Search Ask the Dietitian



Mental Health Issues


  1. Where can I find a dietitian who works in mental health? Answer
  2. I am quick to anger. I am always tense about something. I have heard that a good diet and exercise program could improve this. Is this true? Answer
  3. I've been depressed since my husband left me. I just can't seem to eat. Answer
  4. My sister is opening a board and care for Alzheimer patients. She has asked me to put together a menu and cookbook to be used in the home. Answer
  5. I am currently taking Nardil for depression. I understand that I can't eat any aged foods. Answer
  6. I am working with the mental health specialist. She has asked me to research foods that can affect your mood. Answer
  7. I'm desparate. I think of suicide all the time. I need an efficient and fast food diet. Answer
  8. I am researching to find out if there is any correlation between prenatal nutrition and mental illness. Answer


Where can I find a dietitian who works in mental health?

The Behavioral Health Nutrition dietetic practice group of the American Dietetic Association specializes in working with mental health patients. Some medications can cause weight gain or weight loss or interactions with specific foods. You can find a dietitian at the American Dietetic Association. Include your zip code or city / state and the type of service you want (individual consultation).


I am a 21 year old college student. I find that I am quick to anger, I am always tense about something. It is almost impossible for me to relax and have a good time. I am always yelling at my boyfriend and sometimes I just feel so incredibly sad. I have always heard that a good diet and exercise program could improve this type of situation. Is this true? Could a healthier lifestyle really make me a happier person overall? Currently I am a fast-food junkie with almost no exercise. Could it make enough of a difference that I would notice?

Yelling at someone is abusive and you need to stop. If your boyfriend wants a healthy relationship, he will probably not stick around if you keep yelling. I would also suggest you contact your student health services and make an appointment to talk to a psychologist to get at the cause of your anger, tension and sadness. It usually is not a surface issue like a difference of opinions, but rather some deep emotion that you need help expressing. Anger can tell you that someone crossed your boundaries. A good book about women's anger is "Dance of Anger" which you can see in the right column on this page. See if your college library has a copy.

Meals based on the Food Guide Pyramid and 30 minutes of exercise 5 times per week is good for everyone, but food or lack of exercise is probably not the cause of your anger. You need to find out what is making you angry.

FYI, fast foods are mostly high fat, salty, sweet foods, but you can make healthy fast food choices like broiled chicken breast sandwiches, salad, fruit cups with yogurt and reduced fat milk. While you are at student health services, ask to talk to a dietitian about what you eat and how you would like to change your food choices.


I have been really depressed lately since my husband left me. I just can't seem to eat. I have been loosing weight. I was wondering what I could eat or especially drink that would have a lot of calories for me to gain weight. I have a hard time eating so drinking things is easier. I have been taking vitamins. Hopefully this will get better over time. I just don't want to loose any more weight. If you can e-mail me back, I would really appreciate it.

To gain weight, you can eat more of the foods you are eating and eating more frequently. Adding margarine, oil or salad dressing to foods will increase calories. You could drink an instant breakfast drink (Instant Breakfast) or a ready to drink canned meal replacement like Ensure or Sustacal between meals.

More importantly, I would recommend that you contact a therapist to discuss how you feel about the loss you have suffered. Some people when depressed don't eat. Not unusual, but needs to be dealt with before it goes on too long. Also, reach out to your support network of friends and family. Talk about what's going on, eat meals with them and you will find meaning in life again. Find a reason to get out of your home every day.


My sister is opening a board and care for Alzheimer patients. She has asked me to put together a menu and cookbook to be used in the home (six residents). I thought that there must already be something out there. Can you give any advice and / or suggest titles of existing cookbooks?

Don't know of any cookbooks specifically designed for Alzheimer patients. Would highly recommend your sister contact a Registered Dietitian in her city as most states have license requirements regarding the nutritional adequacy of menus served residents. Further there is documentation that needs to be kept to ensure residents are served balanced meals. It is a little more complicated than just serving home cooked meals.

Look in your local yellow pages under "dietitian". You can find a dietitian at the American Dietetic Association. Include your zip code or city / state, the type of service you want (individual consultation) and expertise. Contact your state dietetic association for assistance in finding a dietitian familiar with planning meals in board and care facilities.


