A photo of two hands holding fruit

Most people do not have a healthy diet in the midst of an active addiction. They skip regular meals, while the meals they do have include heavy doses of fast food, frozen pizzas, unhealthy snacks and soft drinks. Unfortunately, these unhealthy eating practices may become roadblocks on your road to recovery.

Maybe you’ve gotten into the habit of eating not-so-healthy foods — after all, they’re fast and easy, while healthy foods often take more planning and preparation time.  Because of poor nutrition, you may have entered substance abuse treatment with vitamin and mineral deficiencies. You may find it all too  easy to continue your unhealthy eating patterns during your busy life in early recovery. If not addressed, this can continue to compromise your health and complicate your recovery. It’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor about the changes you’re making as a result of your recovery and the best ways to satisfy your nutritional needs.

You may have noticed people in recovery who load up on sugary treats in response to a new “sweet tooth.” Once upon a time, it seemed you could not go to a 12-Step meeting without seeing a big bowl of candy located somewhere near the coffee pot. Those gooey confections were there by design — brought by generous group members to share with others who discovered they had developed a serious craving for sweets. More and more people these days are questioning the use of sugar to satisfy cravings. Recent news reports reflect a view of sugar as an addictive substance in its own right, and there are those who believe that ingesting too much sugar may actually prolong cravings.

As in so many areas of life, moderation is important. Just as eating too much sugar and fat isn’t good for your recovery, suddenly putting yourself on a strict and dramatically different diet could be stressful, too. Instead of an all or nothing approach, you can begin to make changes toward healthier eating by adding some healthy food choices each day. Maybe it’s okay to let yourself have a fast food meal or a frozen pizza now and then, just don’t overdo it. Don’t forget to check for fast food and grocery store choices that offer more nutrition with the same level of convenience.  Again, talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

Here are some basic tips for good nutrition to get you started on the right foot in your addiction recovery:

  • Eat regular meals and drink plenty of water each day. This will help reduce your cravings by guarding against low blood sugar and dehydration. Regular healthy meals can help restore your brain chemistry and decrease your mood swings as well as your cravings.
  • Eat a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits in order to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
  • Eat healthy fats like those from olive oil, nuts, seeds, or avocados. Healthy fats not only taste great but also they help satisfy your appetite.
  • Eat protein to rebuild a healthy body and brain.
  • Eat fiber. If your addiction has caused digestive problems, whole grains and beans can help speed a return to good digestion.
  • Avoid processed foods, often loaded with sugar, salt, trans-fats and chemicals. Better to buy the basics and cook them yourself — many people in recovery begin to enjoy cooking good food for themselves and their families and friends.
  • Limit your caffeine intake. Too much caffeine can affect mood swings and irritate your digestive system.

Watch your intake of sugary foods and drinks. Instead, reward yourself with a piece of good quality dark chocolate — it can improve your mood and stimulate your taste buds. The higher the cocoa (or cacao) content, the more health benefits (and the less sweet it tastes).

Congratulations if you have embarked on the Road to Recovery, for you have taken the first step toward healthy living on so many levels — emotionally, spiritually, socially and physically. As you step further down the road to good health, eating a balanced, healthy diet will help you look and feel better. If you feel better, you will be more committed to recovery.

By Janet Worthy