New Year’s Resolution: Dieting to Enhance Your Recovery

According to, “Quit Drinking” ranks among the top ten most popular New Year’s Resolution. Now that you’re out of rehab and well on your way to achieving that goal, it’s time to focus on another top ten resolution: losing weight.

Or is it?


Although everyone should be aware of their diet, resolving to lose weight may be dangerous for those early in recovery. Attempting to lose weight early on in recovery could lead to nutritional deficiency, thereby preventing the heling process that occurs in your body early on in recovery.

You see, unlike the other 300 million people who diet to LOSE weight, a healthy diet for those new to recovery often means GAINING weight.


Because recovery is our number one priority, even when it comes to our diet, we should focus on eating to enhance our sobriety. The purpose of a recovery-tailored diet is not to lose our belly fat, but to promote physical and mental healing.

Generally, a recommended diet in early recovery consists of 45% carbohydrate, 30% fat, and 25% protein, along with fluids and foods high in vitamins. The five essential components listed below should serve as a guideline to you as you continue to build a lasting, healthy lifestyle.

Why is a Recovery Diet so Important?

As you may recall from your counselors in rehab, a healthy diet contributes towards physical and mental robustness. A lack of adequate nutrition is partly responsible for the feelings of lethargy, depression, and cravings that occur in the early months of sobriety.

Plus, research has shown that good nutrition, combined with the Twelve Step program, results in fewer episodes of low blood sugar, less alcohol craving, and a better chance of staying sober.


Unlike alcohol and other refined grains (i.e. table sugar) that get converted directly into sugar, complex carbohydrates are long chains of sugar molecules that take longer for your body to break down. The longer absorption time allows the sugar to be released gradually into the blood stream, which prevents drastic fluctuations in blood sugar and contribute significantly to energy production.

Whole grains, broccoli, spinach, beans and other yummy starchy vegetables are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates.


As you can guess, sugary foods like donuts and candy bars should be avoided as much as possible. This can be especially difficult for recovering alcoholics, who may still crave the sugar rush (from the blood sugar spike induced by drinking) even in recovery. However, sugar consumption causes the blood sugar level plummets quickly, leading to prolonged cravings, fatigue and anxiety. Complex carbohydrates are a much better option, as they offer more nutritional value with fewer cravings. (I know, bummer.)


Proteins are important on so many levels. Proteins break down into amino acids, which help replenish serotonin levels depleted from substance abuse. Proteins are also needed to repair tissue and restore organ function, as well as blood sugar stabilization.

Eggs, lean meat—not red meat—fish, chicken, and turkey are excellent sources of protein. Nuts are often the protein snack of choice.


Because fats are not all created equal. The good, unsaturated fat provides essential fatty acids, and a deficiency may lead to other problems, most notably depression. Good fats include things like olive oil, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, soymilk, olives, peanut butter, and avocado. Thankfully, you can find a lot of these ingredients in smoothie recipies, especially those avocado-berry breakfast smoothies.



Alcohol depletes several of the B Vitamins, but especially Vitamin B1 or thiamine. Thiame deficiency can lead to a type of brain disease called Wernickie-Korsakoff syndrome, or alcoholic encephalopathy. All the B vitamins play a critical role in the recovery process from the start, and high quality B-complex supplements are given right at detox. Other B vitamins include

  • B3 (niacin): helps with detox
  • B5 (Pantothenic Acid): supports adrenal function and helps rid the body of alcohol
  • B6 (Pantothenic Acid): aids with the production of serotonin and melatonin and red blood cells
  • B12 (cobalamin): critical for a healthy nervous system and for the formation of red blood cells


Vitamin C, plays an important role in keeping the skin healthy and plays an equally important role in the health of bones, teeth and blood vessels. Deficiencies in vitamin C can also be responsible for irritability, weakness and muscle fatigue. The best and most consumed source of vitamin C is orange juice from frozen concentrate. Other sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, broccoli, potatoes and cantaloupe.


Fluids are always vital in any recovery process. In this case, you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses daily, or more. Good ol’ H2O is your new best friend. Orange juice and milk should be high on your list of BFFs, but be wary of caffeine.


We 12 steppers love caffeine, as evidenced by the copious amounts of coffee consumed during A.A. meetings, but caffeine can overstimulate the nervous system and lead to restlessness, anxiety, and sleeplessness—all factors that may lead to relapse. At this stage however, cutting back on coffee is not priority, and getting off of coffee can wait till the later stages in recovery. (However, it wouldn’t hurt to have a cup of decaf now and then, would it?)


All principles of healthy eating can be summarized into two words: balance and variety. Eat three balanced meals a day, and never eat too much of any one food group. If you have additional health problems, consult with your physician.

Remember that you are eating healthy, not dieting. The purpose of this diet is to enhance your sobriety, and by starting early, to eventually make it a lifestyle.