Smart Snacking for People in Recovery

Good nutrition is a vital part of the repair process occurring in the body of a newly recovering person. Food provides nutrients necessary to meet this need. Providing three nutritious meals may not be enough. Snacks can play an important role to help the person in recovery to meet their nutritional needs as well as limit moods swings.

Snacks can be provided midday between meals and before bedtime. It is important to plan ahead so that snacks offered are nutritious as well as satisfying.

Choose more often:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Canned fruit packed in its own juice
  • Raw vegetables with low-fat dressing or salsa
  • Popcorn (air popped preferably)
  • Pretzels
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Low fat puddings
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Raisins and other dried fruit
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Low-fat frozen yogurt

Choose less often:

  • Canned fruit in heavy syrup
  • Potato chips
  • Corn chips
  • Ice cream
  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • Soda pop
  • Cake, donuts
  • Fruit drinks, punch
  • Brownies, pastries



Learn more about  Nutrition & Recovery



How Drugs & Alcohol Damage the Body

The following is a very brief description of the major areas of the body that alcohol and drugs impact, along with some general recommendations (Rx:) for recovery.
Skin And Hair  – Depletes body of nutrients for healthy looking hair and skin. Rx:  Nutrient dense foods; particularly Vitamins A, C, protein and zinc rich foods.
Heart And Circulation  – Muscle wasting (loss) due to poor protein intake. Inflammation often occurs, along with increase of fat deposits and high blood pressure. Rx:  Low fat diet, adequate protein, and regular exercise.
Liver  – Reduced vitamin and mineral storage; overworked liver swells preventing bile production and filtering operation , poor appetite. Rx:  High calorie, nutrient dense foods, rich protein, moderate fat along with vitamin mineral supplement.
Pancreas  – Irritation causes swelling which may block flow of enzymes into stomach resulting in digestive difficulties and diabetes. Rx:  Nutrient rich foods, small frequent meals
Kidneys  – Inflammation, frequent infections, increased water output resulting in excess nutrient loss. Rx:  Nutrient-rich foods high potassium foods and limited caffeine.
Central Nervous System & Hypothalamus –  Alcohol and drugs irritate, sedate and aggravate nervous system. Effects memory, ability to think, coordination. Alcohol kills brain cells that are not regenerated. The appetite control center sends confused messages about hunger, thirst. Rx:  Rest, nutrient rich foods Including high tryptophan & tyrosine foods, physical activity, multi-vitamin/mineral plus B complex.
Mucucous Membranes  – Irritates and sedates membranes, Including esophagus, stomach & rectum. Balanced nutrition can help rebuild these tissues. Rx:  Nutrient dense foods high in Vitamin A (orange vegetables) and Vitamin C and limit caffeine intake.
Stomach  – Irritates stomach — increasing risk of ulcers, gastric distress. Rx:  Small frequent meals, snacks. Limit caffeine during distress
Intestines  –  Slows down or speeds up transit time; increasing risk of poor absorption and certain types of cancer. Rx:  High fiber intake, plenty of water and exercise. Limit caffeine during distress
Rectum  –  Poor elimination or diarrhea may result in hemorrhoids. Rx:  Higher fiber foods, rutin (a mineral), water. exercise.
Blood Measurements  –  Blood levels of many nutrients are affected by drugs and alcohol. Cholesterol levels may appear normal while not accurately measuring cholesterol intake. Rx:  Testing is not recommended until six to twelve weeks after sobriety to ensure accurate readings.
From the  Eating Awareness Training and Recovery Program from  St. Elizabeth’s Hospital of Boston, MA.

The “Recovery Diet”

Nutritional studies recommended that people in recovery eat on “cruise control” throughout the day. This means eating small, frequent mini-meals–to maintain energy levels and moods more even.

Suggestions for a Diet that Promotes Recovery:

  1. Use the USDA’s  Food Guide Pyramid (PDF) as a guide to prepare well-balanced meals
  2. Eat 3 snacks and 3 meals per day   (see Smart Snacking)
  3. Drink decaffeinated coffee and herbal teas to decrease caffeine
  4. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables
  5. Eat foods made of whole grains
  6. Eat more beans and grain products, limit the amount of red meat eaten. Red meats are harder to digest.
  7. Eliminate or keep to a minimum foods that contain sugar and caffeine
  8. Be aware of hidden sugar in cocoa, condiments, and over the counter medications
  9. Be aware of caffeine in over the counter and prescribed medications


Composition of the Recovery-friendly  Diet:

  • Protein – 25%
  • Carbohydrate – 45%
  • Fat – 30%
  • Total calories – 2,000

Sample  Meal  Suggestions:

  • Breakfast – oatmeal muffins, pancakes, quiche, omelet, yogurt
  • Lunch – Sandwiches, salads, soups
  • Dinner – Soups, chowders, rice & beans, chicken and vegetables, tortillas, lasagna with vegetable
  • Dessert – Yogurt, fruit, oatmeal cookies, custard


A Note on  Vitamins

Because drugs and alcohol deplete the body of vitamins and minerals, multi-vitamin/mineral plus B supplements can be especially helpful.

Vitamins and dietary suppliments should be taken with meals for optimum absorption.


Rescue Magazine, December 1998



Nutrition In Recovery  by Margaret Soussloff, M.S. & Cara Zechello, R.D., Massachusetts Food Banks and Maria F. Bettencourt, MPH, Massachusetts Department of Public Health


Learn more about  Nutrition & Recovery