What Foods Should I Eat During Outpatient Treatment?

During outpatient addiction treatment, it’s important to create a healthy meal plan. In particular, you should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates (such as rice and beans), healthy fats (such as fish and avocados), and protein-rich foods (such as lean meat and eggs).

Nutrition plays an essential role in the addiction recovery process. A balanced diet gives you the energy you need to heal from withdrawal symptoms and any drug-induced health issues. That’s why many inpatient treatment programs offer fresh, nutritious meals every day.

In an outpatient program, however, you must create your own healthy meal plan.

The best foods to eat during outpatient treatment depend on personal factors, such as your age, activity level, and overall health. Your healthcare provider or nutritionist can help you determine your specific dietary needs.

In general, though, people in recovery should focus on the following foods:

Fruits & Vegetables

Many addictive drugs cause nutritional deficiencies.

For example, stimulant drugs such as meth and cocaine can cause an extreme loss of appetite that leads to malnutrition. Similarly, people with alcohol use disorder (alcohol addiction) often develop deficiencies in B vitamins, including B1, B6, and folic acid.

Also, no matter what drugs you use, substance use disorder makes it difficult to focus on anything besides getting and using drugs. As a result, many people with the disease neglect proper nutrition and develop poor eating habits, leading to various deficiencies.

Recover From Nutritional Deficiencies

In addition, when you stop using drugs, you may experience withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can rid your body of essential vitamins and minerals.

They can also disrupt your body’s balance of electrolytes, such as chloride, potassium, and sodium. Electrolytes are minerals that improve muscle and bone health and help you stay hydrated.

To recover from nutritional deficiencies, people in outpatient rehab should eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals. While these nutrients appear in many different foods, they’re particularly plentiful in fruits and vegetables, such as:

  • apples
  • avocados
  • bananas
  • beets
  • blueberries
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • garlic
  • leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and bok choy
  • strawberries
  • sweet potatoes

To help you get even more vitamins and minerals during early recovery, your doctor may recommend that you take certain supplements, such as magnesium, vitamin C, or zinc.


Along with vitamins and minerals, most fruits and veggies are also high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that can reduce your risk of disease by helping your body fight off harmful compounds called free radicals.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates keep you energized, helping you manage the physical and mental challenges of drug addiction treatment. They also contain plenty of fiber.


Fiber supports your digestive system and eases constipation, a common side effect of opioids, alcohol, and other drugs of abuse.

Tryptophan & Serotonin

Complex carbs also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that your body uses to produce serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) that helps regulate important body functions such as sleep.

With a proper sleep schedule, you face a much higher chance of long-term recovery.

Serotonin may also stabilize your mood and help you focus during therapy, support groups, and other outpatient treatment services.

You can find complex carbs in foods such as:

  • whole grains, including brown rice, wild rice, oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, whole-grain bread, and whole-grain pasta
    legumes, including peas, beans, chickpeas, and lentils
    starchy vegetables, including potatoes, corn, beets, squash, and turnips
    non-starchy vegetables, including asparagus, broccoli, cucumber, kale, spinach, and carrots

Healthy Fats

Some people assume you should avoid or limit all high-fat foods. However, many foods feature healthy fats that will make your time in treatment easier.

For example, healthy fats can boost your energy, support cell growth, and help your body absorb nutrients. That last benefit is especially important for people recovering from addiction-related malnutrition.

Fatty Fish

In addition, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring contain omega-3 fatty acids. These fats can improve your sense of well-being and ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. In other words, they make it easier to cope with recovery-related stressors such as drug cravings.

Omega-3 fats may also protect against cognitive decline, cancer, and heart disease. These conditions commonly affect people who struggle with alcohol abuse.

Other Foods

Besides fish, other foods rich in healthy fats include:

  • avocados
  • cheese
  • dark chocolate
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • full-fat yogurt
  • nuts and seeds
  • whole eggs

Protein-Rich Foods

Your body needs protein to repair damaged cells and build new ones. Protein also helps you fight off infections and illnesses. You may face a higher risk of infection during early recovery, as many addictive drugs weaken your immune system.

By eating plenty of protein-rich foods, you can keep your body healthy and strong throughout the recovery process.

The most common high-protein foods include:

  • dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • fish
  • lean meats, such as chicken, turkey, pork, and beef
  • nuts and seeds
  • whole eggs
  • quinoa
  • soy products, such as tofu and tempeh

As an added benefit, many protein-rich foods contain tyrosine.

Tyrosine & Dopamine

Tyrosine is an amino acid that helps your body make dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, motivation, and reward. Drugs of abuse cause an unnatural surge of dopamine, making them addictive. When you boost dopamine through healthy foods, you may experience fewer drug cravings.

If you or someone you love struggles with drug use, please reach out to Northeast Addictions Treatment Center. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer medical detox, mental health counseling, and other evidence-based treatments to help you or your loved one stay sober.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

Published on

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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