donuts and a cup of milk

We’ve all been told from a young age to eat our fruits and vegetables and maintain a healthy diet. Diet and nutrition are an important part of preserving our health long term. What we eat becomes even more critical for those recovering from alcohol, substance use, and disordered eating.

Recovery is a tough but important step in the journey to better physical and mental health. While using substances, your eating habits change. Those struggling with addiction may eat less or not at all, eat low-quality foods, or overeat. When substances and alcohol are the priority, it is easy to turn to processed foods that deprive the body of essential nutrients it needs to function.

Long-term substance use, alcohol use, and eating disorders put a significant strain on our bodies and organs. The longer you use substances or struggle with an eating disorder, the more drastic the long-term consequences on our bodies. You can struggle with liver damage, skeletal issues, reproductive problems, and slowed brain function. Eating well during recovery can help to repair organs and tissues, heal the brain, improve the immune system, boost our mood, raise energy levels, and increase the chances of a successful and long-term recovery.

During recovery, you will often hear about neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to your brain’s ability to form new connections or get rid of old ones. Your brain is constantly adapting; as you experience and learn new things, you create new pathways in your brain. If you use these connections often, they are strengthened with repetition. Changes in your environment, illness, and substance use can all impact the connections in your brain. Once your brain strengthens the connection in response to repeated drug and alcohol use, it can be difficult for your brain to adapt back to sobriety when you are recovering. Substance use can damage connectivity in your brain and make it difficult for neurotransmitters to strengthen new health connections during recovery. Eating a nutritious diet can replenish neurotransmitters in your brain and improve neuroplasticity.

When you prioritize nutrition during recovery, you’re caring for your body and mind. Eating healthy meals is a form of self-care. Work with your body and provide it with the fuel and nutrients it needs each day to function properly. Your brains and organs work best when they are fueled and hydrated! When you eat healthily you’ll notice not only a difference in your recovery journey but better mental health, more energy, better immunity, and a heightened sense of focus.

Healthy eating is also a great way to take recovery into your own hands. Cooking and meal planning can be very therapeutic and gives you a chance to care for yourself. You will begin to notice which foods make you feel the best and can find creative ways to incorporate essential nutrients into all of your favorite meals. Continued nutrition after treatment is an important part of long-term recovery and overall health.

The Sabino culinary team is acutely aware of the essential role nutrition plays in the recovery journey. Led by Chef Ramos, our team in the kitchen works closely with our clinical team and licensed nutritionist to ensure that residents are getting vital nutrients to support their recovery.

Chef Ramos has been a chef for 16 years. His menus are heavily rooted in Mexican and Italian influences, the cuisines that most inspire him. The typical menu is a balance of lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. He likes to take traditional comfort foods and prepare them with care and healthy ingredients.

When Chef Ramos creates the menu, he focuses on whole foods and healthy ingredients that taste amazing while nourishing our Sabino residents. We source our ingredients from local farms and purveyors. When we need ingredients like seafood that we can’t source locally, we turn to trusted vendors like Santa Monica Seafood. Our kitchen staff emphasizes quality so we limit the availability and use of processed foods, focus on farm-to-table organic produce when possible, and use proteins without antibiotics. When building the menu, Chef Ramos chooses in-season fruits and vegetables while keeping quality and flavors in mind.

In addition to the breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, Chef Ramos makes sure there are always nutritious snacks available. We have fruits, veggies, and other healthy snacks in our dining refrigerator that our residents can access when the kitchen is closed. Instead of continuing to use food as a coping mechanism, we encourage residents to fuel their bodies and minds with healthy snacks. Recovery is difficult so we encourage residents to fuel their cravings for sugar or salt with nutritious foods like fruit or nuts.

In working closely with our nutritionist, Chef Ramos and his team can accommodate any dietary restrictions or needs that our residents have. We have residents who are Kosher, vegan, vegetarian, gluten sensitive or have other food allergies. Mealtimes at Sabino are communal and a great time to bond with other residents outside of a therapy setting. We try as much as possible to prepare our menus to take everyone’s dietary needs into account and incorporate alternate ingredients as necessary so that everyone can eat together.

To accommodate guests who keep kosher, we work with the Tucson Jewish Community Center to provide kosher meals. On-campus at Sabino, we use a separate, kosher storage facility. Residents who keep kosher also have their own plates and utensils, and the kitchen uses cutting boards, knives, and other kosher-specific meal prep supplies. We use a similar system for food allergies. Our kitchen crew stores food separately and uses alternate cookware and utensils to make sure the food does not accidentally come in contact with any potential allergens.

The residents at Sabino Recovery can focus on their therapies knowing they are well-nourished. We focus on creating healthy habits and an interest in overall health by helping residents develop healthy eating habits and a love of healthy foods. As each one of our residents moves forward in their recovery, they are equipped with the tools to take care of themselves with good nutrition.

If you or your loved one is struggling with substance use, addiction, or disordered eating please reach out to our team. Our team is dedicated to connecting you with the best treatment option available for single and co-occurring disorders. To begin your treatment journey, call Sabino Recovery today at (844) 286-0516.