This month sees World Mental Health Day take place on October 10th. It’s been refreshing to see the rise in public conversations about mental health thanks to the tireless work of charities like MIND and high-profile figures such as Prince Harry speaking out about it.

Statistics reveal that one in six adults in the UK will experience a Common Mental Disorder (CMD) such as depression or anxiety in any given week. These issues affect women more than men, with one in eight men being affected compared to one in five women.

Healthy eating can be difficult when you are experiencing depression and anxiety. Exhaustion and lack of motivation are common symptoms, and making any sort of change can feel overwhelming.

A gentle way to break this pattern is to focus on one small change at a time. Let go of the idea that every meal needs to be perfect, and focus instead on making small achievable changes.

You might start with breakfast, for example. Depression and anxiety can be accompanied by nausea, particularly first thing in the morning, making breakfast seem unappetising. Yet this nausea can be worsened by not eating. Rather than a large bowl of cereal, try a small pot of yoghurt with a few nuts and berries, or a piece of wholemeal toast with nut butter and fruit spread. Homemade smoothies are also helpful: combine protein from ground nuts and seeds with a spoonful of oats, a banana, and some milk.

Simple lunches include soup and oatcakes, leftovers from the evening meal, or baked potato with tuna or beans and salad.

Aim to include a couple of servings of dark green vegetables each day as these provide magnesium and B-vitamins that support the balance of mood chemicals in the brain and energy levels. Try a green vegetable soup at lunchtime, or include veggies like broccoli, peas, spinach, kale or rocket with your evening meal.

The omega-3 fats in oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, trout and pilchards are crucial for mental health. Tinned versions are great and considerably cheaper than fresh if cost is an issue. Vegetarians and vegans need to include plant based oils like flax, pumpkin seed, hemp, and walnut, every day to safeguard their intake of omega-3 fats.

Sally Duffin is a Registered Nutritionist (MBANT). Find her online at or join the Facebook group ‘Nutrition in York’