woman selecting vegetables as she plans meals for the week

The Ultimate Detox Diet Planning Guide

The point of detoxing is to rid your body of harmful toxins. While removing toxins is the primary objective in any detox program it’s only addressing half of the problem. The other half of detox is replacing poisonous substances with nutritional food and plenty of liquids.

While some sweet or savory foods might feel comforting at the moment, your body will feel better overall if you’re eating food full of nourishment. Drug detox isn’t solely about quitting the abuse of a substance, it’s also about replacing the bad with the good.

Why a Diet Matters During and After Detox

Substance abuse enables poor dieting choices like late night eating, skipping meals and poor food choices. Many drugs, when abused, may also prevent your body from receiving the proper nutrients it needs from foods. Abusing drugs can reduce your daily nutrition intake, making detox and a proper diet even more significant to your full recovery.

While detox withdrawal symptoms vary on the substance, one of the more common symptoms is a lack of appetite that’s usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting. When you find the strength to keep food and liquids down again, it’s crucial to feed your body the proper nutrients. According to the National Library of Medicine, a balanced diet is important for those abstaining from drugs and alcohol, as a healthy diet positively impacts your overall mood and health, which reduces potential symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Why Junk Food Won’t Work

  • Your Body Needs Nutrients to Heal. Addiction can make it difficult to recognize some pretty severe nutritional deficiencies. Providing your body with those missing nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins is going to be crucial to helping it cope with withdrawals. In addition, when you’re feeling better it’s much easier to ignore cravings.
  • Your Body Needs Fiber. While a multivitamin does help replace some nutrients if you’ve been eating poorly for a while, it can’t sustain you long-term. Make sure you’re getting lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Not only will the fiber keep your digestive system functioning properly, but it also regulates your blood sugar, which means fewer mood swings and irritability.
  • You Don’t Want to Replace Your Addiction. Many people in recovery use sugar and caffeine to keep feeling awake and alert. Over time, your brain will expect the food to taste sweet and the healthier foods won’t taste as good. Eating foods with high-sugar content can become a problem if you’re using sugar as a substitute for your addiction.

What Your Body Needs

The nutrition your body needs will vary depending on the substance you’ve been using. Here are four common addictions and what to eat for each:

Opioid Addiction Foods

Opioids like Oxycontin and heroin affect the digestive system. Individuals addicted to these substances will often deal with constipation, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Because of this, individuals with opioid addictions typically have an electrolyte imbalance. Focusing on a high-fiber diet will help decrease the chances of gastrointestinal problems. Some foods that are rich in fiber include:

  • Vegetables like broccoli, spinach and lima beans
  • Whole grains like barley, bulgur wheat and rye.
  • Beans like navy beans, black beans and lentils.

Alcohol Addiction Foods

Although alcohol is more accessible than other drugs, it can certainly be just as damaging to the body (if not more so). Alcohol is empty calories and the lack of nutrition shows.

Alcoholism usually causes deficiencies in vitamin B6, thiamine and folic acid. Individuals with alcoholism also often have an imbalance of fluids, electrolytes and protein. All of this can lead to a damaged liver and pancreas, as well as high blood pressure and seizures.

Someone in recovery from an alcohol use disorder will need a well-rounded diet to combat the often severe malnutrition. Women who have been heavy drinkers for a while will often benefit from calcium supplements because they may be at a higher risk for osteoporosis.

Stimulant Addiction Foods

Stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine give a high that reduces appetite and the need for sleep. Because of this, your body will likely need lots of liquid to combat dehydration. Staying up for extended periods can cause several problems for your health and heavy stimulant abuse can cause permanent memory damage.

Marijuana Addiction Foods

Unlike other drugs, marijuana usually increases your appetite. However, this means you’ll often be eating foods high in fat and sugar. During detox, your focus will be on reducing your caloric intake and finding balance with foods that nourish your body.

What Are Detox Food and Dieting Best Practices

Detox foods are foods that empower your recovery. These foods are usually low in carbohydrates, sugars, and fats, though this can vary depending on the person and their substance abuse. Some great examples of these foods include:

  • Fruits and raw vegetables like avocados, blueberries and beets
  • Whole grains like quinoa, farro and sweet potatoes.
  • Seeds like hemp seeds, pumpkins seeds and sunflower seeds
  • Nuts like almonds, macadamia nuts and pine nuts.

It’s important to eat regularly scheduled, balanced meals containing proper caloric and nutritional values. Many people struggling with substance abuse often possess some nutritional deficiencies, which may contribute to depression and anxiety. Dehydration is common in detox. Staying hydrated can help you avoid several negative side effects, like muscle cramps, headaches and fatigue. Limiting caffeine intake is also recommended in detox dieting because it can trigger neurotransmitters in the brain.

