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Medication Side-Effects and Nutritional Health - Preventing Weight Gain

Posted in Mental Health

Some medications that aim to improve mental health can have unwanted side-effects. Some of these side effects include weight gain and tiredness. If you are taking medications to improve your mental health,  and you recognise  any of the side-effects listed below, it is important to discuss them with your mental health professional,  GP, or dietitian.  They can help you - the sooner the problem is identified the better.

 Common side-effects of medications

Try these  suggestions to help minimise the impact of these side-effects:

*Coping With Food Cravings

Cravings, especially for sugary foods are a common side-effect of starting on some medications.  These cravings can be difficult to resist and can lead to fast weight gain. The best way to beat cravings is to follow a healthy meal plan.  This means having regular healthy meals throughout the day.  This will help keep you satisfied and prevent you getting hungry, making it easier to resist cravings.

Do not skip meals: If you skip meals,  you are more likely to fill up on sugary or fatty foods.  Aim to have 3 healthy meals each day.

Have a breakfast that is high in fibre and low in sugar: Examples are a bowl of porridge, Branflakes, or sugar free muesli and a glass of unsweetened fruit juice or 2 slices of wholegrain toast with low fat spread and a banana.

Choose foods that are have a low glycaemic index with each meal. These help to keep you feeling fuller for longer and should be included in your healthy meal plan. Examples of low glycaemic index foods are: multigrain or granary bread,  pasta or brown rice, diet yoghurt, low fat milk, apples, oranges, bananas, pears, cabbage, broccoli, peas and beans.

Delay the urge to ‘give in' to a craving by: having a drink of water or a sugar free drink. Distract yourself by talking to someone, phoning a friend, watching TV, reading a book, going for a short walk or doing a puzzle – the urge to eat will pass.

Learn to understand your cravings: Cravings lessen and eventually disappear as time goes on.  Being aware that the craving is caused by a false appetite can help you to resist it.

Choose healthy snacks:

If cravings are strong and you need to eat, choose something healthy from the list below.


Updated by members of the Disability and Mental Health Interest Group, October 2013

Review date: October 2015

© 2013 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a dietitian. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.


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