I'm currently taking Nardil for depression. I understand that I can't eat any aged foods. The question I have is about the "real processed cheese food" available. I realize that this isn't real cheese, so I was wondering if this would be ok to eat. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated as the doctor and pharmacist were unable to come up with the answer.

You can't eat real processed cheese food (cheese spread or cheese food) because it contains some colby and cheddar cheese along with additional milk fat. Cheese food is not a real cheese because it doesn't contain enough milk to be labeled real cheese, but none the less contains some aged cheeses.

A key to understanding why you can't have any aged foods begins with understanding why your food choices are restricted when you are taking Nardil. This drug is a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibiting (MAOI) drug. MAOs are enzymes in the intestinal lining (mucosa) and in the liver that detoxify certain amines. If these 'pressor' amines (tyramine, dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine) are not detoxified, they can be harmful to one's health.

Therefore a person taking an MAOI, like yourself, becomes vulnerable to any foods, drinks or other drugs which naturally contain these 'pressor' amines. When you eat a food containing these substances, the toxic levels amines are then not detoxified, causing your blood vessels to constrict (vasoconstriction), which can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) problems.

The following table should help you make wise food choices in the future. This diet should begin when the drug is begun and continue for at least two weeks after the drug is stopped.

    Foods to Avoid:
  • beer, red wines
  • cheese: aged and processed except cottage, ricotta cream or pot cheese
  • smoked or pickeled fish
  • liver or aged meat
  • sausage, dry, pepperoni, summer or hard salami
  • yogurt or sour cream close to expiration date
  • Chinese pea pods, Italian green beans, fava beans
  • ALL over-ripe fruits, avocado in large amounts
  • soups made with meat extracts
  • Brewer's yeast
  • soy sauce in large amounts


I hope this is helpful to you.


I am a student dietitian from the UK and I am working with the mental health specialist. She has asked me to research on foods that can affect your mood. So far I have had little success and am writing to ask if you know more about this area of dietetics. I would be very grateful if you could contact me with any information you have or possible contacts to try.

Here are a few of the nutrients that affect mood. Carbohydrates (starch, fruit, milk and desserts) have a major effect on endorphins in the brain. Caffeine (coffee, tea, cola beverages and chocolate) also affects the brain in keeping it awake. Caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours so the stay awake effects last 10 hours. Alcohol (spirits, liquor, wine, beer, liqueur) is a depressant. Tryptophan (turkey and other poultry foods), an amino acid, induces sleep.


I'm desperate I think of suicide all of the time. I need an efficient and fast food diet.

I would suggest that you immediately contact your local counseling (psychologist) office. If one is not available today, please talk to a family member or friend that you trust. Stay with someone rather than staying alone.

Diet (what you eat) is not a symptom of depression. Though when people are depressed, they may not eat or over eat. Carbohydrates (desserts, sweets and breads) will increase "feel good me" chemicals (endorphins) in the brain, but are not a fix for depression.

There are not a lot of "healthy" food choices at fast food restaurants. Most people go to fast food places to get burgers and fries.

If on the other hand, you mean an efficient, quickly cooked menu, I would suggest you contact a Registered Dietitian where you live who can plan a healthy eating plan that includes the foods you like. Call your local out-patient clinic or hospital and ask to talk to a dietitian.


I am a Social Service Worker student. I am researching to find out if there is any correlation between prenatal nutrition and mental illnesses (especially schizophrenia) or malnutrition and the later development or treatments of major mental illnesses. So far, I have been able to find only two references, which even remotely address the subject. If you could direct me to any other sources, I would be most grateful. Thank you for your time.

Have not seen anything on the relationship of prenatal nutrition or malnutrition and later development of mental illness. Usual correlation is malnutrition during pregnancy or early life affect IQ and height potential.

Would suggest a MedLine (medical research) search for pregnancy and mental illness at your school library. Or you could search the December issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, which indexes all articles, published during the current year. This journal should be available in the libraries of universities that have dietetics programs. Another resource would be the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. There is a practice group of the American Dietetic Association that addresses Developmental and Psychiatric Disorders.. Call ADA at 312-899-0040 on who to contact within that practice group.






Search Ask the Dietitian