Eating well when you are experiencing anxiety

Updated: Mar 31

There are quite a few factors that might make it challenging to eat well when you are experiencing anxiety, including lack of motivation, loss of appetite, having irregular meals, feeling isolated and the use of comfort eating as a coping mechanism. However, it is also at this time that eating the right foods is extremely important, as the nutrients that you receive will go a long way towards supporting a more stable mood and keeping your energy levels up.

Perhaps the greatest challenges to eating well when experiencing anxiety is a lack of motivation/energy and indecision. Often just the thought of deciding what to eat can feel overwhelming during this time. Keeping meals and snacks simple can help enormously. Easy meals are still healthier than takeaway or skipping meals and may include:

  • omelette or scrambled eggs on wholegrain toast,

  • tinned salmon and salad vegetables,

  • low salt vegetable-based soups,

  • meat and three veg,

  • plain frozen fish fillet with salad vegetables

Even muesli with milk and a piece of fruit, or nut butter on wholegrain toast with a glass of milk and some fruit could be considered dinner, as these meals will stabilise blood glucose levels and help you to avoid overly processed foods.

Some easy snacks include:

  • Fruit and crunchy vegetables

  • Plain yogurt

  • Glass of milk or a smoothie

  • Wholegrain crackers with nut butter or vegemite

  • Nuts, seeds and trail mix

When you are feeling particularly anxious, getting groceries home delivered is helpful if you are unable to regularly get to the shops. If you have family or friends available, enlisting their help with food preparation can also be beneficial. Another thing to keep in mind is to try to limit caffeine if you are experiencing anxiety symptoms, as it may make associated physical sensations worse.

If you do make some food choices that are lacking in nutrients, don’t worry about it and just try to make the next choice a healthier one. When you feeling less anxious and have more energy, prepare some of your favourite dishes, which you can then freeze in small portions.

Poor appetite is fairly common when experiencing anxiety and it can be managed by eating smaller, regular meals perhaps every 2-3 hours. If there is a time of day that your appetite is improved, plan to eat well at this time. Additionally, plan to eat meals with others as part of a social occasion if possible.

*Please note, these are suggestions only. Consider discussing with your health care provider to assess if these are right for you.

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