The Symphony Of Nutrition


You Can Trace Every Sickness, Every Disease, And Every Aliment To A Nutrient Deficiency.” – Dr. Linus Pauling

According to the Random House College Dictionary, food is “any nourishing substance that is taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc. Nutrients on the other hand, are chemicals within foods that our bodies use to conduct the myriad biochemical reactions of life. From the killer cells of the immune system to the most delicate reproductive cell, every fiber of our being depends on the presence and balance of nutrients within the body.

Nutrients In Food Work As A Team

In the body, nutrients function like an orchestra. In order for a symphony to reach its full expression, all the instruments must perform together. Similarly, in symphony of human biochemistry, nutrients always act in concert.

If you were attending a symphony and the entire string section went on strike, you would certainly notice the difference. If however, only one violinist chose to walk out you might not consciously notice the difference in sound, but something would be missing.

To take it a few steps further, any nutrient deficiency, no matter how small, is going to have a very wide impact. Like a snowball rolling downhill, a seemingly insignificant nutrient deficiency can grow to enormous significance as its effect spread through the nutritional system.

From a recovery perspective, the thing to remember is that the nutrients in food work as a team, and that it is crucial to your body’s health to have all the team members present at all times. This means looking beyond the mere appearance or amount of food and considering its contents.

Being Well Fed vs. Well Nourished

The degree to which a given food is “nourishing” depends on the number and proportion of nutrients it contains. Food, like gasoline, can be either high or low octane. The more nutrients a food contains, the better its ability to sustain life, provide energy, and promote growth.

In these days of ready-to-eat meals, few of us think about where our food comes from, or what it contains, or what it can do. It’s easier to just put something into our stomachs to stop pesky hunger pangs or nagging cravings than to think about what our bodies are going to do with the food once it’s in there.

But there is a big difference between being well fed (having enough food to fill your stomach) and being well nourished (having the right food to fill your nutritional needs). If you ate a box of cornstarch you might feel full (and a little nauseated), but you certainly wouldn’t be nourished. Even very overweight individuals, who seem to have too much nutrition, are critically malnourished as they are consuming the wrong balance of nutrients in the wrong amounts.

Good nutrition encompasses not only the foods we eat, but every aspect of the way we live our lives. It is affected by anything that affects our bodies, including our emotions, our relationships, and the stresses we encounter in day-to-day life. It depends not only on foods, but on our bodies’ ability to digest, distribute, use, and store the nutrients contained in those foods. Anything that interferes with the body’s ability to carry out these tasks is going to interfere with nutrition.

Using The Principles of Nutrition For Recovery

Addictions, eating disorders, emotional stress, and many other disorders addressed in recovery interfere with almost every aspect of the body’s ability to carry out its nutritional tasks. Add to this fact the harsh reality of what most of us are eating, and it’s small wonder so many of us in recovery begin our journey as nutritional disasters. If it can be done wrong, nutritionally, most of us have been doing it.

If you are battling an addiction or eating disorder and want not only to survive but thrive in recovery, you must counter the toxic and malnourishing effects of your condition. You need to rebuild your body from the inside out, cell by cell.The first and best way to start this process is through nutrition. Food truly can work for recovery, when you understand your body’s needs and how to meet them. You can give your cells the fuel and tools they require to heal, and build a strong foundation of physical health that will make your recovery a joyous, vital, lifelong process.

In order for you to begin “eating for recovery”, it is important to understand what addiction has done to your body and what proper nutrition can do to help you recoup your losses. And in order to do that, you must have at least a basic groundwork in the principles of nutrition and by reading this blog you are one step closer to that goal.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC

Soup is Good for Your Soul and Recovery Too, Part Two

sliced squash
Photo by Pixabay on

Soup is not only a great food for the early part of recovery when the body’s fluid balance may be depleted and the gastrointestinal tract is often impaired but soup is also a great food to be added to all stages of our recovery journey. Soups, be they hot or cold, are an easy way to obtain needed nutrients without stressing the digestive tract or spending lots of time in the kitchen.

Another benefit of soup in our recovery is that soup is a comfort food and comfort foods bring up associations of positive times and relationships in our life and helps us feel less lonely. Some other comfort foods that we often think of are mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and the wonderful warm chocolate chip cookie. These comfort foods not only fill our bellies but also our need to belong, as reported in a recent study.

