I discovered Annie’s Instagram feed when I was searching for #ADHDparents. I got hooked on reading all about the delicious food she was making for her son – Annie’s sophisticated version of an adhd diet blew me away! We chatted back and forth a bit and I knew I wanted to learn more about her story.
Parenting an ADHD kiddo can be isolating. We’re left feeling like w are forging a path that may be very different from our friends and neighbors. This is just one reason why we must share our stories.
But there are many.
As I scour the internet to find help for my family, it has been so uplifting and incredibly comforting to read about other’s ADHD stories – their ups and downs, tried and true tips, breakthroughs and breakdowns.
I hope to share more stories in the coming months. In fact, I want it to become a regular part of the blog.
So, without further ado, please enjoy the interview with Annie of wee_man_meals!
Annie, tell us a little about you and your family:
I’m a single Mum to Elliot (Wee Man) who is turning ten a lot sooner than I would have thought possible. It’s been just he and I from the beginning so we spend pretty much every minute together excluding school, which I think makes us pretty attune to each other.
We’re based on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Australia, by all standards a little kooky, embrace the weird and are large believers in PJ dance kitchen battles.
What is your “why” behind your ADHD food journey?
We first got the official diagnosis of ADHD for the Wee Man when he was in second grade. It was an extremely long process to get to that point.
When testing first started he was four and his speech and social skills were behind by two years. He couldn’t answer a large portion of the questions, so an interim diagnosis of Global Development Delay was given until he was able to go back and go through the testing again after speech therapy.
When we got the ADHD diagnosis, the doctor gave me a list of options to possibly move forward with, one of them being to start Elliot on medication. I’ve always been a believer in the use of medications when necessary – however- not just as a ‘cure all’.
I think it wise to explore more natural remedies for ADHD before medication, and then keep them in conjunction with a prescription.
My son was so young, so I opted for following the ADHD diet plan and monitoring any changes that we saw. It was definitely an adjustment, but we did see an improvement.
By the end of the year it was decided that additional help was needed, so he started medication in year three, while also sticking as best we could to the diet plan. We’re halfway into year four now, on a different medication, seeing medical professionals what feels like every other week to monitor how he’s doing and help him build the skills he needs.
But through it all food has been the constant. I can’t say we stick to the ADHD diet 100% of the time but I make efforts to ensure the all food that he has will help him through each day as best it can.
With the medication that he’s on now, one of the side effects is loss of appetite. Wee Man is like a bean stalk, very tall and limbs for days. Its never been an issue before, but it was flagged as something to keep an eye on if his eating dropped during the day, which it did.
Eventually, we went to see a nutritionist/dietician who gave me some really clear tips and advised me that his protein intake needed to be boosted in every meal of the day.
Its made a huge difference, but keeping up with food prepping, ideas and recording what he’d been eating seemed like an immeasurable task. I started wee_man_meals to almost hold myself accountable in recording what I’d made and getting inventive.
I think what can make it hard as an ADHD parent sometimes is that I can easily get drained and just want do what might be a bit easy in the moment.
Being able to share what was working for me with anyone else who was maybe having a time trying to make food that was as healthy and appealing as it could be for the kiddos has been a positive step in keeping up with the food management at home.
(We’re glad you did, Annie!)
What have been the ups and downs on your journey?
I think everyday there are ups and downs. I know for me, and probably for Elliot, a big part of those ups and downs is that there are still ups and downs.
It’s not a linear line from difficulties to solved.
It’s hard work, and when you might have made progress and then see something has slipped again it can be disheartening to say the least.
The fact that a lot of people in the world still equate ADHD with bad parenting means that as much as I know better, I take a lot of what’s going on with the Wee Man as a failure within myself as a parent.
Which is nonsense, of course, but accepting that the struggle is part of the journey is a lesson that I’m constantly having to remind myself of.
I don’t really have a parenting style per say, some days I’m go with the flow and others some would probably say I’m a little helicopter.
It’s been a source of worry for me thinking that we’re not as ‘organised’ as other families but the longer we go at it the more I realise everyone’s just muddling through as best they can, ADHD or not. It’s all relative, and it’s all normal.
What effect have you seen food have on your ADHD kiddo?
