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10 Tips for eating when eating feels hard (depression, fatigue, and loss of appetite)

Updated: Jun 5

woman staring at ocean, depressed, tips for eating when depressed and no appetite

Simple strategies for eating when you're depressed, tired or have no appetite

Cooking and eating can be tough on a good day, but when you're exhausted and have zero appetite, it can feel almost impossible. Meal prep and grocery shopping? Forget about it. Everything seems unappealing, and all you want to do is sleep.

From my own experience and working with clients, I've found that these are some common reasons why you might be feeling this way:

  • Depression

  • Chronic illness

  • Side effects from medication (ADHD meds are especially known for this)

Whatever the cause, one thing is clear: your body still needs food, even if you don't feel like eating.

The goal is to find easy-ish ways to get food in your body. We're not shooting for fancy or eating the rainbow or gourmet meals. We're shooting for something to get the job done.

So, I've put together 10 tips that have helped me and my clients make eating a little easier when it's the last thing we want to do. These tips are all about making it as easy as possible to get some nourishment, even when it feels really hard.


1. Take out

Food truck,  helpful tips for eating when depressed and no appetite

Getting take out from a restaurant, getting fast food, or using a delivery service like Seamless, Grubhub, Uber Eats, etc. are all convenient ways to consume food when you don't have the energy to cook for yourself.

Many of my clients have food rules around dining out or getting take out because it's been drilled into their heads that cooking food at home is healthier than dining out.

That's a huge globalization. You can get takeout from a variety of places with a variety of nutrients.

When you're struggling to eat at all, the last thing you need is the pressure to eat the "right" things.

You need FOOD. You don't need a perfectly balanced meal every time you eat. You need basic sustenance for your body to keep on chugging.

Any food is better than no food.

So throw out the food rules and allow yourself to take the easy path. If your finances allow, ordering food that's already cooked and ready to eat is my top recommendation for eating when depressed or when sick.


2. Frozen foods & easily prepared foods

If you have zero energy and you don't want to spend your money on take-out & delivery, frozen foods are your best friend. Sometimes all you have the energy to do is turn on the oven.

Freezing foods preserve freshness so it's easy to stock up and not feel pressured to cook them in a certain amount of time.

You can buy freestanding foods like frozen fruits and veggies to mix with other ingredients:

  • Toss some frozen veggies on top of instant rice

  • Cook up some frozen tater tots and load them with canned beans and cheese

Or you can buy an entire meal like frozen pizzas, burritos, lasagna, stir fry, etc.

If you have a Trader Joes nearby, I would highly encourage you to stock up on their frozen entrees. They have some of the most delicious frozen meals I've ever had (the roasted veggie pizza and the palak paneer + frozen naan are two of my favorites!)

In addition to frozen meals, there are shelf-stable meals that are easy to prepare like boxed mac n' cheese and ramen noodles. I'd encourage you to keep these on hand for days when you have minimal energy and don't want to order takeout.


For some extra accountability and step-by-step guidance to following these tips, be sure to download the companion workbook below!


3. Smoothies

If you don't have an appetite, sometimes it's easier to drink your food than chew it. Smoothies are a great bang for your buck in the sense that you can get a lot of nutrients and create something really filling with minimal effort, easy cleanup, and it's relatively easy to get down.

🥤Consider using a straw to drink your smoothie! This has been a lifesaver for me because I can put the straw in my mouth and "eat" while doing other activities like watching tv, going for a walk, or listening to music.

👉This is a great example of how distractions can be really useful and beneficial to help you do something (eat) that doesn't sound appealing to you at the moment.

girl drinking smoothie as helpful tip for eating when depressed


4. Meal delivery services & online grocery shopping

When it comes to eating with depression or chronic fatigue, easy is key. The fewer barriers the better.

Grocery shopping and deciding what to eat can take a lot of energy. Getting meals or groceries delivered to your doorstep eliminates decision fatigue and minimizes your grocery shopping time.

Getting a few meals delivered every week could be a great way to supplement all the other tips I have here. If you're eating take-out, frozen food, and lots of snacks, perhaps you can try cooking a meal once or twice a week with the help of a meal delivery service.

This helps if you're craving home-cooked food, but don't have a ton of energy to browse recipes and go grocery shopping.

menu and groceries, meal delivery services as tip for eating when depressed

Meal delivery services come in all shapes and sizes - sometimes the ingredients arrive fully prepped, sometimes all you have to do is pop the meal in the oven or microwave. They also range in complexity and price.

Misfits Market is my favorite grocery delivery service. They ship groceries that are not going to be used by farms and grocery stores to eliminate food waste. This is how I get all of my produce, pantry items, and meat! Using the link above will get us both a discount! I get a Misfits box delivered every Wednesday and it seriously saves me so much time and money.

Getting groceries delivered via Misfits or another grocery service can be helpful if the idea of grocery shopping feels overwhelming and you don't have the energy to face all the steps involved.


5. Cook in bulk & eat leftovers

frozen food as tip for eating when depressed

👉If you can put a bunch of ingredients into a pan or pot and make a big batch of something that tastes somewhat edible, do it.

Casseroles, soups, a big pan of enchiladas... those are just a few of my favorites!

Cook in bulk. Double or triple your recipe. You can eat on it all week long or you can freeze the leftovers and save them for a future week.

Leftovers are a godsend when you have no energy or appetite. In fact, when I remember that I have leftovers I can eat, it feels like Christmas. Those are the best days.


6. If there’s a day or time you have more energy, use it to prepare future meals for your future self.

This is similar to the previous tip, but this has more to do with using and honoring your energy, not about the quantity of food you're making.

