The focus in recovery is often on therapy, going to support group meetings, and essentially doing whatever you have to do to avoid relapse. But sometimes the littlest changes can have the biggest impact. When it comes to getting a power-packed boost to your recovery, doing something as simple as making a few changes to your diet can make a huge difference. Why?
- Drugs, including alcohol, are toxic and damage internal organs and system functionality.
- The immune system is weakened, increasing rates of illness and worsening symptoms related to underlying conditions.
- You are less likely to prioritize positive health management by seeing the doctor regularly in order to prevent or address acute issues.
- You are less likely to make positive nutrition choices that improve overall health and wellness.
In recovery, you have the opportunity to change all that. Just by stopping the use of drugs, you are doing your body a huge favor. After you work through the initial heavy detox period, your body will continue to flush out the toxins you ingested during active drug and begin the process of repair. It can take months or even years depending on the types of drugs you used, how long you used them, the dose you were at daily, and other factors – but you can help your body along considerably by making positive nutrition choices and giving it the nutrients it needs to mend.
Not sure where to begin? It is true that eating right means cutting back on fast food and eating more vegetables, and that is a great start. But if that is too much or too difficult for you to manage right from the start, here is a list of eight positive nutritional changes that are relatively simple to make that will help your body during the detox process and beyond.
- Choose whole grains. When you look at the ingredients list on the back of the items you buy, you want to be able to identify the things on that list. Odd chemicals and a lot of corn syrup in bread, for example, are not good signs. Instead, choose items that have as their first ingredient a whole grain – with the word “whole” in it – and you are off to a great start.
- Go for real food instead of processed food. This means that instead of grabbing Hot Pockets in the frozen food aisle, grab frozen chicken breasts and frozen vegetables instead. Though they take a little longer to heat up, you can add your own sauces or seasonings, and you avoid all the odd preservatives that come with processed food.
- Don’t worry about full fat versus “light” products. Fat is not bad for you. In fact, your body needs fat to survive. If you are concerned about certain types of fat, you can go for the heart-healthy stuff, like olive oil and avocadoes. In general, products that are labeled as “fat free” or “light” generally have a lot of fillers, corn syrup, and chemicals in them that you do not need in your body.
- Limit sugar intake. There is no need to cut out any one type of food or food group, but if you are going to cut back anywhere, try to cut back on sugary foods. This is where choosing real food over processed food is going to help you quite a bit. Even in savory items that are processed, like frozen pizza or jarred tomato sauce, there is a high amount of sugar that you just do not need. Of course, you can help yourself by eating one cookie instead of five or choosing oatmeal instead of pastries at breakfast too. Any one of these choices will have a positive impact on your nutritional health.
- Avoid food coloring. It is not that food coloring is bad for you, per se, but it is pretty much a good bet that if something is bright blue and it’s not a blueberry, then it is heavily processed, potentially high in sugar, and just not something you need to eat.
- Eat mindfully. All this means is take your time. Do not wait until you are starving to eat, so you grab whatever is closest. Plan out your meals. Serve yourself a portion of what you want. Eat from a plate. Sit down. Do nothing but eat when you are eating. Chew every bite and actually taste your food. Give yourself time after you are done to see if you are full before getting a second helping.
- Go heavy on the fresh produce. Whether you are a fan of fruit or vegetables, make sure you always have access to fresh produce – bonus points if it is locally grown and organic but that is not necessary. It is more important that you get nutrients from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables than avoiding the ones that are not organic, so if cost is an issue, buy what you can afford.
- Carry snacks with you. It is easy to grab fast food or whatever is easiest when you are in a rush or on the go. You can make sure you always have something healthy to eat by carrying snacks with you. Though there are some brands of energy bars that are minimally processed, if you have time, it is pretty easy to make your own. There are an abundance of homemade granola bar and homemade, no bake protein ball recipes Pick your favorite and give it a try.
What tricks have you learned to help you make positive nutrition choices that help you in recovery?