Hospital Offers Cooking Class To Nourish Recovery

By Victoria Kim 04/04/18

Patients learn how to make nutritious food that will nourish and restore their bodies during BMC's "Cooking For Recovery" class.

people attending a cooking class

One New England hospital is teaching the importance of good nutrition to patients in recovery.

The new “Cooking for Recovery” class at Boston Medical Center offers a holistic approach to maintaining sobriety. Patients in BMC’s addiction treatment program can attend the class in the hospital’s food pantry, where they’ll learn how to cook good, nutritious food designed to sustain their recovery.

“Good health care is about more than just direct clinical services,” said former White House Drug Czar and executive director of the hospital’s Grayken Center for Addiction, Michael Botticelli. “Recovery is not just about stopping the use of alcohol and drugs, it’s about how do we return people to a sense of wellness and a sense of well-being.”

Dietician and chef Tracy Burg is teaching patients the value of self-care, and how to make healthy choices over junk food that contribute to a “vicious cycle” of fluctuating blood sugar levels, weight gain, depression, and possible relapse.

Her job is to teach the importance of nourishing the body and restoring health—which many people tend to lose sight of during the throes of substance use disorder.

“A lot of people who are getting over alcoholism or drug addiction, their gut is a wreck because all their healthy bacteria has been destroyed,” said Burg, according to ABC News. “But eating fiber is actually feeding the healthy bacteria in the gut… and it helps to bring back that healthy microbiome. So nutrition plays many roles in the healing process.”

Some addiction treatment programs fail to emphasize good nutrition with clients. In a past interview with The Fix, David Wiss, MS, RDN, and founder of Nutrition in Recovery, discussed how “brain chemistry, hormones, and gut bacteria… are profoundly impacted by what we eat.”

Nutrition should be a source of empowerment, not disempowerment, said Wiss. “We can teach people in early recovery how to eat for nourishment rather than simply for ‘reward,’" he said. “This practice can slowly rewire the brain, change the palate, and prepare the individual for a lifetime of wellness.”

In New Hampshire, the Perinatal Addiction Treatment Program clinic for women at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center saw a similar need for the women coming to the clinic. “It’s obvious they’re not eating a lot of nutritious food,” said advance practice nurse Daisy Goodman. “So we’ve really started to focus on providing food that’s immediately and readily available because women come in hungry.”

In lieu of cooking classes, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock program offers healthy meals and snacks to replace some of the high-sugar foods that patients bring from home. The hospital is also working with patients to write a cookbook of healthy recipes to help them make better choices moving forward.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr