When you were abusing drugs or alcohol, what did your diet look like? It’s likely that it consisted of late-night fast food, microwavable meals and other fatty foods. It’s common for substance abusers to have unhealthy diets because they spend their money on drugs and alcohol instead of fruits and vegetables. Now that you are sober, you may be wondering, “How should I be eating in recovery?”
It’s worth learning about nutritious eating, as a well-balanced diet fights inflammation, boosts your mood and energy levels and lowers your relapse risk. Below are 10 nutrition tips that will support your recovery today and in the future.
Consult with a nutritionist.
As a person in holistic recovery for addiction, your body may need nutrients that someone else does not. Therefore, it’s helpful to work with a nutritionist who specializes in addiction recovery. For example, it’s common for recovering addicts to be deficient in Vitamin B1, B5, B6, C and E as well as calcium, magnesium and niacin.
Not only can a nutritionist put together a tailored plan for you, but also they can provide you with support and motivation. Healthy eating requires a series of good choices. It may start by avoiding fast foods, adding more fruits and vegetables to your plate and cooking more of your meals. A nutritionist will hold you accountable for your goals and find solutions to your challenges.
Get vitamin B12 injections.
As we explained above, it’s common for addicts to be deficient in many vitamins, particularly the B vitamins. But, this can be a problem. For example, Vitamin B12 is essential for human health and development. The vitamin makes DNA nerve cells and blood cells and is also crucial for metabolism, brain development and the immune system.
Studies show that giving B12 supplements in rehab can help prevent relapse and reverse vitamin deficiencies. The doctors at our outpatient treatment centers in Phoenix recommend B12 shots for most clients. The injections are given through the muscle and treat depression, reduced brain function, osteoporosis, fatigue and age-related macular degeneration. Plus, B12 injections are safe and have no major side effects.
Create a sensible meal plan.
It’s much easier to achieve your nutritional goals when you have a healthy eating plan to follow. Plan out your meals in advance so that you know what you’re eating each day. This helps you stay on track even if you’re caught off guard or have a change in schedule. You can’t turn to fast food every time something comes up, so it’s best to have easy meals and nutritious snacks to fall back on.
Keep a food journal.
A food diary is a helpful tool that provides insight into how you’re eating, the nutrients you’re getting and areas that need improvement. The reason why we like food journals is because it encourages our clients to be mindful of what they’re eating. It’s amazing how easy it is for extra calories to sneak in and put you over your daily calories.
Other benefits to writing down what you eat are:
- Identify triggers to unhealthy eating
- Know if you’re getting enough of each food group
- Practice good portion control
- Pinpoint foods that cause negative effects
- Know where extra calories are coming from
Shop on the outside aisles.
When you start grocery shopping on your own, do your best to stick to the outside aisles. It’s a simple way to help you focus on the right foods and avoid temptation from convenience meals. On the outside aisles, you will find things like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy products and whole grains.
We also recommend trying something new every week or month. You have to try a food at least ten times before your tastebuds can decide if they like it or not. This means that one bite of eggplant is not enough to determine if you really like it. Keep an open mind, try new things and continue trying them until you can decide for sure that you don’t like them.
Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy foods.
When you shop healthy, you bring home healthy foods. It’s harder than it sounds, however, which is why it’s recommended not to shop hungry. This makes you more likely to make impulse decisions to satisfy your cravings. So, before heading out to shop, be sure your belly is full.
Once you bring home your groceries, stock your fridge and pantry with your healthy options. This way, you only have good foods to choose from when you’re hungry. It’s also easier to eat produce when it’s prepared, so peel carrots, chop celery, wash berries, peel mandarins, etc. so they’re ready to eat. Finally, keep unhealthy and overly processed foods out of your home to avoid temptation.
Avoid sugary foods and beverages.
It’s common for recovering alcoholics to develop a new habit: eating sugar. When an alcoholic starts alcohol outpatient treatment in Phoenix, their blood sugar levels drop and lead to sugar cravings. Sweets and desserts are also a way to deal with anxiety, which is common in early treatment.
Unfortunately, sugar is an addictive drug on its own. It may be just as addictive as some street drugs, so we tell our clients to avoid sugar as much as possible. Eating too much sugar can cause dopamine in the brain to rise, starting another unhealthy addiction. Again, making healthy choices when shopping and filling your fridge will help you avoid sugar.
Drink plenty of water.
Water plays a significant role in holistic recovery. It helps with detox because it flushes out toxins using the urinary and digestive systems. Proper hydration also allows the body to digest vital nutrients, repair muscles and heal wounds. The recommended daily intake for men is one gallon a day, and for women it’s three quarts. But, you may need more if you are already dehydrated or in the early days of recovery.
Go no more than 4-5 hours without eating.
We do find that newly recovering addicts often do best eating smaller meals throughout the day. As long as the snacks are healthy, there’s nothing wrong with this approach. In fact, it may be more appealing than preparing and eating larger meals. Plus, eating small meals throughout the day keeps your metabolism going, staves off hunger and controls blood sugar. This works to keep your mood and energy levels stable and prevent drug cravings.
Exercise most days of the week.
Healthy eating on its own is great, but you’ll see results sooner if you pair it with exercise. It’s recommended that the average person gets at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Again, working with a nutritionist can help you set appropriate goals for exercise. Also, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine, as they may recommend that you ease into low-impact exercises like swimming.
Nutrition is a major part of the recovery process, just as it would be if you were recovering from an illness, injury or procedure. The body needs the right balance of vitamins and minerals to function and stay healthy. However, most addicts do not jump right into healthy eating. It takes time and requires a series of healthy choices.
By working with a nutritionist, keeping a food journal and being mindful of what you stock in your fridge, you will set the stage for a nutritious, well-balanced diet that supports your recovery. Continuum Recovery Center starts our clients on the path to healthy eating. Contact us today to learn more about our individualized outpatient rehab for substance abuse.