If there's a time of day where you notice you have more energy than usual, this is a good time to do a little meal prep for your future self.

For instance, I will sometimes have trouble going to sleep at night or have a burst of energy around 10 pm. But mornings are hard for me. I don't enjoy cooking in the mornings.

So if I wanted to take care of my future self, I could use my nighttime energy to prepare a smoothie for the morning, make a batch of overnight oats, or make some chia pudding for myself.

Those would each take about 10 minutes to make and would set me up for a nutrient-dense start to my day even though I would be waking up with very little energy or motivation to eat and prepare food.

Future self: "Thank you."

Current self: "I got your back."

👆 That's how I imagine the conversation would go. 😉


7. Find flavors or sauces that you enjoy and load up

plate of sauces used to make food more appetizing when eating with no appetite or depressed

Fatigue is a huge reason eating can feel hard, but another biggie is loss of appetite.

👉If food doesn't taste good, your motivation to cook a meal might be nonexistent.

I encourage you to consider if there are any flavors or spices that make food more appealing (salty, sweet, spicy, etc).

If so, add those flavors and spices to everythingggg.

For me, even with no appetite, salty food is relatively edible so I add things like soy sauce, cheese, and olives to different meals to make them taste a little better.

Experiment with adding ranch dressing, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, soy sauce, or ketchup to any and all food and see if it's any easier to get down!

The goal is to get food in your belly. Try playing around with flavors to see if there's any way to make your food more enjoyable!


8. Snacks are your best friend

If preparing a whole "meal" feels daunting, try eating single foods one at a time (a piece of fruit, a cheese stick, crackers, a granola bar, a bowl of ice cream, etc).

Maybe you eat an apple on the go. And then have a granola bar an hour later. Then you eat a couple of hard-boiled eggs an hour later. Then you pull out your carrots and hummus an hour later.

If you're only eating snacks, you'll need to eat more frequently. This might feel challenging depending on your energy level, but choosing one or two foods at a time rather than trying to create a whole meal might feel less daunting.

Experiment with it!

👉Do you find it more challenging to continually motivate yourself to get out of bed for your next snack or do you find it more challenging to try to create a full meal all at once and combine a lot of ingredients together?


For some extra accountability and step-by-step guidance to following these tips, be sure to download the companion workbook below!


9. Eliminate steps

Are there any steps you can cut out in your food prep by buying items that are already cooked or prepared?

Some of my favorite ways to cut corners are:

  • Keep a rotisserie chicken in the fridge so you have cooked meat on hand. This saves you a step when preparing food that would typically require you to cook chicken.

  • Buy produce that is already chopped and washed. Like broccoli florets or fresh-cut melon. You'll save yourself a lot of time and prep work! Here's your permission slip to stop chopping your own veggies when you have minimal energy you're trying to ration out!

  • Canned and frozen produce are also a huge help here! Opening a can of corn is a lotttt easier than shucking and boiling an ear of corn.

  • Buy bagged salad kits rather than buying the individual ingredients.

  • If you're someone who typically makes your own granola or trail mix, here's your permission slip to stop doing that. If you're battling fatigue or low energy of any kind, save yourself the hassle and buy granola and trail mix that has already been prepared for you.

  • Check out the prepared foods section of your grocery store. There might be cooked or marinated veggies and meats that you could keep on hand to toss onto a sandwich or bowl of rice at home for an easy meal.


10. Ask for help

Does all of this still sound hard? I get it. Depression, fatigue, and loss of appetite are NO JOKE and can impact your daily life in ways many people don't understand.

As great as the previous tips are... sometimes getting to the grocery store to buy frozen meals or single-handedly preparing a casserole for the week still feels too hard and overwhelming.

That's why asking for help and having some accountability might be the most important tip of all.

🙏Ask a friend/loved one if they'll do the food prep or shopping for you. If you're struggling with depression or chronic illness, chances are you have people in your life who want to help you.

You could make a direct request like:

"Could you make a casserole or soup for me?"

"Could you pick some items up from the grocery store for me the next time you go?"

If you live with someone: "The next time you cook, could you make enough for me?"

🙏Ask a friend/loved one for some accountability:

If you have trouble remembering to eat or you have no appetite, consider asking:

"Can you send me text messages throughout the day reminding me to eat every few hours?"

"Could you check in with me at the end of the day to see if I followed through on my dinner plan?"

🙏Invite someone over with the intention of cooking or baking together.

Making a "date" of it will increase the chances of it happening and it's also an opportunity for you to socialize with a friend! (This would be a great time to make something in bulk so you have leftovers!)

🙏Reach out to me!

I frequently work with clients who are struggling with low energy or loss of appetite or both. Together, we can come up with a plan and action steps to get food in your belly. Not to toot my own horn, but I think of myself as a very empathetic, encouraging, and supportive accountability buddy/cheerleader. ❤


If you're reading this and you can relate to the struggle of feeding yourself for any reason, please know you're not alone. There are many people, just like you, including myself, who find grocery shopping, cooking, and eating to be challenging. Maybe not always, but at least sometimes.

Anyone who has ever been sick or depressed or absolutely exhausted can vouch for how challenging "basic" tasks and daily living can feel.

I don't know how to magically heal depression, but I do know that skipping meals and neglecting to eat is NOT the answer. So. Let's get some food in your belly, okay?

I'm sending you lots of love and hope that some of these tips help you!


For some extra accountability and step-by-step guidance to following these tips, be sure to download the companion workbook below!



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