Detox Meal Planning: The Basics

Deciding to detox is a difficult step for many people. But having a plan in place can make things go much smoother. Here’s what to remember when you’re planning your meals.

  • Water. Drink lots of water and avoid sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice.
  • Eat Your Fruits and Veggies. Aim for 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. There are tons of different types of fruit out there. Not big on apples? Try mangos. Hate celery? A spinach salad with strawberries, chopped walnuts, and a light vinaigrette is easy to make and delicious.
  • Protein. Protein is a building block for a healthy body. You don’t need much — medical experts suggest 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams for men each day. Protein isn’t just in meat, beans and yogurt are good sources of protein.
  • Multivitamins. A multivitamin can be extremely beneficial to kick-start your detox. Many people in recovery can benefit from a multivitamin that contains zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C and B-complex. You may even want to look into homeopathic supplements like turmeric, milk thistle, and green tea. However, be sure to talk to your doctor before adding vitamins to your diet. Every person’s body is different and you may need more of one nutrient than another. Also, certain vitamins can be harmful depending on what else you’ve been taking. Learn more about the best detox vitamins.

It’s Not the Drug Cravings, You’re Just Hungry

Many people who have been using drugs for a long time have forgotten how hunger feels. Once their body begins recovering, those feelings may come back in full force. It is suggested to stay on a regular meal schedule during and after detoxing, as this will teach your body when to expect food and can help keep the hunger under control.

Learn How to Cook a Few Meals

You don’t need to become a master chef to cook healthy food. You may be surprised how learning just a few basic meals can benefit your overall nutrition levels. EatingWell has a great collection of Cooking 101 tutorials. You might even consider investing in a slow cooker. With a slow cooker, you put the ingredients in, turn it on and let it cook, and a few hours later you have a hot meal waiting for you.

The Negative Nutritional Impacts of Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs and alcohol won’t provide the best nutritional value to your diet. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcoholism is known to impair your body’s digestive enzymes as well as it’s control over glucose levels, among multiple other nutritional deficiencies. Opioid abuse may also result in slower digestion that can lead to constipation.  Many stimulants often lead to eating disorders as well as create negative side effects like insomnia, anxiety and malnutrition.

Healthy Habits to Include with Your Diet

While proper nutrition can serve as a significant benefit to your recovery, some of these other healthy habits may influence a healthier lifestyle:

  • Staying away from cigarettes. Cigarettes not only contain harmful carcinogens but may also act as an addiction trigger.
  • Remaining positive. We’ve all heard, “mind over matter,” and it’s true. You’re only as miserable as you think you are. Staying positive in stressful situations will place you miles ahead of where a negative attitude will.
  • Sleeping enough. Sleep is important. It’s a time for your body to recover and recharge. Without the proper amount of sleep, you’re only making it harder on your body to perform normal daily functions.
  • Exercise. Exercising is great for you physically and mentally. When you exercise your body is burning fats, strengthening your heart and muscles, all while your brain is producing endorphins.

Sample meal plan

An example of a meal plan can help you structure a healthy way of living. It’s important to remember to balance protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains throughout the day.


It’s called the most important meal of the day for a reason. Try scrambled eggs with some chopped bell peppers and onion to get your protein and some vegetables. If you are still feeling hungry you can cut up some fruit, spread some almond butter on toast and have a mid-morning snack.


There are plenty of pre-made salad mixes that have all the ingredients ready to go. Look for dark leaves like spinach or kale for the most nutrition. For an afternoon snack, you can have some nuts, string cheese or organic applesauce.


Choose a protein, whole grain and vegetable. This easy salmon recipe takes 15 minutes to make and you could pair it with some quinoa and steamed broccoli. It all just takes a few minutes to complete and afterward you’ll feel better than if you ate a fast food burger.

If you’re used to having dessert you can make some healthier indulgences. Try blending some frozen bananas, milk, and nut butter into “nice cream.” Top it with some cacao nibs or small pieces of dark chocolate. When it comes to sweets, it’s all about moderation.

Getting Professional Help

Addiction and substance abuse affect nearly all aspects of life. At the Recovery Village, our multidisciplinary staff and registered dietitians specialize in treatment programs that include safe, medically assisted detox through supportive aftercare programs, with carefully designed meal plans to complement your recovery. Call now to speak with a representative about supervised medical detox and if detoxing in a medical facility is the best option for you.

The Ultimate Detox Diet Planning Guide
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