. 

    90% of kids who use Joon finish all the tasks their parents assign. Many parents say that Joon has improved their parent-child relationship, and the app is rated an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars in the app store. 

    Click here to try Joon for free.

    Breakfast sandwiches

    Like burritos, breakfast sandwiches are hand-held and versatile. Breakfast sandwiches also make for a naturally high-protein breakfast in many cases. You can add eggs or egg alternatives, meat or meat alternatives, and cheese or cheese alternatives.

    Smoothies and shakes

    If your child's appetite is low or you're short on time, smoothies are a great way to get nutrients in the morning. Frozen berries, bananas, and other kinds of frozen fruit stay good in the freezer and are often more affordable than fresh fruits. Greek yogurt, dairy or non-dairy milk with protein, or protein powder can all help you increase protein in the meal. Some parents add peanut butter, another kind of nut butter, or avocado for healthy fat.

    If you're low on time, kid-friendly protein shakes are worthwhile to keep around. Give your child side items to balance the meal.

    Yogurt, smoothies, cheese, or shakes with eggs

    If you're looking for simple high-protein breakfast ideas, pair multiple high-protein foods together. You can change up the items you give your child based on their tastes, but small yogurts, cheese, and shakes are doable even for kids with low appetites in many cases. 

    What is the best easy breakfast for ADHD?

    The “best” easy breakfast will always differ depending on who you are - or, in this case, who your child is. The most ideal breakfast is a nourishing meal your child enjoys. 

    Tips For A Great Morning Meal

    What if your morning is hectic more often than not, you find yourself rushing to make a healthy breakfast for your family, or your child has trouble eating? Try these tips for a great morning meal.

    Spend time planning

    Planning ahead means less work in the morning. If there's something you can make the night before (e.g., hard-boiled eggs), it may make your morning go more smoothly. Some parents create a menu of breakfast ideas for their children for the week in advance to make shopping easier and cut decision-making time out of the day.

    Have your child take medications with breakfast (with a doctor's approval)

    Taking ADHD medication with breakfast instead of before can help your child avoid appetite suppression caused by stimulants. However, make sure that you speak with your child's doctor before you change their medication routine in any way, including the time they take their medication.

    Be creative

    Creativity can go a long way when it comes to feeding kids and helping them eat in accordance with their nutritional needs. Most likely, you've used cookie cutters to make sandwiches into shapes or have otherwise used creative skills to make food more fun for kids. You can extend these creative skills to breakfast to make food more appealing for your child. For example, making a face with fruit or chocolate chips on a whole grain waffle.

    Getting creative can also help you sneak in fiber, help your child eat protein, or help you add fruits and vegetables to your child's food. Finely ground flax seed meal, for example, can be added to pancake or waffle mix, smoothies and shakes, yogurt, or another food item to increase fiber.

    Understand what your child likes and dislikes

    A healthy breakfast doesn't need to lack enjoyment. In fact, enjoying your food is an important part of nutrition in and of itself, and of course, it makes kids more likely to eat the meal you give them. Understand what your child likes and tends to eat or gravitate towards. If their food choices are limited for any reason, small tweaks to recipes you know your child likes can help you increase nutrition.


    Dr. Brittany Ferri, PhD

    Brittany is a registered and licensed occupational therapist who holds a PhD in Integrative Mental Health. She is the owner of a writing and consulting company called Simplicity of Health. She has direct experience in program development, behavioral health, pediatrics, and telehealth. She has published five books, lectured at 20+ OT/OTA programs, and has been quoted as a health expert by NBC News, WebMD, CNN, and other outlets.


    Dr. Brittany Ferri, PhD

    Brittany is a registered and licensed occupational therapist who holds a PhD in Integrative Mental Health. She is the owner of a writing and consulting company called Simplicity of Health. She has direct experience in program development, behavioral health, pediatrics, and telehealth. She has published five books, lectured at 20+ OT/OTA programs, and has been quoted as a health expert by NBC News, WebMD, CNN, and other outlets.