It's OK Not to Be Excited About Food All the Time
How to feed yourself when you're not in the mood to eat — or when you're not craving any food in particular.
Have you been feeling a sense of indifference about food lately? Like you know you have to eat, and maybe you’re hungry, but you’re not necessarily feeling excited about your next meal? For many of us, the excitement of cooking elaborate quarantine meals has been quickly replaced with kitchen burnout. Add to that the stress of living through a pandemic, and it makes total sense why you may be feeling super unmotivated about food. It can be exhausting to think about feeding yourself consistently throughout the day.
Ultimately, food is necessary for survival and is especially important during times of stress. I recommend eating a minimum of three meals per day, and if you prefer to break that up into smaller meals or want to throw in some snacks, that works too! The goal is to nourish your body with enough energy and nutrients so that it can function properly. Meals don’t have to be a thrilling experience every single time and eating can simply be the way that you obtain energy to keep your body functioning throughout the day. I know this sounds really dry and uneventful but it’s important to have honest dialogue about the times when we’re not feeling psyched about food. Stress, anxiety and depression can also have a significant impact on our appetite and you may find yourself not wanting to eat at all. Here are some tips that may be helpful if you’re struggling with low appetite and/or just can't figure out what you're in the mood for.
Plan complete meals with at least three food groups.
A can of tuna or fruit blended with water just doesn’t cut it. In order to get adequate nourishment and also feel satisfaction that can carry you on to the next meal, it’s important to plan meals with protein, carbohydrates and fat. Since motivation is low and inspiration may be lacking, keep things simple! Here are some ideas:
All of these meals come together in minutes, require minimal prep and provide a range of nutrients! Snacks like fruit, nuts and nut butters on toast are quick, simple options for when you’re feeling hungry in-between meals.
Go for foods that are easy to digest.
If you’re struggling with eating, go for foods that are gentle on the stomach and require minimal digestion. Tender cuts of meat in a brothy noodle soup or a warm bowl of oatmeal are great, comforting options. Soups and broths are also incredibly comforting and there are ways to boost their nutritional profile to meet your energy needs. Blending lentils, chickpeas and other legumes into a thick puree adds a hearty dose of protein and is gentle on the stomach. Similarly, making smoothies out of your favorite fruits and/or vegetables and adding milk, yogurt or protein powder helps to make for a more complete drinkable meal.
Get help with meals.
You don’t need to make all your meals, even if they’re really simple. If you live with loved ones, be honest about how you’re feeling and ask for support in the kitchen. If that’s not an option or you live alone, consider canned, frozen, or packaged meals. There’s no shame in making sure your basic needs are met, and it’s unrealistic to prepare meals from scratch regularly when you’re not in that headspace. Aim for meals that have some combination of protein, carbohydrate and fat so you’re sustained for a few hours!
As a registered dietitian/nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator, Wendy Lopez, MS, RDN, CDCES is passionate about accessible and culturally relevant nutrition education. She is the co-host of the Food Heaven Podcast, and the co-founder of Food Heaven, an online platform that provides resources on cooking, intuitive eating, wellness and inclusion. When not working on creative projects, Wendy also provides nutritional counseling and medication management to patients with diabetes.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.