10 Easy Nutritional Changes You Can Make to Boost Your Recovery after Addiction
When you are in recovery from addiction, every little thing you can do to help your body heal and recover from the damage done by years of drug and alcohol use is a boost to your recovery. Better eating means feeling better, higher energy levels, and sleeping better – all of which contribute to your ability to manage acute stressors when they strike without relapse and keep your everyday levels of stress as low as possible.
But what exactly does it mean to “eat better?” Do you have to change everything and sign up for some intense nutritional diet that makes it impossible to eat in restaurants and controls half your waking life? Not at all. If you would like to experience some of the benefits of positive nutrition in your recovery, here are 17 easy changes you can make today with a minimum of effort.
- Drink water instead of soda. What is easier than grabbing a bottle of water rather than a bottle of soda when you are in the convenience store, or ordering water instead of a sugar-laden, high-calorie drink at a restaurant? Not only will your wallet appreciate it, but your body will too. Each soda can pack up to 200 calories of sugar, which will only serve to make your energy levels crash less than an hour after drinking it. Even if you drink diet soda, there is evidence to suggest that the practice may in fact result in weight gain despite the fact that many people choose diet soda to avoid that. Skipping soda altogether and going with water will help you to detox more effectively and keep your energy levels balanced.
- Sit down when you eat. No more standing up at the counter, eating on the go, or otherwise trying to multitask while you are eating. Instead, when it is time to eat, put your food on a plate and have a seat. The idea is that if you only eat when you are sitting down to a meal, you will be less likely to eat a handful of chips when you are putting some on your plate. If you are snacking a lot throughout the day, you could be doubling or tripling your caloric intake inadvertently – and not with healthy, nutrient-rich calories that will serve your body well.
- Don’t sit in front of the TV when you eat. Eating in front of the TV or while reading a novel is the epitome of mindless eating. Reaching your hand in and out of a bag of cookies while you turn pages or flip channels means that your mind is not focused on what you are putting into your body, and you may be more likely to be eating things that are not good for you as well as portions that are too large.
- Plan your meals ahead of time. There is evidence to suggest that when you plan your meals in advance, you are more likely to make healthy choices rather than grabbing whatever is available on the go when you are in a state of hunger (e.g., not prioritizing healthy eating but cravings instead). You can go beyond deciding in advance to grab something at the salad bar at the grocery store at lunchtime and choose to map out a week’s worth of healthy meals by creating a meal plan with a grocery list in advance – whatever works best for you.
- Bring healthy snacks with you. Nothing sabotages your good intentions like being out and about at mealtime. It is always going to be easier and cheaper to grab fast food, but if you have healthy snacks with you all the time, it is never an issue.
- Make a full batch. It can be tempting when you are living on your own to avoid cooking entirely or cut recipes in half to avoid having too many leftovers. But if you are making a healthy dish, go ahead and make the full batch – and then freeze the leftovers in single-serving containers so you can have a healthy dinner on the go later.
- Cover half your plate with vegetables. Our dinner plates are large, in fact far larger than necessary, and it may contribute to the large portions that many feel are normal. Grab a salad plate instead of a dinner plate when serving yourself. Cover half the plate with vegetables and fruits to make sure you get enough of those, and serve up a smaller portion of protein and whole grains.
- Check nutrition facts. Don’t assume that the salad is the healthiest item on the menu. You may find after checking the nutrition facts that the chicken sandwich actually has less fat and more protein – and if it’s what you are really craving, it will be far more satisfying.
- Find non-food rewards. It can be tempting to want to celebrate a birthday with cake or a getting a job with going out to dinner, but instead, find other ways to celebrate and reward yourself that don’t involve food. Get a massage, spend time with a friend, or watch some guilty-pleasure TV – anything you enjoy that does not connect happy times with eating.
- Work with a nutritional therapist. A nutritional therapist can help you to determine what nutrients you need to be getting more of and how best to incorporate healthy eating into your lifestyle so it can become a lifelong change rather than a temporary fix.
No need to make all the above changes at once – instead, pick one or two that makes sense for your life and begin today to boost your recovery with positive nutrition choices.