Grandmothers and Mothers around the world have had their own version of comforting and healing soups. Think the Jewish Chicken Matzo Ball Soup, the Japanese Dashi, the Scotch Broth, the Vietnamese Pho’, the Spanish Gazpacho, the Hungarian Goulash, the Creole Gumbo, the New England Clam Chowder, and the Finnish Karelian Borscht to name a few.

But the special power of soup goes beyond the need for comfort food for those of us in recovery. Soup also provides us with the chance to add more fiber, vegetables, grains and other nutrient dense superfoods to our diet. And a study done twenty-five years ago by Dr. Stephen Rennard, M.D., who brought his own grandmother’s soup to the lab and studied it; discovered that chicken soup does actually help us to fight off a cold. Researchers believed that the individual components of the broth, chicken, and vegetables together had an anti-inflammatory effect on our bodies which is a positive thing in our recovery process.

In my last blog, I shared three great stock recipes from our book, “Food For Recovery” that you can add to your favorite soup recipes. In this blog, I want to share one of my favorite recipes that will not only be good for your recovery, but be a great addition to your holiday table too.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC


Butternut Squash Soup

This soup is buttery but dairy-free. Squash soup has been popular for generations in South America. It’s a great source of vitamin A and potassium, as well as vitamin C, calcium, and fiber. 

Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 large carrots, diced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 to 8 cups stock (see previous recipes) or water

2 red bell peppers, seeded and minced

  1. In a large stockpot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add the bay leaf, cumin, and oregano and stir to combine flavors.
  1. Add the carrots, potatoes, squash, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, then add the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, 1 hour.
  1. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup in small batches in a food processor or blender. Sprinkle the top with minced red peppers and serve.



Soup is Good for Your Soul and Your Recovery Too, Part One


Soup is a great food for the early part of recovery, when the body’s fluid balance may be depleted and the gastrointestinal tract is often impaired. Soups, be they hot or cold, are an easy way to obtain needed nutrients without stressing the digestive tract or spending lots of time in the kitchen. If you are using organic vegetables, you will get maximum nutritional benefit if you don’t peel them.

Stocks and broths are made by simmering vegetables and/or leftover bones; and are the basis for most soups. While not always essential (the bones), they add a depth of flavor and nutrients that water can’t supply on its own.

Making a stock can be as simple as throwing some greens and bones into a pot or as complex as spending hours roasting and sautéing individual stock ingredients. Prepared stocks are often high in sodium and additives and relatively low in nutrients, so take the time to make your own. We recommend making large batches of stock and keeping it on hand in several containers in the freezer, using a glass or BPA free plastic container (fill your containers only ¾ full or 2 inches from the top to allow for expansion) for later use.

The best stocks start with leftovers—the trimmings of raw organic vegetables, leftover cooked vegetables, and the bones of fish, chicken, or meats. Almost any vegetable will work in stock (but keep in mind that cabbage and broccoli have a strong flavor that can overwhelm the stock and soup made with it).  Bones and cooked vegetables can be stored in the freezer until you’re ready to make stock, while raw vegetable trimmings will keep for up to a week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. We also recommend adding a piece of sea vegetable such as kombu or wakame to stocks to boost their mineral content.

The following recipes will get you started, but remember, some of the best soups are created from a few leftover vegetables, an herb or two, and a bit of water or stock.

Below you will find some basic stock recipes that you can add to your favorite soup, stew, or grain recipes. I have included a Dashi (mushroom) clear stock for healing, a Vegetable Stock, and a Chicken and/or Turkey Stock (think Thanksgiving leftovers). And in the next blog I will share some of my favorite soup recipes using some of the best foods for recovery.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC


Quick Super Stock

This soothing soup stock has been a favorite medicinal preparation for the Japanese for thousands of years. Alone it’s perfect for the early stages of recovery when simple broths are gentle to the digestive system.

The resulting broth is a clear stock called a dashi. Add tofu squares, scallions, thinly sliced carrots, and daikon radish for a light soothing soup. A small amount of alcohol-free soy sauce can be used instead of salt to flavor the broth.

