Nutrition Tips for Addiction Recovery and Relapse Prevention
The Foods You Eat Can Help Prevent Relapse!
Nutrition plays a vital role when someone enters recovery. Why? Because the eating habits you form early on in addiction recovery are the foundation for a balanced diet that can help reduce the chance of relapse. In fact, providing the body with proper nutrition is important in building neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. It’s also important to provide the body with the optimal amount of energy it requires.
So, what should you eat in addiction recovery? Here, we outline what your diet SHOULD and SHOULD NOT consist of, and we also suggest what a healthy and recommended day of meals and snacks may look like. Then, we invite you to send us any questions that you may have at the bottom of the page.
A Recovering Addict’s Palate
Prolonged use of drugs or alcohol can cause a person’s palate and taste buds to change. Foods that you used to enjoy may no longer taste like the delicious foods you remember. So, if you grew up eating the occasional salad or vegetable, your tastes may have changed…chemically!
Seeking instant gratification, many people in early recovery often choose to eat greasy fast foods and other processed foods instead of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. These processed foods have addictive qualities, not to mention they are loaded with fats and extra sugar, which can:
- Interfere with decision-making.
- Increase cravings for drugs and alcohol.
Transitioning A Diet During Recovery
The early stages of addiction treatment bring significant lifestyle adjustments. So, over the course of the recovery process, it may seem like your life has been completely overhauled. After making so much internal progress, the last thing you probably want to change is your comfort food. Where else can you get your comfort?
CONSIDER THIS: While changing your diet may seem like a feat you are not ready to conquer, it is one of the most important contributors to long-term sobriety.
Using substances that are damaging to your body can weaken the immune system and do even more internal damage than what is visible from your outward appearance. While you may feel better compared to how you felt while you were using, a healthy, whole foods diet can improve your wellbeing tenfold.
What Should A Recovering Addict’s Diet Look Like?
Someone in recovery should eat whole, organic foods. These foods nourish the body so it can perform to its fullest potential.
Taking vitamins and supplements is a great way to increase the intake of the nutrients your body needs. However, it’s important to know that supplements alone cannot provide the body with everything it requires to recover from nutritional deficiency. They are important, but do not work the same way whole foods do. For instance, fibers from fruit and leafy greens work more effectively within the body than simply taking a fiber supplement.
Suggestions for Main Changes to Your Diet
So, what exactly does this new healthy diet look like? Just like anyone starting a new diet, it takes time to get accustomed to a new routine. Don’t worry. It will become second nature before you know it. The main diet change will be eating approximately every three hours. Providing a continuous source of energy will sustain the body and keep the metabolism going.
We have all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true. Breakfast jumpstarts our metabolism, providing energy for the body. Try mixing up a fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt or almond milk. The real sugar from the fruit breaks down naturally in your body for a sustained source of energy. The Greek yogurt contains protein as well as probiotics, which are believed to promote digestive health. And a healthy functioning colon boosts the immune system and fights food-borne illnesses.
For a morning snack, go for whole-grain foods like oatmeal or whole-grain toast. Top it off with almond butter and add a hard-boiled egg on the side for protein to keep you full throughout the morning.
For lunch, make sure to include protein-rich foods that will sustain your energy levels. Proteins like chicken, beef, and fish are good sources of amino acids, which function as food for the brain and creates bridges to the brain’s pleasure centers.
Along with the protein, include a large plate of mixed veggies. Try making a salad, or steaming some kale with carrots and snap peas. If veggies are not your go-to, substitute them for lentils. They are rich in dietary fiber, and contain a variety of vitamins.
Reach for some vegetables and hummus as a mid-day snack. Hummus is a great source of healthy, unsaturated fat. It contains omega-3’s and also improves cholesterol. Avocados are another great snack option providing omega-3 fatty acids. Other alternatives include eating an apple with almond butter, or trying rice cakes with cottage cheese.
For dinner, it’s important to include foods from each food group. For grains, opt for a whole-grain brown rice, and top that with a protein of your choice. Add a side of steamed or sautéed vegetables, and for additional fiber, make a side salad topped with dried fruit or nuts. Remember to incorporate plenty of protein into your dinner routine, as amino acids help improve your brain’s ability to make neurotransmitters that fight depression and anxiety.
Foods to Avoid in Addiction Recovery
While transitioning into this new diet’s plan, it’s important to avoid:
- Foods that contain high amounts of fat, like fried foods. Instead, opt for foods with natural fats and oils like avocado, nuts, or seeds.
- Foods that contain high amounts of sugar like sweetened beverages. Staying away from sugar as much as possible will make this transition easier. Instead, drink water.
- Foods that contain high amounts of sodium, like canned foods and chips. Instead, bake your favorite vegetables in some olive oil.
- Processed foods because of their addictive qualities and poor nutritional value. Instead, choose a variety of unprocessed, raw foods or whole grain breads.
Nutritional Questions RE: Addiction Treatment?
Do you have more questions about diet and nutrition in addiction recovery? We’d love to hear them! Please send us your questions via the comments section at the bottom of the page and we’ll do our best to provide personal and prompt response to all legitimate inquiries.