How Do You Incorporate Healthy Foods Into Your Recovery?

People prepare a fresh vegetable

How Do You Incorporate Healthy Foods Into Your Recovery?

“You are what you eat” isn’t just an annoying idiom your parents would use to get you to stop eating sweets when you were younger. The phrase means what you eat will impact your attitude and lifestyle. 

What you put in your body significantly influences your mood, productivity, energy levels, and overall physical and mental health. Substance use often causes malnutrition, making it especially important to watch your eating habits during your recovery. Eating healthy is also important when practicing self-care because nutrition is one of your body’s essential needs.

Harms of Food Restriction

There are many misconceptions about what it means to eat healthily. Some people believe counting calories or cutting out “bad” foods will help them live a healthier lifestyle. Diet culture and programs that advertise fast weight loss or muscle gain typically do not promote healthy balanced diets. Many of these programs are not sustainable in the long term and can be detrimental to your body because you are depriving it of needed nutrients. 

Cutting specific foods out of your diet won’t turn into a long-term sustainable change in your diet because it will only make you crave the “banned” food item more. This could result in binge eating the “banned” food or replacing it with an equally unhealthy food item. 

Restricting foods can cause the following health problems:

  • Eating disorders
  • Anemia
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Dental issues
  • Other long-term health conditions

Some short-term symptoms of food restriction may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Poor concentration

Harms of Overeating

Some people use food consumption as an unhealthy coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, or other unpleasant emotions. Consuming food for comfort instead of hunger can be equally as harmful as restricting food, which is why a balance is crucial to maintaining a healthy diet. Overeating is caused by the high consumption of unhealthy foods that do not provide you with the proper nutrients your body needs. Overeating can take the form of binge eating or eating large quantities of food in a short amount of time, often causing you to feel uncomfortably full. 

Binge eating includes:

  • Eating too fast
  • Mindless eating
  • Restrictive eating that causes extreme hunger
  • Eating for reasons other than hunger (i.e., comfort)

Overeating can cause a variety of mental and physical health problems, including:

  • Eating disorders 
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Other severe life-endangering diseases

Know What Your Body Needs

Eating healthy means listening to your body and choosing foods that will give you the nutrients you need. When you eat, pay attention to what your body is telling you. The only questions that you need to ask yourself are: “Do I feel hungry right now?” and “What nutrients will I get from this food?”

High-carb and high-fat foods are often miscategorized as unhealthy. However, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are important for fueling your body. These nutrients give you the necessary energy to complete daily tasks. Protein also helps your body repair tissues and fight infections

Carbohydrates can provide you with fiber, which is good for your digestive system. Fats help absorb vitamins into your system. Be conscious of the nutritional value of the food you eat. Look for foods that provide healthy fats and carbohydrates, such as lean meats, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and fruit.

Planning to Create Balance

Having a balanced diet or even one balanced meal can feel like an overwhelming task. Eating healthy is time-consuming. It requires taking the time to grocery shop, cook, and listen to your body. All of these skills will become easier with practice and can be less time-consuming when you utilize organizational tools and resources. 

One of the best tools that make eating healthy easier is meal planning. Planning out your meals for the week saves you the time and stress of deciding what you want at the moment. It can also speed up the food shopping process when you have specific dishes in mind. Meal planning can deter you from choosing easier, unhealthier meals like fast food. If you know what days of the week tend to be busier than others, you can prepare. For instance, you can make leftovers on Tuesday because you have back-to-back meetings on Wednesday and won’t have time to make lunch.

Consulting the Experts

Nutrition is continuously evolving as scientists learn more about the products we eat and how they serve our bodies. If eating healthy feels impossibly overwhelming, remember that you can always consult the experts. A good nutritionist can help you determine the causes of your unhealthy eating habits and work with you to create a plan that will incorporate healthy eating into your lifestyle. You can also find experts in cookbooks. A quick online search can help you find recipes that are healthy, easy, and, most importantly, delicious.