5 simple tips to combat ADHD meds weight loss

Two children, a boy and a girl, are stood in a light, airy kitchen at a wood work surface. They are each putting ingredients into steel mixing bowls. Other ingredients, books and bowls stand on the counter.They are baking their favourite treats to help them manage ADHD meds weight loss.
Manage ADHD meds weight loss with their favourite bakes.

Whilst I’m a great advocate of appropriate medication for the treatment of ADHD as part of a considered package of support and scaffolding, one of the biggest drawbacks can be appetite suppression. ADHD meds weight loss can happen particularly at the beginning of treatment, whilst your child’s body adjusts.

I also know (from experience) that watching your normally healthy child melt away is very frightening. Especially if you’ve already had experience of disordered eating or an eating disorder in your family.

However, there are ways to help your child and prevent weight loss, or regain lost pounds.

Breathe…you’ve got this.

First of all….we’re not talking about anorexia or bulimia here.

They are recognised as mental health issues and need timely and sensitive intervention from highly trained specialists.

However, ADHD meds weight loss is caused by a reduced appetite, with some thought and planning, nothing too time consuming, you can get them back on track.

Speak to your doctor about weight loss

However, before you do, it’s always wise to double check with your child’s clinician to make sure that their reduced appetite is the cause, and nothing more troublesome.

1. Eat before meds

Breakfast is so important to our children. Not only does it fuel their bodies for the day ahead, it also fuels their brains. Educationally this is important to all children. For ADHD children, who’s often have to work harder to manage their environments and their responses to it, their brains are working even harder. This is why they’re often disproportionately tired compared to their peers. It also means breakfast is additionally critical to them.

By sitting your child down to breakfast before you give them their meds, they will have a full appetite as they likely won’t have eaten for at least 8 hours. Even more for younger children.

A balanced and calorie dense breakfast, including protein if at all possible, will set them up for the day, even if their appetite is reduced until their meds wear off. Some favourites in our house include omelettes with cheese, eggs or beans on toast or crumpets, or, on less busy days, bacon sandwiches. However there are days when only cereal or chocolate brioche will pass their lips. I have a plan for that too.

2. Protein Hot Chocolate

In all my days I’ve only ever met one child who didn’t like a hot chocolate. And this is my secret weapon against ADHD meds weight loss. It also works if they’re just generally off colour and off their food. Just saying!

I use any old hot chocolate mix…to be honest, just use their absolute favourite brand to tempt them with it. Full fat milk, or the highest calorie milk alternative you can find. And a protein powder of your choice.

Cadbury’s hot chocolate with full fat milk is 198 calories.

An average vegan protein powder suitable for children will add another 125 calories. Plus about 20g of protein. Plus vitamins and minerals they might be missing out on (also applies to picky eaters).

20 of protein is everything a 9 year old child needs in a day. And just half of that of the average 14 year old girl. *

3. Add high calorie snacks whenever possible

Obviously, in an ideal world, our children would eat a full balanced meal 3 times a day, with healthy snacks in between, exercise appropriately and maintain a healthy weight without trouble.

In our house this is the nutritional equivalent of winning the EuroMillions, with a 8 digit rollover. We have picky eaters and athletes. It’s never that straightforward.

So the second sneaky item in my ADHD meds weight loss arsenal is nothing other than the humble flapjack. My kids descend on the cake tin like locusts the second these are any cooler than molten lava. They usually grab a glass of milk as well. I’m a happy mama. I can also sneak in unflavoured protein. And chocolate chips. Or sultanas. Or chopped dates. Dependent on the child. Although chocolate chips are universal.

Any favourite bake works here. And don’t be fooled. I don’t always have time to bake, so I buy the least chemically shop bought I can find and call it good. No judgement here.

Cheese is also good. Cheese triangles if needs be. Or those stringy things that taste so bad they’re good. If you can sneak an apple with that so much the better. Our clinician recommends apple slices even for teens. Makes for the mindless snacking that they like to do.

The simple rule here is to have as many things that they like to snack on to hand to they can just dip in as the mood takes them. As healthy as possible, but every paediatrician, psychiatrist, clinical dietician or CAMHs worker Ive ever asked about this (and there have been a few) says that if your child is normally a healthy weight, but losing weight due to ADHD meds, getting calories into them by any means possible is the main thing. If it’s a KitKat, so be it!

4. Don’t worry about evening eating

Both my children are on methylphenidate. And you can tell when the meds start to wear off in the evening.

The scavenging starts.

Can I have a bowl of cereal?

Maybe a sandwich?

Can I have some fruit? That last bit of cake? Noodles? Mint imperials?

Or one of them disappears in the kitchen and comes back with hot chocolates for them both and a biscuit…or three.

It’s all good. they’ll stop when they’re done**

5. Take a meds holiday

One day a week…don’t give your child their meds.

Or two days. Or during school holidays.

Just give them some time off the meds. Let them eat what they need and gain back some of the ADHD meds weight loss.

Just make sure you’ve got your strategies lined up for the inevitably ramped behaviour.

For our teens we either do a down day where they have games, or can walk the dog, or play football, or we can watch a film (with weighted blankets to help them manage the fidgets). The days when they have friends over and they’re all playing on the xbox*** are also really good.

It might take a little time, but their appetite will settle and it will all be ok. I know it’s scary, but you’ve got this.

However, if you need more support with any of the challenges discussed in this post, I can help. I offer impartial, non-judgmental advice about anything related to neurodiversity in your family.

Please book your free call here

I’d really love to help.

* Teenage boys need a bit more. Younger children will need less. Protein shakes aren’t really suitable for preschool children. I’m not a doctor, so this is just me sharing what works for me and my family.

Please check with your GP if you have and questions specific to your family.

**Obviously this is normal for my two and they do multiple physical activities each week including dance, CrossFit and daily walking. They’re both normally a good weight for their height. We no longer have disordered eating.

Please speak to your GP should you have any concerns about your child’s relationship with food. They have really good programmes out there to support you and your child.

***I know…the demon xbox. But we have strict boundaries around using the xbox. It’s not a daily occurrence, so it’s fun for them at the weekend, with our without friends over. And the sensory feedback they get from playing the games helps them manage the fidgets. Every one is happy.

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