Makes 1 ½ quarts

2 medium dried shiitake mushrooms

1 ½ quarts water

1 three-inch piece kombu or kelp (See Chapter 12)


  1. Rinse the mushrooms and cover with the water in a small bowl for 4 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and cut off the stems. Slice the mushroom tops and return to the water.
  2. Remove any sand from the kombu by brushing it off. Do not rinse, as the white powder on the surface, which is high in minerals, would be rinsed away.
  3. Combine the water, mushrooms, and kombu in a medium pot. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Serve hot.


Note: Kombu comes in dark green, thick strips. It has a wonderful hearty flavor, making it great for stocks. Kombu imparts an almost beefy flavor when added to beans (a 3-ounce piece per pot), and it also makes the beans easier to digest. Kombu is high in iodine, B vitamins, iron, and amino acids.

Note: Wakame or Kelp is a brown leafy sea vegetable that has a pleasant, mild flavor. It is rich in calcium and B and C vitamins. Wakame is used in soups, stews, grains, and beans. It can be baked and sprinkled on cooked grains or land vegetables. It is a good sea vegetable for the novice because of its mild flavor. When cooked, wakame turns a lovely green color.


Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock is the queen of stocks. Cooks worldwide use stocks to enrich the flavor of soups and sauces. Moreover, this vegetable stock increases the nutritional value of any dish it’s added to. Try using this stock to cook grains in as well.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, preferably canola or olive

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

3 cups raw vegetables (do not use broccoli or cabbage)

3 sprigs parsley or 2 tablespoons dried parsley

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

2 whole cloves

2 garlic cloves (optional)

2 quarts water

1 3-inch piece kombu (See Above Note)


  1. Rinse and peel all nonorganic vegetables. Rinse the organic produce.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil. Quickly add the onion and cook until light brown, stirring occasionally. Add the remainder of the ingredients except the kombu and cover. Cook 10 minutes on low heat.
  3. Cover with the 2 quarts of water, add the kombu, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Strain the stock and use immediately or refrigerate for future use. If a more intense flavor is desired, return strained stock to stove and reduce the liquid by half.


Note: We recommend making large batches of stock and keeping it on hand in several containers in the freezer, using a glass or a BPA free plastic container (fill your containers only ¾ full or 2 inches from top to allow for expansion) for later use.


Chicken or Turkey Stock

Chicken or turkey stock is the base for many soups and sauces. It can also be served with brown rice for a soothing simple soup. Use all leftover parts of a chicken or turkey except the skin, which is high in fat.

Makes about 1 ½ quarts

1 chicken or turkey carcass (or 3-4 pounds chicken pieces)

1 large onion, quartered

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

2 sprigs fresh parsley

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

2 whole cloves

2 fresh peppercorns or a pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or vinegar (see Note)

2 garlic cloves (optional)

2 quarts water


  1. Put all the ingredients in a large pot. Cover with the 2 quarts of cold water.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer 2 hours. Strain and use immediately or refrigerate. When using refrigerated stock, spoon off any waxy (fat) top layer before proceeding.


Note: The lemon juice or vinegar helps to extract more calcium from the chicken or turkey bones.

Note: We recommend making large batches of stock and keeping it on hand in several containers in the freezer, using a glass or BPA free plastic container (fill your containers only ¾ full or 2 inches from top to allow for expansion) for later use.



From: Food For Recovery 4th Edition: The Complete Nutritional Companion for Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Eating Disorders

Copyright © 2018 by Mary P. Cheney, CHC, Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. and Susan Knightly

Recovery And The Three Legged Stool


“To Keep The Body in Good Health Is A Duty. Otherwise We Shall Not Be Able To Keep Our Mind Strong And Clear.” – Buddha

Recovery from any illness involves the body, the mind, and the spirit. Together, these elements make up who we are, and true healing includes all these aspects of the self. Like a three-legged stool, recovery cannot stay upright and balanced unless all three “legs” are equally strong.

In many recovering individuals, the “body” leg of recovery is weak, damaged, or missing altogether. Instead of enjoying the natural high of a healthy sobriety, these individuals teeter on the brink of relapse, battling mood swings, fatigue, cravings, insomnia, and general ill health even as they “work the program”. This happens not because these individuals are uncommitted to their recovery, but because they (and often the people treating them) have made the fundamental mistake of underestimating the “body” part of their recovery.

In recovery, the triad of body-mind-spirit is interdependent. Neglect one aspect, and the other two will also suffer. In pursuing the goal of mind and spirit, all too many of us neglect or actively abuse the body- consuming caffeine by the quart, smoking cigarettes by the carton, and eating junk foods on a regular basis. All of this abuse has a definite impact on the mind and the spirit. For many of us our eating habits are not a symptom of our depression and fatigue, they are the cause.