A huge part of Wee Mans behavioural issues were/are to do with food- predominantly seeking out and then squirreling away the foods that he knows aren’t the best for him, mainly anything with a whisper of sugar.
I think feeling that he doesn’t get what everyone else does and then taking it upon himself to take that food that gives him the rush of a treat has been one of the biggest issues that we’ve had.
I know since eating an extremely high protein diet in conjunction with the ADHD diet has seen this behaviour drop considerably which has been great. His concentration has been a lot bette,r which is especially evident on the days he’s not taking medication, as they used to be extremely difficult to get through.
I think sometimes I take for granted how we feel when we’re eating the right foods as it just becomes the norm. But if I get a case of the can’t be bothered’s or am just not as on top of everything as I normally would be then I find both he and I are more sluggish, we get snappy at each other a lot easier and the motivation that I normally have to keep on top of everything gets harder and harder to come by.
What have you learned on this journey?
I’ve learned that “trial and error” are important, and that the error part of “trial and error” is normal.
To me cooking is a lot like science, there are always methods to be refined and improved upon and if something doesn’t work, or the results aren’t what you expected it just means that there is an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and see what does or doesn’t work so you can decide on what to carry forward with you on the journey.
I think doing what works for you has been something that it took me a while to realise is very valid. I was so overwhelmed with just doing what different articles, or family, or people I’d never even met had told me was the ‘proper’ way that it became impossible to actually achieve something sustainable because there was nothing of us in the entire equation except for impossible expectations.
Have you had obstacles? Picky eating, budget constraints?
The biggest obstacle to I’ve had to overcome has definitely been our budget. It’s a sad fact that it’s a lot more expensive to eat healthily. Adding high protein to every meal within ADHD healthy budgeting has been stressful, to say the least.
I budget and buy fortnightly as that works with covering all of the other bills, and we make it work, but it would definitely make life a lot easier if I had more money to spend on the food I would ideally like to be purchasing.
I’ve been extremely lucky in the sense that Elliot is not a picky eater- he seems to be the exact opposite, which I know is not the case for a lot of parents. He’s excited about new food and experimenting with different flavours and recipes, something that I’m grateful for everyday as I know that has made my job a lot easier.
How do you plan your meals?
As I purchase two weeks of food at a time, I tend to look at what we have and then plan to use the food that has shorter longevity first. I don’t plan what I want to make before I go to the shops as I find that limits what I can buy.
By buying fruits, vegetables and protein that is on sale or that has the best price per kilogram I can usually make everything last for as long as it needs to in conjunction with what I have in the cupboard and the freezer.
I make Elliot’s main lunches for school in bulk and then divide and freeze them so that there is usually 2 to 3 weeks’ worth of school food ready to go. I make large batches of bliss balls with what I have on hand or what might need to be used, so that there are snacks always ready to go or ready to be put in with his lunch.
Making up breakfasts, usually 5 serves at a time, has helped immensely. Using up food by making a batch of something, even if we don’t need it in that moment is helpful as I can always freeze it and then pull it out later.
Taking stock of the contents of the fridge and then taking time to cook food that isn’t just for the meal we’re about to eat, makes it easier to plan and evaluate what we have and what we might need.
My mum is a chef, so I’m lucky in the sense that I’ve always felt comfortable flying be the seat of my pants in the kitchen. I think ad libbing when you’re cooking, being open to new things and using every scrap of what you have goes a long way, especially when you’re on a budget.
What tips do you have for busy moms of ADHD kiddos?
I think everyone needs to invest in a slow cooker or a heavy based French pan. Low and slow is always a safe bet for a tasty meal and usually you’ll get a high yield of food. Being able to divide and then store what you’ve made in the freezer can make life a lot easier. Tuppeware is a good one to invest in.
I’ve found that specifically setting aside time to cook really helps, for me I usually make bliss balls and breakfasts on a Sunday night. I make batches of school lunches once or twice a month.
Empowering the Wee Man to be responsible for his own food has gone a long way. He gets his breakfast from the fridge in the morning, he puts his own lunchbox together before school. If he’s hungry in the afternoon, then he can just get out something that’s already made without me having to faff about.
While being proactive makes a huge difference I think remembering that you’re only human is important too and sometimes you just have to be ok with ordering that Chinese food and putting on a mediocre movie.
