Promoting a lasting recovery involves more than just abstaining from addictive substances. To build the foundation for sobriety, you need to heal your mind, body, and spirit. Part of this process will involve looking at how your diet affects your mood and your ability to manage drug or alcohol cravings.
Stabilizing Your Mood with Good Nutrition
During detox, your body adjusts to living without addictive substances. This creates a number of withdrawal symptoms, including mood fluctuations. The symptoms will naturally subside over time, but paying close attention to your diet can help you ease this process along.
Here are some simple ways to stabilize your mood in the early stages of recovery:
- Have a meal or small snack every four hours. Food is fuel for your body. If you’re not eating regularly, you’re going to feel tired and cranky.
- Go easy on the caffeine. You may love your morning coffee, but keep in mind that caffeine is a stimulant. A minimal amount may help you feel energetic and ready to tackle the challenges of the day, but too much can leave you anxious and jittery. A better beverage choice would be naturally flavored water. Green tea, which contains the amino acid theanine to help combat stress, is also a good alternative.
- Limit fatty or greasy foods. Fast food is convenient, but processing a fatty or greasy meal requires a great deal of energy from your body. This leaves you feeling sluggish and ready for a nap.
- Don’t act like carbs are the enemy. Diet fads change regularly, but the demonization of carbs seems to have stuck around longer than most. However, carbs produce serotonin. This feel-good brain chemical elevates mood, suppresses appetite, and has a generally calming effect. The Mayo Clinic shares that current dietary recommendations suggest 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Whole-grain, high-fiber sources of carbs include oats, wheat, rye, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, barley, and brown rice.
- Increase iron and folic acid intake to combat symptoms of depression. An iron or folic acid deficiency can be associated with depression, fatigue, and inattentiveness. Egg yolks, red meat, dried fruit, and beans are all good sources of iron. Oranges, grapefruit, green vegetables, nuts, and whole-wheat bread are good sources of folic acid.
- When you need something sweet, look for dark chocolate and raw cacao nibs or powder. These choices contain cocoa polyphenols, an antioxidant that can enhance feelings of calmness and contentedness.
Planning a Balanced Diet
When you are in residential treatment, your meals will be carefully planned to best accommodate your dietary needs. Once you return home, making healthy choices will become more challenging. Consider the following suggestions to make the process a bit easier:
- Carry healthy snacks with you. Keeping protein bars, apples, homemade trail mix, or other healthy snacks in your car or office will help you resist the urge to hit the nearest vending machine when you find yourself suddenly ravenous.
- Create a meal plan at the beginning of each week. Knowing what to eat will take away the stress of trying to making good food choices several times per day. Meal planning can also help you save money, since you can plan your meals around grocery store sales for the week.
- Treat yourself to a new kitchen gadget. If you’re not comfortable in the kitchen, a slow cooker, Instant Pot, or air fryer can make it easy to quickly prepare nutritious meals.
- Get together to meal prep. Tap into your sober support network and ask someone with admirable culinary skills to help you meal prep. Depending upon your needs and preferences, meal prepping can involve chopping fresh veggies and assembling salads in mason jars, making casseroles for the freezer, or assembling individually portioned packages of your favorite healthy snacks.
Using a Food Journal
Journaling is often recommended as a way to better understand your emotions while documenting your recovery progress. Tracking your diet can help you see what foods have the greatest effect on your mood and your ability to handle cravings.
Food journaling doesn’t need to be overly elaborate. A simple note about your meals at the end of your regular journal entry can be a good starting point for discussing this issue with your treatment team.
A Word About Supplements
It might seem like the easiest course of action would be to take supplements with all the nutrients necessary for good health. However, the vitamins and minerals in dietary supplements aren’t absorbed as effectively as those that occur in real food.
Balanced meals are always the preferred method of promoting good nutrition in recovery. If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions that make it hard to eat a variety of nutritious foods, discuss your concerns with your care provider. If supplements are necessary, your care provider can help you choose a product that best meets your needs.
Holistic Healing at Mountain Laurel Recovery Center
Mountain Laurel Recovery Center, a leading Pennsylvania drug and alcohol addiction treatment center, provides care based on the fundamental assumption that long-term recovery is possible for everyone who desires it. Personalized treatment plans include individual and group therapy, nutrition support, exercise, meditation, and other forms of therapeutic intervention. For those who need extra time to prepare for the transition back to independent living, extended care offers a chance to continue recovery efforts in a safe and supportive environment.