Those struggling with serious mental illnesses know how hard it can be to practice good self-care habits. Getting out of bed can feel impossible, let alone eating three nutritious meals a day.
As someone with severe clinical depression, I’ve had days where I haven’t eaten a thing and days where I have spent so much food eating out just so I was eating something. Diet has a major impact on our health and can improve our mental health. I’ve gathered ten of my favorite recipes that have helped me get the nutrition I need when the energy to cook felt so beyond reach.
For me, these recipes are easy, homemade, filling, and delicious.
Golden milk is a warm, frothy drink with an exotic flavor. I love to have it every night before bed. To make golden milk, you’ll just need a mug of warm milk and the following spices to taste:
- Black Pepper
- Sugar, Honey, or another sweetener
Heat the milk up, add the spices, and stir. I normally add a good teaspoon of turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon of the other spices. I’ve got a sweet tooth, so I add a lot of sugar or honey. Turmeric, which gives the milk it’s beautiful golden color, is popular as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
I love organic milk and splurge on it. It’s much healthier and tastes so much better in my opinion. However, you can make this recipe with any kind of milk. Coconut milk is the second most popular for this recipe. If you have more time, boiling all the ingredients together really gives time for the spices to seep into the milk for a richer flavor.
Eggs really are incredible! They’re cheap, filling, and full of protein. Fried eggs are super easy and versatile. Add a bit of oil or butter to a frying pan, pop your egg in and cook how you like it. I like to break the yolk and add garlic salt and pepper.
You can eat the fried egg as is, or you can add an English muffin and avocado for a scrumptious and fast breakfast sandwich.
Rice with Milk & Cinnamon
Have you ever had leftover rice you didn’t know what to do with? Try warming it up with milk and cinnamon. It’s great way to use rice and perfect for breakfast. Make the rice in large batches to eat with other meals and then use the leftover rice when you don’t have the energy to cook.
When living in Santa Fe as a child, I loved sopapillas (or “soapy pillows” as we called them). Sopapillas are a soft fried bread. As a bread, it’s a great base for a lot of quick and easy meals. They are traditionally eaten with honey, but also work great with cheese and lunch meats.
This recipe is the most authentic version I’ve found. It makes quite a bit of dough, so I like to cut the recipe in half or even in fourths for a “single serving” version.
When the going gets tough, make a grilled cheese. As a family, we’d make grilled cheese sandwiches every fast Sunday. My favorite grilled cheese includes mayo spread, sharp cheddar, and lots of garlic butter on the outside. Grilled cheese pairs really well with fresh fruits and vegetables on the side, with apples being my number one winner.
The number one tip I have for a perfect grilled cheese? Take it slow! Keep the burner on low and give the bread time to brown and the cheese to melt. If you rush the process, your bread will turn black and the cheese will still be hard.
Roasty Toasty Princess
Do you have a sweet tooth craving? Try a “roasty toasty princess.” It’s like a grilled cheese, but with peanut butter and jelly instead. A twist on the classic PB&J sandwich, it will melt in your mouth. Try different combinations of your favorite jellies and peanut butters. If you’re feel extra decadent, you can even add luxury spreads like Nutella or Marshmallow Fluff.
It is the most sugary recipe on this list and definitely not high in nutrition, but it will make you smile and get you through the roughest of days.
Lassi (Mango & Rose)
Lassi is a traditional yogurt drink from India. It’s also one of my favorite things to have for breakfast. My version calls for three cups of yogurt, sugar to taste (I normally go for a half a cup or more), and your favorite additives. Mango is by far the most popular. One whole mango will normally do the trick for a three cups of yogurt. Blend it all together in a blender or food processor. A pinch of cardamon will give it an exotic taste.
Rose is another unique and traditional lassi flavor; just buy some rosewater at the grocery store and add a small splash to your yogurt. Be warned! Rosewater is powerful. Start off adding it in small quantities.
I like my lassi thick, so I don’t normally add milk, but you can if you’d like a thinner, more frothy drink.
Stuffed Mini Peppers
I am addicted to sweet mini peppers. They are a bit pricey, but they can go a long way. I normally eat mine fresh with hummus or dip, but eating them stuffed is definitely the most delicious when I have a bit more time and energy. I first had this version of stuffed mini peppers at a camp out where we roasted them over a fire.
Cut off the tops of your peppers and scoop out the seeds on the inside. Mix together cream cheese and shredded cheddar cheese. Stuff the peppers and place them on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Cook in a 350-400 degree oven until nice and roasted. Turn the peppers at least once during the baking process.
You can get creative with your cheese fillings. Ricotta and mozzarella also work great.
For this recipe, you’ll need cabbage, olive oil, and seasonings such as salt and pepper. Cut your cabbage into thick slices, about half and inch to an inch. Mine always fall apart, but try to keep them together as a “steak” slice. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (or your favorite seasonings). Roast in a 400-degree oven for approximately 20 minutes.
Roasted cabbage is normally eaten as a side dish, but I like eating it as is to get my vegetables in when I don’t have a lot of energy.
My mother would make these simple chimichangas for parties. You’ll need shredded chicken, cream cheese, taco seasoning, soft tortillas, and a bit of oil for frying.
Mix some shredded chicken with soft cream cheese and a bit of taco seasoning. We always just did it to taste. Fold a big scoop into a single tortilla and fry lightly in a pan. They’re fast, affordable, and filling. They are also really good reheated, so they’ll get you through a few exhausted days if you make a batch.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.