Do you have any favorite, invaluable resources ?
I’ve found using up apps like BigOven and SuperCook have been helpful to generate recipes based on what I have on hand. There’s nothing worse than getting excited about a possible meal and then seeing you don’t have one of the main ingredients.
Watching YouTube channels like Binging with Babish, anything from the Bon Appetit test kitchen and (a bit weird but bare with me) Korean Englishman help me stay excited about cooking and food in general. Seeing people having fun making and eating foods that can be different to what I know is important to me. There’s a lot to be said about positive momentum, and I notice that when I view cooking as chore, I can think of absolutely nothing to make.
Products! What tools can you not live without???
I would be LOST without my microplane grater, that bad boy has hidden so many vegetables in so many unsuspecting foods that it surprises even me and I’m the one who made it happen.
A hand held bar mixer with a whisk attachment makes a lot of processes a lot faster.
What advice do you wish you’d had when your family was just starting your ADHD journey?
I wish someone would have told me that spending time on what I need is ok. I think I focus so hard on what Elliot needs and wants and the future and our schedule and what needs to be achieved and school and everyone else’s expectations that I tend to flame out every now and again.
Being a young mum, and a single mum, had a lot of people giving me a lot of advice (all of which was well meant) but not often feeling like I was being heard. So being told from the start that what I thought and felt being 100% valid would have been fantastic.
Can you share a favorite adhd diet recipe?
Chia Seed Pudding.
Something that has made life a lot easier has been a chia seed pudding recipe that Elliot’s nutritionist gave us to use. I’ve found that the main recipe is good as a base and then works well with any additional flavouring that you might want to put in.
14 Tablespoons white chia seeds
1 can coconut cream
Equal part warm water
1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup, brown sugar, agave)
Mix all liquids together thoroughly, then the chia seeds. Stir until you see the liquid has started to thicken slightly and then cover and let sit for approx. 30 minutes. The mixture should be the consistency of pudding and ready to be chilled or served.
I like to make variations of this by adding things like straight cocoa powder, peanut butter and blended fruits. Its great on its own or paired with fruit, seeds and Greek yoghurt for breakfast.
I find myself making this salad/side a lot. Its great on its own or with a main source of protein and you can take out or put in what you have on hand against the main recipe to change it up.
150 g or 3/4 cup fresh baby spinach
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 shallot stems, finely sliced
2 cups bulgur wheat
5 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
½ cup toasted almond flakes
½ diced cucumber
½ cup parmesan shaved
½ cup mayonnaise (ideally homemade)
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 ½ cup boiling water
In a hot cast iron pan sautee the garlic until brown and crispy, just on the edge of burning, but not actually burned. Take the pan off the heat and deglaze the pan with half of the vinegar and the boiling water, and then add the bulgur wheat. Stir until the wheat is absorbing the water then sit to the side and cover the pan for approximately 10 minutes. In a large salad bowl mix the spinach, tomato, shallots, almond flakes, cucumber and parmesan, seasoning with a good amount of salt and pepper. In a side bowl mix the vinegar and mayo, then with a fork gently break up the garlic bulgur wheat and add to the mixing bowl. Add the dressing and toss together, check to see if extra seasoning is required.
I also like to occasionally substitute the bulgur wheat for vermicelli rice noodles and play around with the dressing to make a cold noodle salad that’s great for summer!
Do you have a form of self-care that works for you?
I attribute a lot of me still being a person to music. Self-care, for me, is having very specific playlists that I take time to listen to everyday, and singing as if my life depended on it at least once a week. That might be oddly specific to me but I find focusing my brain entirely on something else and being forced to take notice of my breathing has been a really great release.
I have side projects that have no timeline that are just for me to enjoy. I get super into Korean Supernatural Dramas (Black had me pacing in my living room talking to the TV with its plot twists). I like to think of myself as a mad scientist when it’s 2am and I’m still playing around with making my own hot chocolate blends.
Anything that takes your brain to its own weird happy place is to be embraced, even if not a tradition ‘relaxation’ activity.
Thanks Annie!! I love getting a peak into the life of another ADHD mom. Your story about your sons adhd diet is inspiring. Your wee man is lucky to have you!
Please let me know if you’d like to share your story and be part of a future ADHD Mama Story!
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