ADDICTION RECOVERY DIET: The Importance of Eating Right on the Road to Recovery

Addiction Recovery Diet

A healthy diet during addiction recovery restores the mind and body.

Long-term drug and alcohol abuse causes significant stress and damage to an addict’s mind and body.  Malnutrition, abscesses, gastrointestinal issues, heart problems, organ and tissue damage, depression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts are just some of the many health issues addicts face.  Proper nutrition can help heal the effects of chronic substance abuse; restoring physical and mental health, and improving a patient’s odds of recovery.

Incorporating a nourishing eating plan in the early stages of addiction treatment and throughout recovery has many benefits:

  • Detoxifies the body;
  • Repairs damaged organ tissue;
  • Strengthens the immune system;
  • Builds physical strength;
  • Restores healthy skin and hair;
  • Increases energy;
  • Improves mood;
  • Encourages better sleep patterns;
  • Enhances memory function;
  • Reduces the threat of relapse due to depression, stress, or fatigue.

Nutritional counseling and education can also help redefine an addict’s relationship with eating and food as they work toward sobriety.  Many patients in recovery have forgotten the sensation of hunger, having confused it for so long with drug and alcohol cravings.  During recovery addicts must relearn: to eat regularly; and which foods make healthy choices.

When designing a dietary plan for recovering addicts, nutritionists recommend the following dietary advice.

Eat Clean – A whole food diet free of refined and processed foods, and rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and protein from fish, poultry and lean meats, will provide the most healing nutrients for a healthy mind and body.

Establish a Routine – For newly sober individuals, getting into the habit of eating at regular times is as important as the quality of the food they’re eating.  Following a routine creates much-needed personal discipline, a skill vital to relapse prevention.

Drink More Water – Water is the most important macronutrient for the human body.  It plays a role in almost every bodily function. Water eliminates toxins from our organs, aids in digestion, improves focus and concentration, and increases energy.  Proper hydration is also essential during detox and addiction withdrawal to quickly and efficiently rid the body of toxic substances, and to combat the common substance abuse symptoms that cause dehydration – vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and malnutrition.  For optimal health and hydration, doctors recommend drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.

Always Carry a Snack – Eating smaller, more frequent meals including regular snacks, helps stabilize blood-sugar levels, reducing cravings.  Healthy snacks like fruit, trail mix, raw veggies, boiled eggs, and cheese strings, can provide energy, improve mood, and alleviate hunger between meals.

Avoid Sugar – Keeping blood sugar levels stable is crucial for addicts in early recovery to prevent relapse.  It’s not uncommon for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction to become addicted to sugar. Sugar is a powerful stimulant similar to cocaine and methamphetamine.  Like these drugs, eating sugary foods causes a surge in the amount of dopamine in the brain, creating a feeling of euphoria.  These spikes are quickly followed by a sugar crash, and the craving for more sugar.  This craving can trigger an addict’s urge for their original fix, comprising their sobriety.

Increase Amino Acids – Amino acids are the building blocks of the protein we eat.  They give our cells structure, help with the transport and storage of nutrients, and play a role in the healthy functioning of our organs, glands, tendons, and arteries. Amino acids are also essential for wound healing and tissue repair, and are critical to the synthetization of neurotransmitters including dopamine, the key neurotransmitter depleted by substance abuse.  Including more protein in a recovery diet and taking amino acid supplements like GABA, can help restore an addict’s normal neurotransmitter function.

Limit Caffeine Consumption – Like sugar, caffeine can spike blood sugar levels and create a sugar crash that can cause  changes to mood and behaviour.  For individuals in early recovery, fluctuations in blood sugar levels can simulate the highs and lows they experienced when using, a reminder that can make addicts susceptible to relapse.

More specific dietary recommendations are also advised based on the individual addiction.  For example, alcoholics are often deficient in B vitamins, which help the body produce energy from food; vitamin D, which regulates calcium absorption; and minerals like thiamine, which is important for healthy neurological functions.  A diet of lean proteins, nutrient-rich vegetables, and low carbs are recommended. Users of stimulants like meth and cocaine, which suppress appetite, can be severely malnourished, dehydrated, and have a serious electrolytes imbalance.  They can benefit from healthy fats and Omega 3’s. Opioid users suffer with gastrointestinal problems, vomiting, and constipation.  A high fiber diet including dark leafy greens will help these issues.

To determine what nutritional approach will benefit you most on your road to recovery, speak with a licensed nutritionist who specializes in addiction nutrition.

 

SAMPLE MEAL PLANS FOR ADDICTION RECOVERY

DAY #1

BREAKFAST

  • A fruit smoothie with frozen berries, a banana, spinach, unsweetened yogurt and almond milk
  • One whole grain English muffin with two tablespoons of peanut butter
  • One cup of black coffee, or herbal tea
  • One glass of water

MID-MORNING SNACK

  • One cheese string
  • One glass of water

LUNCH

  • A bowl of chicken stew with potatoes, peas, carrots, and onions
  • A small arugula salad with red onion, strawberries, walnuts, goat cheese, and herb vinaigrette
  • One glass of water

AFTERNOON SNACK

  • A bran muffin
  • One glass of water, or herbal tea

DINNER

  • Four ounces of baked or grilled salmon, preferably wild
  • One cup of brown rice
  • One cup of steamed broccoli
  • Half cup of cooked carrots
  • One glass of sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime

EVENING SNACK

  • One cup of cherries
  • One glass of water

 

DAY #2

 BREAKFAST

  • One cup of cooked oatmeal with a half cup of 2% milk or almond milk, blueberries, and one tablespoon of chopped almonds
  • Two links of turkey sausage or two strips of turkey bacon
  • One cup of black coffee, or herbal tea
  • One small glass of grapefruit juice

MID-MORNING SNACK

  • A banana
  • One small container of Greek yogurt
  • One glass of water

LUNCH

  • Veggie burger topped with tomatoes and onions, and a whole grain bun.
  • A small serving of baked sweet potato fries
  • One glass of water

AFTERNOON SNACK

  • Carrot Sticks with hummus
  • One glass of water or herbal tea

DINNER

  • Two stuffed red peppers made with brown rice, ground chicken, spinach, and tomato sauce
  • One glass of sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime

EVENING SNACK

  • Four graham crackers
  • One glass of water

 

DAY #3

BREAKFAST

  • A breakfast burrito with three scrambled eggs, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cheese wrapped in a whole grain tortilla
  • One cup of black coffee, or herbal tea
  • One cup of 2% milk or almond milk

MID-MORNING SNACK

  • One cup of grapes
  • One glass of water

LUNCH

  • A bowl of lentil soup
  • Two slices of whole grain toast topped with half an avocado, and a drizzle of olive oil
  • One glass of water

AFTERNOON SNACK

  • Handful of nuts
  • One glass of water or herbal tea

DINNER

  • One cup of whole wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce, four turkey meatballs, and a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese
  • A side garden salad with tomatoes, onions, carrots and cucumbers, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
  • One glass of sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime

EVENING SNACK

  • One cup of frozen yogurt
  • Half cup of raspberries

 

Creating healthy meal plans takes practice.  While these sample menus should give you a great start, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t stick to the exact food items listed.  Incorporate the healthy food choices that fit your recovery needs and tastes.

 

Need addiction treatment?  Call The Farm Rehab, a residential mental health and addiction treatment centre located in Stouffville, Ontario, 45 minutes from Toronto. 1-877-353-2777

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