Meal Tips For When Depression Decreases Appetite
April 24, 2023
Arielle Cohen, LCSW
When depression hits, our eating patterns often get disrupted. A common symptom of depression is a decrease in appetite, because many aspects of life can seem bland and unappealing. Depression affects a person’s ability to organize and make decisions, creating challenges for meal planning and grocery shopping. Depression can deplete a person’s energy to the point that chewing food is exhausting. And depression often impacts motivation, making it hard to find recipes, cook food, or even get out of bed to eat.
Depression and lack of appetite can be a vicious cycle that’s hard to break: a person is depressed, so they don’t eat, and, because the person doesn’t eat, they have no energy and stay depressed. As a caregiver, you can support your loved one to get the nutrition they need and increase their appetite. Read on for meal tips for when depression decreases appetite.
Strategies for snacks and meals tips when depression decreases appetite
Here are some options to help deal with a decrease in appetite due to depression.
- Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day instead of large meals.
- Choose foods that are easy to prepare with minimal effort.
- Include nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
- Create a list of simple meals and keep it on the fridge or inside a cabinet where food is stored. (Click here for a sample plan)
- Prepare meals in advance so they are easy to heat up when feeling too down to cook.
- Incorporate foods known to boost mood, such as dark chocolate, or foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, that may help reduce depression symptoms.
- Set reminders to eat throughout the day to avoid forgetting meals.
Make meals an opportunity for connection
One strategy is to make mealtime more enjoyable by eating with someone, such as a family member or friend, who understands that eating and having conversations are likely challenging for a person with depression. While eating together can make mealtime more social and less of a chore, it’s also an opportunity for giving and receiving support.
As a caregiver, you could offer to cook meals together, focusing on their favorite recipes. Pick up groceries for that meal and, if you’re able, add a few items to the grocery bag that help provide a varied diet.
Throughout this time, position yourself as a partner in helping your loved one navigate their depression. Ask what would be helpful and offer a few options that you’d be willing to do. Support them in making decisions to help build their confidence and motivation.
When meal tips are not helping
If appetite continues to be an issue and these meal tips are not helping, consider reaching out to a mental health professional or registered dietitian for additional support and guidance. You and your loved one are not alone in managing depression and its impact on appetite and nutrition.