Mental health issues can affect both your appetite and your daily routine.
Eating may avoided when a person is depressed and may make them at risk of becoming underweight. Others find comfort in food and can put on excess weight. Antidepressants can also affect your appetite.
If you’re concerned about weight loss, weight gain or how antidepressants are affecting your appetite, talk to your GP. They will have suggestions on how to manage your relationship with food and nutritional benefits of diets.
Tips for eating a healthy diet
Research into the links between diet and depression is ongoing. As yet, there is not enough evidence to say for certain that some foods help relieve symptoms of depression. However, a healthy balanced diet is important for maintaining good general health. Other evidence suggestions reducing intake of processed foods, saturated fats and high sugar foods has many benefits to health.
“The most important thing is to eat regularly and to include the main food groups in your daily diet,” says Dr Lynn Harbottle, consultant in nutrition and dietetics at the Health and Social Services Department in Guernsey.
A diet based on starchy foods, such as rice and pasta, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, some protein-rich foods such as meat, fish and lentils, and some milk and dairy foods (and not too much fat, salt or sugar) will give you all the nutrients you need.
There are many simple ways to improve your diet. However, if you’re more severely depressed and feel unable to shop or prepare food, see your GP to discuss the types of treatment and support that are available.
Eat regular meals
Three meals every day, including breakfast is the healthiest option. Breakfast is the most important meal and can help give you the energy you need to face the day. Try a bowl of wholegrain cereal or porridge with banana to sweeten and a glass of fruit juice for a healthy start to the day. Try a healthier snack such as a piece of fruit between meals.
Eat more wholegrain cereals, fruit, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds
These foods are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Try to eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. There is plenty of evidence that vitamin c supports your immune system and protects you against infection. If you do not eat much fruit and suffer lots of colds there are plenty of vitamin supplements that you can incorporate into your diet, see your G.P. if in doubt.
Include some protein at every meal
Protein is essential for the growth and repair of the body. You can get it from meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, lentils and beans.
Don’t get thirsty
We need to drink about 1.2 litres of fluid a day to stop us getting dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can affect our mood. Symptoms of dehydration include lack of energy and feeling light headed. Find out more about how much you should drink, including how to choose healthier drinks.
If you drink alcohol, drink within the recommended daily limits
If you’re a man, don’t regularly drink more than three-four units a day. If you’re a woman, don’t regularly drink more than two-three units a day. See the Unit calculator to understand different alcoholic drinks and how many units of alcohol they contain. Don’t drink alcohol if you’re taking antidepressants.
When you make changes to your diet, set yourself realistic and achievable goals. If you want to make major changes to your diet, see your GP, who can refer you to a registered dietitian.
Further information about diet and mental wellbeing
For general advice on healthy eating, see the NHS food and diet section