Last Updated on May 31, 2021
So, you’ve quit drinking—and perhaps you’re already starting to feel the health benefits. But, you may also notice your body feels depleted. You may feel fatigued or toxified, struggle with food cravings, or not feel like eating much at all. And if you established unhealthy eating habits while drinking alcohol, they may suddenly be very obvious.
Getting your diet back together is an important part of recovery. Good nutrition can go a long way towards restoring your body and mind. But what does a healthy diet for alcoholics in recovery look like? And are there foods that can make recovery easier?
Nutrition for recovering alcoholics has a lot in common with good nutrition in general, but there are some important points to remember when putting together your “sobriety diet.” Here are five types of food that are especially important in recovery:
5 Best Foods to Eat in Recovery from Alcohol
1. Hydrating Foods (Plus Plenty of Water)
Alcohol use does a number on your body’s hydration levels. It’s essential to drink plenty of fluids during your detox and recovery stage.
Getting enough water can also help to improve your mood1 and other cognitive functions at a time when you could really use it—especially if you’re detoxing. Hydrating can also reduce inflammation from alcohol.
If you have a hard time drinking plain water, try foods like smoothies, soups, fruits, and stews to ramp up your hydration. A bonus is that these foods are nutrient-dense (and easy on your stomach, too.)
2. High Quality Protein
Protein is the building block your body needs to repair itself, whether that’s after a workout or after malnourishment2 from chronic alcohol use. It’s an essential part of a healthy diet for alcoholics who are in recovery.
Lean protein may be a better choice than sources high in fat—so try fish, poultry, low-fat dairy products, or lean cuts of beef.
3. Add Bright Fruits and Veggies as Part of Your Sobriety Diet
Chronic alcohol use can cause nutrient deficiencies3, and fruits and vegetables are one of the best ways to restore these imbalances. They may also help improve your mood4, boost your immune system, and even help with alcohol detox.
If you aren’t sure where to start, pick a few of the following to add to your diet:
- Leafy greens
- Berries like strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries
- Cruciferous veggies
- Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons
4. Healthy Carbohydrates
Healthy carbohydrates are essential for providing your body the energy it needs to repair itself after alcohol addiction. Aim for complex carbohydrates, as these will help your blood sugar stay balanced while keeping food cravings at bay.
Some of the best sources of carbohydrates in a recovering alcoholic diet include:
- Brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains
- Whole wheat pastas and breads
- Beans and legumes
5. Nuts, Seeds, and Other Sources of Healthy Fats
As you’ve likely heard, heavy alcohol consumption can be damaging to your brain5. And since your brain needs certain fatty acids to function optimally, eating enough good fats is key in a healthy diet for alcoholics.
Some great sources of these healthy fats include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
- Fish, including salmon, tuna, and mackerel
A bonus is that many of these foods are an excellent source of thiamine and zinc, two nutrients that recovering alcoholics often need the most.
Diet for Alcoholics: Dealing with Different Cravings After Quitting Alcohol
If you quit drinking and are hungry all the time, you’re not alone. It’s common to begin craving sweets and other unhealthy foods when you give up alcohol.
Some even find themselves substituting food for alcohol, which can feel worrisome. You’ve finally kicked one bad habit, and now your body is suddenly craving sugary or fatty foods instead!
If this is you, don’t stress too much—what you’re experiencing is normal. Below, we’ll discuss why this happens, and some ways to overcome these cravings as you adjust to sobriety.
Why Do Alcoholics Crave Sugar?
As you’ve likely noticed, alcohol can provide temporary feelings of happiness and relaxation. When you quit drinking, your body often looks for a replacement. Studies show that sugar consumption also triggers euphoric feelings6, which may help fill that gap.
Since alcoholic drinks tend to be high in empty calories, your body may also be used to a certain caloric intake. When you stop drinking, sugar and other simple carbs may step in to replace that source.
How Do You Stop Unhealthy Cravings?
Here are a few tips to help you curb sugar cravings, and establish good nutrition after quitting alcohol:
- Eat complete meals and eat often. Recovery isn’t the time to cut corners on food. If you get too hungry, you’re more likely to give in to unhealthy cravings.
- Choose fruit as a way to get your sugar fix. Yes, fruit has sugar, but it’s also packed with antioxidants and fiber. This makes it a much better choice if you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Sleep well. When you lack sleep, you might feel compelled to reach for a candy bar or bag of cookies to get a boost of energy during the day. Proper sleep ensures your body has plenty of energy, keeping your cravings in check.
The Bottom Line on Nutrition for Recovering Alcoholics
Figuring out what to eat during alcohol detox and recovery can seem intimidating, but it’s ultimately pretty similar to eating healthy in general, with a few extra points:
- Focus on replenishing lost vitamins and minerals
- Stay hydrated
- Eat a wide range of whole, unprocessed foods
The healthier your diet, the better your physical and mental health—and therefore, the stronger your sobriety.
If you’re struggling to stick with new habits during the recovery process, there are new ways to get the help you need. Ria Health’s online recovery coaching supports you in improving self-care, and sticking with sobriety long-term. You’ll also get access to anti-craving medications, expert medical advice, handy digital tools, and more—all through an app on your phone.