Comfort foods like potato chips, candy, pizza, and other unwise lifestyle choices have been much maligned in the media for their fattening and life-shortening properties. People who are recovering from an addiction are often given carte blanche to guzzle down sweets or toke up on a twelve-inch triple cheese pizza. Hey, it could be worse, right? Wrong. The reality is, these folks have simply exchanged one addiction for another. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found that people who eat poorly during recovery are more at risk for relapse than those with healthier diets.
Taking control of your eating won't just help your body heal—it'll boost your mood, control your weight, and give you a chance to create healthy habits and goals. So what should you be eating? Nutritionists agree that consuming less refined sugar, avoiding trans fats, and following a varied diet speeds the recovery process along. Be sure to pull from these four major food groups to ensure that you're giving your body exactly what it needs.
Proteins are your body's hard-hatted construction workers. Foods that are high in protein fill you up, build and repair the body's tissues, and hold your blood sugar at healthy levels. The other nice thing about protein is that it's present in a variety of foods, such as:
- Lean meats (such as fish, chicken, and turkey)
- Peanut butter
- Cottage cheese
- Beans (such as garbanzo beans, or chickpeas, in hummus)
- Nuts (such as almonds, peanuts, cashews, and walnuts)
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies are a staple of any healthy diet. The USDA says they can be frozen, canned, or dried, but fresh the most ideal. Try some of these superfoods to add vital vitamins to your diet, lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer, give you added energy, and boost your mood:
- Açaí Berries
- Green vegetables (such as broccoli, spinach, arugula, or kale)
- Bell peppers
The benefits of fiber include good heart health, weight control, and loads of energy, which is important for those in recovery. Furthermore, it reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension. Fiber can be found in a variety of foods including:
- Whole-grain pasta, rice bread, crackers, and cereal
- Asian pears, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, bananas, and apples with the skin
- Artichokes, green peas, spinach, corn, broccoli, potatoes
- Dried fruit such as figs, dates, raisins, and apricots
- Lima, kidney, edamame, adzuki, and black beans
- Peas and other legumes
- Roasted nuts and seeds (in moderation)
- Flaxseed oil
Not all fats are the same. “Good fats” such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol, which is good for your heart. “Bad fats” that cause high cholesterol include trans fats and saturated fats are mainly found in fried foods, candy bars, butter, and cheese. Although, it’s important to eat any type of fat in moderation. Some of the healthier choices you should consider include:
- Olive, canola, soybean, and peanut oils
- Black or green olives
- All types of nuts, especially walnuts
- Sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds
- Salmon, albacore tuna, and other fish
Small changes can make a huge difference to your recovery. Nobody's perfect, and no one's going to kill you for mowing down on some potato chips every now and then. If you can, however, incorporate as many of the foods above into your everyday diet as possible. You'll feel better, and sometimes that's what makes all the difference.
If you’re in recovery and looking to change up your diet, the best thing to do is talk to a nutritionist. Some addiction treatment centers have onsite nutrition experts and if a workshop is being held in your community, be sure to take full advantage of all it has to offer. For a list of qualified nutritionists in your area, be sure to visit recoveryexperts.com.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) - http://www.nih.gov/
Eating Well - http://www.eatingwell.com/
Health – http://www.health.com/health/