Eating well and choosing nutrient-rich foods can a play a big role in efficient recovery. Choosing healthy foods over processed foods and junk food can aid in:
- Replacing nutrients lost during active addiction
- Continuing the detox process after addiction
- Improving the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep
- Improving mood
- Increasing immune system and the ability of the body to manage symptoms of chronic and acute illness
All of these benefits together contribute to your ability to lower overall levels of stress, which in turn increase your ability to focus on treatment, actively participate in your own recovery, and avoid relapse for the long term.
Nutrition Tips in Recovery
- Skip fast food and deep fried foods. These foods are high in calories and saturated fats and can make you feel worse within a few hours of eating them.
- Minimize processed foods, sugars and unhealthy fats. No need to avoid these things entirely – it’s not always possible – but try to limit sweets, prepackaged foods, and fatty foods that offer little in the way of nutrition.
- Eat whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, and lean meats – all these are good choices that limit the amount of fillers, preservatives, and other chemicals that may not be the healthiest choices for your body.
- Get vitamins through food, not supplements. Though a multivitamin may be a good idea, attempting to get your nutrients exclusively through supplements is not a great option. Rather, choosing a variety of nutrient-rich foods increases your chances of accessing a range of vitamins in all their different forms and decreases your chances of getting too much – or not enough – of something you need.
Potential Nutrition Pitfalls
Many people feel like they’re starting at square one when it comes to eating healthfully. During addiction, their focus was on nothing but getting and staying high. Comparatively, learning about what is and is not nutritious and how to get enough of the right foods every day – without breaking the bank or spending all one’s time cooking – isn’t easy. Many take an all-or-nothing approach, when moderation and making some simple choices can significantly improve your ability to maintain a diet that keeps them feeling and looking great.
For example, you can:
- Carry healthy snacks with you. It can be easy to grab fast food or eat something unhealthy when you’re hungry and out of time. Beat this by carrying a sandwich, a piece of fruit, or a homemade granola bar with you.
- Meal prep in advance. If you know you’re going to be eating at home for certain meals during the week or will be able to take meals with you, write out a meal plan with recipes in advance, then create a grocery list that includes only what you’ll need to make those items. Stick to your list!
- Cook in advance. It’s not always easy to make your lunch early in the morning before you leave or create a dinner from scratch after a busy day. Make it easy for yourself by taking a day and cooking as much as you can in advance. Portion it into meals you can take with you or heat up individually.
- Find healthy to-go options. Sometimes eating out is unavoidable. In these cases, look for the healthiest options – like a takeout salad bar at a healthy grocery store or the lighter options on the menu.
The Little Things Add Up
Even if you can’t make great nutritional choices all day every day, making little changes when you can and choosing the most nutritious option possible can still provide you with benefits that will enhance your experience in recovery.
It’s important to note that, though nutrition can help to improve recovery, it is not a treatment method on its own. There is no magical diet that will ensure the avoidance of relapse. However, in combination with other traditional and alternative treatment options, good nutrition can help to improve the efficacy of addiction treatment for your long-term health. Call now for more information on rehab that can change your life.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.