for better mental health

Food and mood

Explores the relationship between what you eat and how you feel, including tips on how to incorporate healthy eating into your life.

How can I eat more healthily?

Eating a healthy diet can do a lot to improve your mood and sense of wellbeing. Use these tips to start making positive changes in the way you eat.

Take small steps

Making changes can be really tough – especially if you’re feeling low. It might help to start by making small changes rather than changing your whole diet suddenly.

You might not feel better right away, and there might be times where you feel frustrated. But try to keep going! Even making very small changes can make a difference in the long term.

Plan ahead

Finding the time to eat well can often be really difficult. If you have times when you’re feeling well and enjoying preparing food, try making some extra meals to store. You could make enough to last for several days, and freeze them in portions to use at times when you can’t face cooking.

Share meals and cooking

Preparing your own food might feel daunting, but cooking with others can be a lot of fun. Ask your family, friends, colleagues, or other social groups to join in – they might be very happy to plan, cook and eat a meal together with you.

Keep a food diary

Write down what you eat and make notes about how you’re feeling. Over time you might work out how particular foods:

  • make you feel worse, or better
  • keep you awake or help you
  • sleep.

Plus it can be reassuring to track improvements in your wellbeing.

Take care of yourself

We can often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to eat a healthy diet, but it’s also important to enjoy the food you eat and not be too hard on yourself.

Remember that other factors can help improve your mental health as well, such as:

  • getting physically active (especially outdoors to boost your vitamin D levels)
  • getting enough sleep
  • maintaining good relationships
  • limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.

For more information, see our tips on how to improve your mental wellbeing.

Get professional support

Sometimes the best way to improve your diet is with the help of a health professional.

  • Dietitians can help you work on specific problems.
  • Nutritional therapists can help you improve your overall health.
  • Nutritionists can help you explore how food and nutrition affect your health and wellbeing.

You could ask your NHS doctor to refer you. Alternatively you can find private practitioners at the Freelance Dietitians website, the Association for Nutrition website or the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) website.

If you go privately it is important that you ask any professional you see about their qualifications and experience. Going privately also means that you will usually have to pay a fee.

Manage food intolerances

Intolerances to particular foods (such as wheat, dairy or yeast) can cause lots of unpleasant feelings, both physical and mental. If you’re concerned about this, ask a health professional to help you investigate your tolerances safely. See NHS Choices for more information about food intolerances.

Eating problems

Food plays an important part in our lives. Most of us will spend time thinking about what we eat, and change our habits now and again. But if your thoughts about what and when you eat feel like they’re taking over your life, it can become a problem.

Eating problems aren’t just about food – they can be about difficult experiences and painful feelings which you may be finding hard to face or resolve. If you’re finding your relationship with food is becoming difficult, it is ok to seek help.

(See our pages on eating problems for more information, including tips on how to cope and ideas about recovery.)

This information was published in December 2017. We will revise it in 2020.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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