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ADHD Tip: Eat Breakfast

In taking care of our mental health, it helps to remember the simple things.

That’s why the ADHD tip I want to highlight today isn’t a coping strategy that will totally restructure your life. It’s certainly not something that will make your ADHD symptoms go away. And it won’t do all the different things that meds can potentially do.

But it will make a difference. The tip is: eat breakfast.

BreakfastI’ve talked before about how I think it’s extra important for ADHDers to take care of ourselves by getting enough sleep, eating well, and so on. That’s because we’re starting from a place of having inattentive and impulsive symptoms, so not doing those basic things will exacerbate our problems.

What made me want to talk about breakfast in particular is:

  1. I had a rather small breakfast this morning and now I’m hungry again, but it’s not lunchtime yet.
  2. More importantly, there’s a new study on breakfast and cognitive functioning in ADHD that just came out.

So let’s focus on point number two. The study involved 19 college students with and 27 college students without ADHD.

Now, right away, I’m thinking back to my own breakfast habits in college. Those could be summed up as: get out of bed way too late, then wolf down an inadequate energy bar on my way to being ten minutes late to class.

Based on that, I imagine many college students do not have ideal breakfast routines. And indeed, the researchers found that 47 percent of the students with ADHD and 33 percent without ADHD generally did not eat breakfast!

Why does that matter? Well, the researchers also found that when the students were given a breakfast shake, their performance on several different cognitive tasks was better an hour later. That’s not such a shock. On the AllPsych blog, for example, I’ve written about research showing a correlation between teenagers’ breakfast consumption and academic performance.

In the study on college students’ breakfast habits, students with and without ADHD both benefited cognitively from eating breakfast although there was some evidence that the students with ADHD saw greater improvements in reaction times.

Keep in mind the context I mentioned earlier as well: ADHDers are starting from a place of having certain cognitive deficits, so even if skipping breakfast hurts ADHDers and non ADHDers alike, the negative effects are potentially going to be felt very strongly by ADHDers.

What’s the takeaway of this study for people with ADHD? Actually, it’s pretty simple: eat your breakfast!

The study was done on college students who, admittedly, could have uniquely abysmal dietary habits. But I think there are plenty of ADHDers out there of all ages who, for whatever reason, frequently find breakfast being cut out of their morning routines.

And as much as the college students in this study, they likely stand to benefit cognitively from not having to go through the morning running on empty stomachs!

Image: Flickr/Meal Makeover Moms

ADHD Tip: Eat Breakfast

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2020). ADHD Tip: Eat Breakfast. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Feb 2020
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