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Best Foods to Eat While in Early Recovery

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Early Recovery and Nutrition

Active addiction does a serious number on the physical body. The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that some of the more common health-related consequences associated with active addiction include cardiovascular disease, the development of different types of cancer, lung disease, mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, the contraction of certain illnesses ike Hepatitis B and C, HIV and AIDS, stroke, coma and overdose-related death. Even if an addictive disorder does not result in chronic illness, it will undeniably result in a lack of adequate nutrition, which can lead to malnourishment. Because of the far-reaching physical impact that substance abuse has on the body and on the mind, it is imperative that individuals who are in early recovery pay close attention to the foods they eat. Restoring health depends heavily on the ingestion of nutrient-dense foods, primarily fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. Not only will eating healthy facilitate the overall healing process, but it will work to speed along detoxification, ultimately ridding the body of harmful toxins in a shorter period of time.

At Guardian Recovery, we believe that adequate nutrition plays a vital role in the addiction recovery process. For this reason, we offer an in-depth nutritional therapy program – one that not only teaches our clients what foods to eat, but one that teaches them how to prepare healthy, nutritious and well-rounded meals for themselves.

When an individual abuses chemical substances, he or she likely falls victim to some or all of the following concerns:

  • Depending on the substance being abused, the individual might engage in binge eating and eating excessive amounts of junk food, or lose his or her appetite altogether, which can result in malnutrition.
  • The body begins to use up energy at an increased rate, meaning that energy from the food that is consumed is burned up quickly, leaving the individual fatigued and lacking energy to complete day-to-day tasks.
  • Substance abuse does permanent damage to the gastrointestinal system and stomach lining, making it far more difficult for the boy to absorb the nutrients it needs in order to function properly.
  • Individuals who abuse chemical substances are more prone to nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which increases nutrient loss.

Food influences the ways in which the body and the brain function. If an individual is not getting adequate nutrition on a daily basis, he or she will experience a loss of physical and neurological functioning – and health can only be fully restored when attention is paid to the foods that are consumed. For more information on our individualized nutritional therapy programs, each out to our Treatment Advisors at any point in time.

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Best Foods to Eat in Early Recovery

When developing an early recovery meal plan that facilitates mental and physical health, it is important to know how the foods you eat impact your mood, your energy levels and your overall ability to heal. It is important that your diet is both diversified and well-balanced, and that you constantly incorporate foods from five main groups – dairy products, lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Of course, every meal plan will be personalized based on dietary restrictions and unique dietary needs. One of the biggest factors to keep in mind is the importance of eating whole foods as opposed to foods that are heavily processed. It is also important to know that you can maintain a healthy and balanced diet without spending too much time on shopping or preparation. Many individuals tend to reach for fast food because it is convenient and quick. Of course, fast food lacks nutrients and is generally high in saturated fats and refined sugars. It is entirely possible to prepare your own nutrient-dense meals within several minutes – so long as you know what to shop for and so long as you have a comprehensive list of efficient and healthy recipes on hand. U.S. News and World Report suggests eating foods that are high in tyrosine, L-glutamine, antioxidants and tryptophan. These essential amino acids work to boost mood while rebuilding your immune system. Some other examples of foods that you will benefit from including in your early recovery diet include:

  • Fermented foods like kimchi, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, cultured milk and yogurt and kombucha. Fermented foods promote gut health, seeing as they are exceptionally high in probiotics. Active addiction severely damages the gut, but this damage can be repaired overtime when fermented foods are incorporated into the diet as frequently as possible.
  • Foods that are exceptionally rich in calcium, like kale, tofu, sesame seeds and dairy products. If you happen to be lactose intolerant, stick to leafy greens like kale and products made from sesame seeds, like tahini (a paste that can be utilized as a dip or a spread). According to a 2017 study published by the National Library of Medicine, diets that are high in calcium actually help to alleviate the psychological alcohol cravings that go hand-in-hand with early alcohol recovery. Individuals with low calcium levels tend to engage in heavier drinking patterns than individuals who consistently get enough calcium, additionally.
  • Complex carbohydrates like quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, barley, oats and sorghum. Complex carbohydrates will give you lasting energy while working to satiate sugar cravings and stabilize blood sugar. Carbohydrates are necessary, despite the fact that they may have gotten a bad rap in recent times (what with the rise of the Keto Diet and all). They help to restore the function of neurotransmitters within the brain, regulating mood and mental health along with energy.
  • Healthy fats like avocado, fish and nuts. Having a bag of raw almonds on hand is always a good idea. Not only do healthy fats help to alleviate cravings, but they keep you full and satisfied in between meals. Some other good snacking nuts include walnuts, which are very high in essential amino acids, and Brazil nuts, which contain high levels of selenium – an antioxidant that works to restore liver function.

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Preparing Your Own Meals

Below is an example of an ideal early recovery meal plan that includes, breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as several nutritious snacks. Keep in mind that dietary needs vary on a person-to-person basis, and that it is important for you to sit down with a licensed nutritionist in order to determine which combination of nutrients will best suit your unique requirements.

Breakfast: Begin the day with two pieces of whole grain bread, toasted and topped with smashed avocado, roasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. While avocado toast is an extremely trendy breakfast option, it is also full of energy-producing whole grains and healthy fats, which work together to give you a burst of lasting energy first thing in the morning.

Lunch: For lunch, try a big salad loaded with fresh vegetables and topped with tuna salad. Not only are vegetables packed with essential vitamins and minerals, but tuna is high in protein and Omega 3 fatty acids, and will keep you full and energized until dinner time. For a dressing, try combining equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar – simple and healthy.

Dinner: End the day with oven-roasted chicken breast, broccoli sauteed in olive oil and a side of brown rice. This balanced meal contains a lean protein, a healthy vegetable and a whole grain. If you are craving something sweet for dessert, try a bowl of greek yogurt topped with raw honey and chopped strawberries.

Healthy snacks: If you find that you are feeling peckish throughout the day, reach for an apple, celery sticks with almond butter or some raw nuts.

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Guardian Recovery – Our Nutrition Education Program

Choosing a multi-phased recovery program that puts a strong emphasis on diet and nutrition is extremely important. The foods we eat have a major impact on the way we function, and healthy, nutrient-dense foods speed along the process of physical, mental and emotional healing. To learn more about our nutrition education program, give us a call today at (888) 483-1517, we are available to help you 24/7.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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