Nutrition & Recipes

Eating is an issue for many people experiencing depression. Exhaustion and/or lack of motivation, among several other factors, can make planning and preparing meals feel like the last things you’d want to do. Some folks may turn to highly processed comfort foods, while others may not even eat for days at a time.

7 Tips for Cooking & Eating When You're Depressed

1. Plan Ahead When You're Feeling OK
  • Make a List of Meal Ideas: When depressed, sometimes just thinking about things to make is overwhelming. When you’re not feeling too crappy, make a list of simple things you can easily make when/if a depressive episode hits again. Some examples are: peanut butter and banana on toast with a yogurt, meal-replacement smoothies, or pita pizzaCheck out the “Depression-Friendly” Recipes section for ideas.
  • Plan For The Future: When you’re feeling up for cooking, make some extra to portion into meals for the future. Future You will thank you.
2. Stock Up on Frozen Vegetables, Microwaveable Rice, and a Protein
  • Benefits: Frozen foods and instant rice keep forever, are cheap, and take no time to prepare. Pair them with a protein (think: rotisserie chicken, scrambled eggs, tofu, etc.) and you have a complete meal. Click here to learn how to roast frozen vegetables (spoiler: it’s super easy), and here for different sauces to put on your rice+veggie+protein combo so each meal is unique.
3. Delivery is Your Friend

If you’re able to swing it financially, get food delivered to you!

  • Allow yourself to order take-out: Spending a bit more on take-out right now might be a wiser decision compared to not eating at all.
  • Get your groceries delivered: Check out Instacart and Peapod. Whisk is also a great app that allows you to import ingredients from a recipe into a grocery list, and connect that list to a grocery delivery service. Easy peasy.
4. Temporarily Forget About Saving the Environment
  • Make use of plastic utensils, paper plates, and disposable aluminum pans: We know, this one is hard to swallow. But just for now, give yourself permission to use these things- reducing the number of dishes you’ll have to wash can make cooking so much less of a pain.
5. Invest in a Slow Cooker and/or Instant Pot
  • Seriously. Throw ingredients in and let the device do the work for you. Get an Instant Pot here and a slow cooker here
6. Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends
  • You can’t do everything alone: Ask for help – maybe a friend or family member can pick up some groceries for you or help you prepare meals.
7. Break Big Meals Up into Smaller Ones
  • 3 meals too much right now? Break them into 6 mini-meals per day to make it easier.

Nutrition Rules of Thumb

The MyPlate is an easy way to make sure your meal is healthy and nutritious. Click on the image below to enlarge & learn more.

Difficulty Affording Food

Having difficulty affording food on top of being depressed is very stressful. Fortunately, there are many resources out there to help: 

Plan Ahead Before Going to the Store

Making a plan before heading to the store can help you make fewer shopping trips, buy only the items you need, and save money. 

  • Plan Your Meals: Use the Depression-Friendly Recipes to help you plan meals that are easy to cook, or the MyPlate Kitchen recipe tool for low-cost recipe ideas. Make sure to check to see what ingredients you already have so you don’t buy double. This meal planning worksheet can help with figuring out what to make.
  • Save More: Make sure you eat before you shop so you don’t impulse-buy, and use coupons, but only for items you know you’ll use. Click here for more money-saving tips.
Shop Smart in the Store
  • Know Your Food: Did you know that frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh? Or that kidney beans, lentils and split peas are a great & affordable source of protein? Click here for more helpful budget-friendly tips on shopping, broken down by food group.
Make Budget-Friendly Meals

Making meals is easier said than done when you’re feeling depressed. Try out: 

    • The MyPlate Kitchen: an interactive tool that features a searchable database of healthy, budget-friendly recipes, and options to create a cookbook and a shopping list. 
    • The Depression-Friendly Recipes on this page to find simple recipes that take little effort to make, for when depression days are particularly bad.
    • Don’t feel like coming up with a grocery list and planning meals? Use this sample 2-week menu to do the work for you. 
Apply for/Utilize Benefits

If you qualify for financial assistance for food, such as SNAP/WIC, make sure you’re receiving those benefits. 

    • If you have a lower income, you may qualify for SNAP. To apply for benefits, or get information about SNAP, contact your local SNAP office by locating it here. 
      • To find a SNAP retailer, click here.
    • If you are a woman and are pregnant and/or have a child(ren) under the age of 5, you may qualify for WIC. To apply for these benefits, contact your local office by locating it here. 
      • To find WIC-approved grocery  stores/pharmacies, click here. 
    • Many farmers’ markets accept SNAP and WIC. To locate a farmers’ market, click here

 

The recipes below were selected from various sources because they 1. don’t require much effort to make and 2. mostly use ingredients you may already have/can find easily. Are they the most exciting culinary creations in the world? Nope. Will they get the job done? Absolutely.

"Depression-Friendly" Recipes

  • Use the filters to refine results
  • “Less Effort” = no/optional chopping and/or fewer instructional steps; basically mix ingredients together. “Less Effort” does NOT mean less of an accomplishment, however. Making the choice to nourish your body despite feeling depressed is no small feat. 

Did you know...

Text on this page can be read to you!

Let’s face it – depression can make reading really difficult. That’s why we’ve tried to make this website as accessible as possible – no long paragraphs, and text-to-speech capabilities. Simply highlight the text you want to read and press the play button.*

*if you are using text-to-speech on a mobile phone, make sure the sound is on