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At HMHI or Elsewhere, Tips to Help You Make Good Eating Choices

Many patients who come to the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (formerly the University Neuropsychiatric Institute) find that they gain unwanted weight during their hospital stay. Here are some tips created by HMHI dietitians to help you eat well while you are in the hospital.

Eating & Emotions

Patients at HMHI deal with emotional ups and downs during their hospital stay. Many people use eating as a coping mechanism to deal with feelings such as boredom, being tired, or feeling stress. If you find yourself eating for these reasons, here are some other things you can try:

  • Call a friend or family member or talk with a staff member for support.
  • Attend and participate in as many groups as you can.
  • Take a warm shower.
  • Read a book.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Do yoga or stretching in your room.
  • Distract yourself.
  • Don’t deprive yourself. If you don’t allow yourself to eat treats, when you are feeling strong emotions you are more likely to overindulge.


Avoid skipping meals. Make sure that every meal has fiber, protein, and even a little fat—this will help keep you full longer.

  • Drink a glass of water before mealtimes and drink water during your meal.
  • Take reasonable amounts. You are welcome to take as much food as you need, but keep in mind taking extra food encourages eating extra food and also contributes to overall hospital waste.
  • Eat slowly. Put your fork down between bites and enjoy mealtime conversation.
  • Pay attention to your body; if you start feeling full, stop eating.
  • Focus on foods you CAN have and not what you CAN’T (or shouldn’t) have. If you fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains there won’t be much room left for items that may be high in fat or calories.
  • Get plenty of fiber. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are good sources.
  • Cut back on sugars such as juice and soda. If you choose dessert, try to only have one per day.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. We can accommodate a wide range of dietary needs, but sometimes you may need a dietitian’s assistance.

Please let your treatment team know if your needs are not being met so we can provide help.


Snacks can be part of any healthy eating plan, but they can also contribute to unwanted weight gain. Be mindful of what you are selecting and why you are eating.

  • Perform a self-inventory: are you really hungry or are you bored, angry, sad, or tired?
  • You may be thirsty, not hungry. Drink plenty of calorie-free drinks throughout the day (water, tea, and the like).
  • Eat in a designated eating area. Avoid eating while watching TV or in your bedroom.
  • Think about what you are eating for snacks. Are you reaching for a peanut butter sandwich or chips three times a day? Could you replace that with a lower calorie item, such as a piece of fruit or string cheese?
  • Watch your portion sizes—snacks are not the same thing as meals.