Eating for your mental health doesn’t have to be complicated. These low-prep recipes are for the days when making a meal feels like too much.

Depression can turn anything and everything into a chore — even eating.

When it zaps your energy and desire to cook, it can be tempting to swing through a drive-through, make a meal out of candy, or just skip eating altogether.

Instead, you can try these flavor-rich meals and snacks that may even have the added benefit of boosting your mood.

For some people, grocery shopping can feel overwhelming — and if depression is affecting your motivation, even more so. But having some healthy essentials on hand may help you feel better.

By creating a simple list of grocery essentials, shopping can be a little easier, whether it’s done online or in the store.


According to 2015 research in animals, extra virgin olive oil may help preserve brain function and prevent cognitive decline. Virgin coconut oil is not only rich in antioxidants, but a 2014 study on animals found that it may lower stress, too.

Sugars and sweeteners

Research suggests there’s a link between added or artificial sugar and depression.

You may want to keep these substitutes on hand for when a recipe calls for sugar:

Fruits and veggies

A balanced diet can involve fresh, frozen, and dried fruits and veggies. And when you don’t have the energy or motivation, buying them precut can make life a little easier.

Some good choices include:

  • carrot sticks or baby carrots
  • fresh or frozen spinach or kale
  • sweet potatoes
  • fresh, frozen, dried, or freeze-dried:
    • bananas
    • grapes
    • apples
    • clementines
  • kiwi
  • cauliflower
  • fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried:
    • broccoli
    • snap peas


You can look for whole grain bread and pasta, or convenient microwaveable grains, including:

  • rolled oats
  • brown rice
  • quinoa


When you need a midday pick-me-up, consider one of these snacks:

  • dry roasted nuts
  • low fat string cheese
  • air popped popcorn
  • whole grain crackers
  • whole grain cereal

Flavor boosters

Healthy does not have to equal bland. You can boost the flavor of your foods with many things, such as:

  • dried spices, like Tajín
  • grated Parmesan cheese for topping pasta, veggies, and popcorn
  • hot sauce or sriracha (in moderation!)
  • vinegars for sprucing up salads and sauces, like:
    • balsamic vinegar
    • red wine vinegar
    • apple cider vinegar
  • broth, to add extra flavor to pasta, rice, or veggies
  • lemons, to squeeze onto almost any meat or veggie for added flavor and brightness

With your essentials stocked, you can check out the recipes below and add any other ingredients for recipes you want to make.

Fatigue and low energy are common symptoms of depression. By eating energy-boosting foods, you can gain energy while avoiding any negative side effects that might come with too much caffeine.

Research in 2020 suggests eating foods rich in B vitamins, iron, and magnesium can help with fatigue.

An easy egg (or egg alternative) with a dark, leafy green like these scrambled eggs with spinach and feta can give you a healthy dose of those fatigue-fighting nutrients.

Find the recipe here.

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Some foods — like chocolate! — can support a more balanced mood. Chocolate has tons of antioxidants like flavonoids that interact with the brain, potentially boosting mood and perception.

Adding dark chocolate to dishes like peanut butter oats can act as a tasty pick-me-up. The protein, healthy fats, and whole grains provide a trifecta for energy and comfort.

Find the recipe here.

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Not a chocolate lover? Other foods like sweet potatoes also have B vitamins (to help produce serotonin) and magnesium (which may help lower anxiety levels).

You can make a delicious, fluffy sweet potato in minutes with an Instant Pot. Find the recipe here.

No Instant Pot? No problem. You can throw one in the oven instead for a baked sweet potato. Find the recipe here.

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Omega-3 fatty acids can be particularly helpful for people looking to find relief from brain fog or sharpen their concentration. Foods that contain lots of these fatty acids include:

  • salmon and other fatty fish
  • avocados
  • walnuts

You can try this walnut-crusted salmon to fuel yourself with lots of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids.

Find the recipe here.

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Not a fan of fish or nuts? Chia seeds and flax seeds also have omega-3s. You can add them to oatmeal, yogurt, cookies, and salads.

When depression messes with your sleep, eating foods rich in certain ingredients that promote better sleep could help your rest.

A small study in 2018 found that adults who consumed tart cherry juice for 2 weeks slept 84 minutes longer and more efficiently than when they drank a placebo juice.

When you blend a smoothie with dairy and antioxidant-rich berries, you may be on your way to better sleep — though more research needs to be done to fully understand the why and how.

Adding tart cherry juice to a smoothie is an easy way to take advantage of this sleep booster.

Find the recipe here.

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Want something a little heartier than a smoothie?

Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which 2014 research suggests can help the production of melatonin, a hormone that plays a role in the sleep cycle.

A simple ground turkey taco is super quick to make in a single pan. You might want to go easy on spicy or high-fat add ons to get the most benefits.

Find the recipe here.

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A 2020 research review suggests that upping your intake to at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day can:

  • have a soothing effect on your mood
  • promote higher levels of optimism
  • reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms

Recipes that combine fruit and veggies like a salad may prove easiest. Throwing in some cheese or protein can help round it out even more.

This strawberry caprese salad is one example.

Find the recipe here.

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While some people with depression find it a challenge to eat anything, depression makes others overeat, often craving sweets and snacks.

You can satisfy your sweet tooth and enjoy some creativity by customizing your own trail mix. One option is a simple dark chocolate cherry trail mix loaded with nuts.

Find the recipe here.

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When you’re living with depression, it can be tempting to skip meals or settle for foods that don’t nourish you. But eating well can help you take care of yourself and your condition — in the short and long run.

If you’re looking for more ways to boost your energy, you can learn more here.