If you are battling an addiction or eating disorder and want not only to survive but thrive in recovery, you must counter the toxic and malnourishing effects of your condition. You need to rebuild your body from the inside out, cell by cell. The first and best way to start this process is through nutrition. Food truly can work for recovery, when you understand your body’s needs and how to meet them. You can give your cells the fuel and tools they require to heal, and build a strong foundation of physical health that will make your recovery a joyous, vital, lifelong process. Only from such a foundation can any of us hope to reach our full spiritual and mental growth.

Only when recovery is a complete physical and spiritual regeneration can the seeds of recovery blossom into the vibrant beauty of a restored body, mind, and spirit. I know this from personal experience, from the experience of the clients I have coached, and from hard scientific evidence of the biological impacts of addictions and eating disorders.

With this in mind, I hope everyone reading this blog, recovering and otherwise who want to take up the reins and begin the fulfilling journey to a recovered body, mind, and spirit; enjoys the adventure as much as I have.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC


From: Food For Recovery 4th Edition: The Complete Nutritional Companion for Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Eating Disorders

Copyright © 2018 by Mary P. Cheney, CHC, Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. and Susan Knightly

Sandwiches Aren’t Just For Lunch


A recipe for a sandwich may seem like a contradiction. After all, sandwiches are probably the greatest of culinary improvisations—the first convenience food, the perfect carryall. Two pieces of bread with something tasty tucked in the center can be a complete meal in minutes (or less).

Sandwiches can be made from whole-grain breads, rolls, pitas, tortillas or flat breads. Can’t have gluten? No problem, as today there are many gluten-free bread options to choose from. For spreads, try homemade salad dressing, soy mayonnaise, chutneys, salsas, creamy tahini, or nut butters. Stuff sandwiches with combinations of wholefoods. Imagination is your best guide when making a sandwich.

And the humble sandwich is not just for lunch, you can make a hearty recovery sandwich for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Combine a sandwich with a bowl of soup and a side salad and you have a hearty, yet fast meal that can be made in 15 minutes or less, for those nights when you need to run out the door to go to a meeting.

But if you don’t have time to make soup, stock up on healthy canned or frozen soups. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but with a little research and some reading of labels, you can find healthy convenience foods for those busy nights. Another tip is when you do make soup, always freeze some for a busy night. In recovery, we need to try to cook once and eat twice. If we cook so we have leftovers, we can put them in the freezer so we won’t be tempted to eat fast food between work and a meeting as we will have our own healthy “fast foods” at home to eat.

You don’t know where to start? Think of what was your favorite sandwich and soup as a child. Was it grilled cheese and tomato soup? That’s a good place to start. Look for a tomato soup that’s organic or natural and is free of additives. Here are some suggestions:

  • Tabatchnick brands have great frozen soups that are lower in sodium and fairly unprocessed compared to other commercial soups.
  • If you are looking for canned soups, Here are some to look at: Campbells Yes! line has a great Tomato Carrot Bisque, Pacific Foods has an awesome Tomato Soup, Annie’s Homegrown has a very tasty Tomato Soup, Amy’s has a wonderful Cream of Tomato Soup, Imagine has a very good Tomato Cream Soup, or you can try Muir Glen’s wonderful Creamy Tomato Soup.
  • As you can see there are many options  available when you don’t have time to make your own soup. Always read the labels so you are familiar with the ingredients and to become aware of the serving sizes. Also, keep in mind that soup is higher in sodium than some foods and if you are sodium sensitive, canned soup may not be an option for you. As always avoid ingredients which you cannot tolerate (respect your food allergies/sensitivities).
  • Canned soups can be heated in the microwave but make sure to read the label for the heating directions. Tip: If you use a deep bowl (28 ounces is good) and cover the soup, you will avoid making a mess in the microwave.
  • When you have the time you can make a great adult version (that’s my name for it) of tomato soup using Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes. Just substitute the fire roasted tomatoes in your favorite tomato soup recipe.

