National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Healthy Eating

Food doesn't just feed our bodies, it also nourishes our minds. If you are living with mental illness, eating well is especially important for you, because what you eat can affect your daily life, mood and energy level.

A healthy diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk products and should include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.

Take a look at a brief guide on how to keep track of what you eat and how many calories you consume.

Portion Sizes

With the right knowledge you can easily pass on those large portions that may significantly affect your health. Also, take a look at a sample menu to help make more informed decisions.

Choosing the Right Foods

A list of healthful foods and suggested balances of varieties of foods that will help you learn more about healthy eating.

It's also important that you know how to properly read and understand food labels so that you may make informed, healthy decisions.

Make sure that you choose foods that aren't too high in cholesterol or sodium, which can leade to heart disease or high blood pressure.

Eating Well

We all know that eating well take a commitment, these tips on eating well on a tight budget, choosing the right regional and culturally specific foods to eat, adapting your favorite recipes to make them healthier and even how to make healthy choices while dining out.

Sugar Intake

According to research, diets containing high amounts of refined sugar are associated with worsening symptoms of schizophrenia and a higher rate of depression. Current research recommends that you limit your sugar consumption to around 10 percent of total energy (or calorie) intake. Other dietary options such as fish, seafood and starchy roots provide a healthier energy-gaining alternative and are associated with reducing the prevalence of depression. Here is more information about the effects of sugar.

Special Diets and Type 2 Diabetes

A dairy-free and vegan diet contains absolutely no dairy products: no milk, butter, cheese, cream or yogurt. Those following a dairy-free or vegan diet are advised to make sure they get enough calcium, protein and vitamins from other food sources.

If you are a vegetarian or are thinking about embracing a vegetarian diet, you will need to take extra steps to ensure that you're meeting your daily nutritional needs.

Also in this section you can find tips for people living with Type 2 Diabetes.


Healthy Eating Fact Sheet (PDF)

Goal Setting Worksheet (PDF)

Sample Food Journal

Healthy Recipes

Try some healthy favorites submitted by NAMI staff.

Kerry face

Meet Kerry

Healthy eating helps me to have more energy throughout the day and makes me feel better about myself in general.

When I overindulge or eat junk food, it literally weighs me down and makes me want to go to sleep.

I love food, so I adapt healthier versions of my favorite meals and, of course, I treat myself once in a while.

I also eat smaller meals throughout the day to keep from overeating.

At first, it's difficult to go from 3 huge meals to 6 tiny ones, but now I love it.

I can sample a variety of different foods and I'm never hungry because I know my next meal is right around the corner.

Kerry McCullough
Living with Mental Illness