Skip To Content

    17 Not-Overwhelming Ways To Eat Healthy When You're Depressed

    Relationship status with food when you're depressed: It's complicated.

    When you're depressed, your relationship with food can be a complicated one.

    Maybe you lose your appetite completely or maybe you're more voracious than ever. Or perhaps without the energy to cook, you end up prioritizing convenience over nutrition. Whatever it is, eating well when you're depressed is no simple task. To help, we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community for their best tips for dealing with food and nutrition when depressed. Here's what works for them:

    1. Prepare some emergency frozen meals for your extra-bad days.

    "When you are in a period when your depression is more manageable, cook as much food as you can that freezes, then portion it out in ziplock bags, mason jars, and tupperware. Pasta, soup, pulled pork/chicken, black beans, etc. all freeze really well, and when you are in a low period and have no energy, just pull it out of the freezer and microwave it."

    —Kristina Tobin, Facebook

    2. Or go a step further and organize a bulk food exchange with friends for more variety with less effort.

    "You make up a bunch of lasagna, a friend makes chili, another friend makes soup, and you trade."

    —Kristina Tobin, Facebook

    3. Minimize the number of dishes you'll have to wash to make mealtime a little easier.

    Zach Zupancic / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: crazyoctopus

    "Honestly, when I'm depressed, the idea of having to do dishes after I cook is enough to make me not want to do it at all. So I learned a bunch of one-pot and 'dump dinners.' Also, I use paper plates and bowls when my depression is at its worst. You have to be gentle with yourself."

    —Hope Narrins, Facebook

    4. Be realistic with yourself when it comes to your cooking and nutrition goals.

    "I knew I wasn't going to be the type of person to cook complicated healthy meals every day or make the type of things that would look good on Instagram. That's okay. I figured out a few really basic healthy meals and that gets me by."

    —Anthony Overstreet, Facebook

    5. Ask for help when you need it.

    Anna Borges / BuzzFeed

    "When it gets really bad, I'll ask my mom or a friend to go grocery shopping with me (my most hated task because hello, crowds) and sometimes to even help me with meal prep."

    —Bethany Whaley, Facebook

    6. Make cooking a self-care event.

    Kate Hiscock / Creative Commons / Via Flickr: slightlyeverything

    "Cooking is, for me, what art or music is to others. It's a creative and relaxing outlet for me and actually took my mind off of my anxiety and depression. I make it an event — some music, maybe a glass of wine, and colorful ingredients (spices, vegetables, etc) and I really enjoy it. Make it fun and instead of being a chore, it might even get you out of a funk."

    —Claire Leila Chiboub, Facebook

    7. Watch cooking shows to get the motivation to ~create~.

    FOX / Via

    —Shannon McAleavey, Facebook

    8. Or pretend you're ON a cooking show.

    BuzzFeed / Via

    "I pick a theme (like 'breakfast' or 'surf and turf'), pick a bunch of ingredients, set a timer for 45 minutes, and have to have a dish on the table before the bell goes off. Only difference from the show is I am allowed to google things during the time in case I get stuck. I’ve come up with some pretty good dishes almost by accident. Cheers me right up."


    9. Get your groceries delivered from your local store or through an online service.

    "I know Safeway at least does free/cheap home delivery, so I get my food delivered to me when I'm at my low points because 1) leaving the house is almost impossible, and 2) I know that I'll buy junk food if I go out to get my groceries because I'll be miserable and feel like I 'deserve' disgusting processed food. Ordering online helps me make better choices."

    —Liz Migueles, Facebook

    10. Set up a reward system for the habits that make you feel better.

    "My housemate and I made star charts. Mine included things like getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well. Once I reached a certain amount of stars, she would get a reward and vice versa. I found it more beneficial to have someone else’s happiness as my motivation. I also loved seeing how well I was doing."


    11. Invite someone over to eat with you.

    Terri Pous / BuzzFeed

    "There is nothing better than hearing positive feedback (hopefully!) on your food. It makes you feel just a bit better."

    —Shannon McAleavey, Facebook

    12. Keep a collection of easy healthy recipes on hand.

    "Maybe it's cliché, but I live for Pinterest. I pin recipes and organize them by difficulty level, how long they take to make, that kind of thing. Having them readily available makes it so I don't have to think too hard about it. Not to mention, browsing for new recipes inspires and excites me, which is always a good thing when I'm depressed."

    —Chloe Martinez, Facebook

    13. Meet with a nutritionist if you need help optimizing your eating habits for mental health.

    Alice Mongkongllite / Via

    "I've been seeing a nutritionist to help me overcome my depression. I was still very tired on my antidepressants and saw a program on TV about how food could affect depression. I've been on a high-antioxidant, high-Omega-3 diet for six months. It helped me kick the sluggishness I feel from my medication and I find I don't crave the junk food I tend to binge on when depressed. It's changed my life."

    —Anna Stevens, Facebook

    14. Pay attention to how your body feels above all else — and maybe consider putting fitness or weight loss goals on hold for now.

    "I had to learn that I couldn't worry about things like weight loss when I'm deeply depressed, because it always winds up turning into self-punishment. Yes, I want to get there eventually, but when I'm in a bad place mentally, I can't be thinking about that kind of stuff. Because then, I wind up tying weight loss to my self-worth and any 'failure' in that realm really exacerbates the self-loathing and guilt my depression is already making me feel.

    "So I concentrate on making my body feel good. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables and things that I genuinely like. I enjoy treats in moderation. It's an everyday battle, but I treat my body with kindness."

    —Nora Cruz, Facebook

    15. Track your emotions alongside what you eat.

    Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed / Via

    "Something that I’ve recently picked up is keeping an 'emotions' journal. I keep a written record of my emotions throughout the day, as well as my food intake and exercise. I’ve found it extremely helpful to have a visual of my emotions and how food and exercise affects them. It was sobering to go back and read how I was feeling after my last binge. On the other hand, it was quite encouraging to read how I feel after a day of making really healthy food choices.

    "Along with a deeper sense of emotional understanding, this practice has acted as motivation to not let my mental illnesses take the reins of each day. It’s a perfect reminder that healthy eating and exercise can elicit real results when it comes to supplemental treatment of my disorders."


    16. Forgive yourself for the bad days so you don't fall into a bad cycle.

    Twitter: @MenstruaI

    "If I can forgive myself for making unhealthy food choices, I’ll have the confidence to do it the next day. If I get mad at myself, I’ll fall into a cycle of eating my feelings one day and then punishing myself with a day of starvation. But if I can get into the mindset of realizing that it’s a marathon — not a race — and one day doesn’t make all the difference, then I feel stable enough to make more good choices."


    17. Lastly, remind yourself that food is there to make you feel strong and healthy.

    Twitter: @fillwerrell

    "It's taken me 31 years to figure out, but now that I know healthy food creates a healthy mood, I'm much less tempted to dig into sugar when I feel stressed."

    —Amanda Turner, Facebook

    Want to be featured on BuzzFeed? Follow the BuzzFeed Community on Facebook and Twitter!