Sandwiches can be a great way to get lots of wholefoods into your diet. They can be served cold or warm and cooked on a cast iron pan or a panini pan, the options are endless. Below is my favorite recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich to get you started.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC



Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Serve with your soup of choice (My favorites are tomato or butternut squash soups)

Serves: 1

2 slices whole grain bread (or gluten-free bread)

2 slices of cheese (Cheddar, Muenster, or Cheddar Jack are great. Feel free to use two different cheeses)

A butter/olive oil spread or soft butter and olive oil to taste (2 to 4 teaspoons)


1. Assemble the bread and cheese to make a sandwich and butter the outer side of the sandwich (only one side is necessary).

2. Heat the oil or butter/olive oil spread in a small skillet on medium heat. Place the sandwich in the skillet butter side down and either flatten the sandwich down with a heavy small pot or press down with the spatula to flatten.

3. Cook for two minutes over medium-low heat until lightly brown. You can lift the edge of a corner to take a look to see if the sandwich is done.

4. Flip the sandwich when done and repeat. Cook until lightly brown and the cheese is melted.

5. Serve with your favorite soup and a side salad. Enjoy!





From: Food For Recovery 4th Edition: The Complete Nutritional Companion for Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Eating Disorders

Copyright © 2018 by Mary P. Cheney, H.C., Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. and Susan Knightly

Voting Is Good For Your Health

IMG_0318“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.” Martin Luther King, Jr. – March 25, 1966

One of the first memories of my mother was her watching the March on Washington. When it came time for Martin Luther King Jr. to deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech, she was fixated on his every word with tears rolling down her face.

I remember as a little girl asking, “What is wrong?” as I was very worried as my mother was crying. That is when for the first time my mother explained inequality, racism, and injustice. I remember being confused and asking, “But why?” And now, over 50 years later I am still confused and asking, “But Why?”

While I have seen many advances in the field of addictions and recovery over the last 25 years, it saddens me that there is still inequality and injustice in healthcare, especially in regards to addictions.

For example, while recent studies continue to support that “addiction can be defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease”, why is there still a stigma attached with the diagnosis of an addiction? This stigma and the resulting prejudice can be seen in not only the general population but also in service providers as stated by recent studies.

And while studies continue to show that the relapse rates for drug addiction are very similar to those of other chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, or asthma, why is relapse from drug addiction seen as a “failure of treatment” and not just treated with renewed intervention like we do with other chronic diseases with no label of ‘failure” attached?

And why do insurance companies expect people with addictions to be “fixed” after a short stay in rehab, refusing to pay for aftercare while paying for continued care for persons with other chronic, relapsing brain diseases?

And why when a person decides to seek treatment for their addiction, they can’t start treatment because there are no beds available at the facility, while there are beds available for rehabilitation for other chronic, relapsing brain diseases like multiple sclerosis?

And why is it when a person goes to jail for a drug arrest who is suffering from both a drug addiction and diabetes, that they receive treatment for their diabetes only while their disease of drug addiction is often left untreated? Why do we as a country then complain about the “revolving door” of drug arrests while being too blind to see that making drug treatment part of the prison healthcare system would help to break this cycle?

Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I too have a dream. My dream is to see all persons with addictions treated without stigma in our healthcare system just like those with other chronic brain diseases. I have a dream that all persons who relapse will see their relapse as a learning experience and resume treatment without stigma. I have a dream that insurance companies will realize that not all of us can be “fixed” after one hospital visit & pay for continued care as needed just like they do for other chronic brain diseases. I have a dream that every person seeking care will find treatment and/or a bed available without delay. I have a dream that every person in jail who suffers from addictions will have treatment available to them in the prison health care system. I have a dream that one day addictions will be viewed without stigma and everyone that seeks treatment from our health care system can do so as easily as seeking treatment for the common cold.

Now, how can I make this dream happen? I use my words to speak out. I advocate for those that don’t have a voice and I vote.

We can also help to change the world everyday by voting with our wallets, as every time we purchase or support an item or cause, we are voting for that item or cause. And while we can vote with our voices everyday by choosing kind words and actions over hate, we still need to vote at the booths to say no to injustice.

What are the issues you are voting for this Election Day? Is it for healthcare? Is it for sensible gun control? Is it to save the environment? Is it for prison reform? Is it to end poverty, homelessness, or hunger? Is it to fight racism and hate? Or are you like me, voting for all of the above? Vote your values, vote your causes, vote for the things that matter to you; whatever your politics are.

Why is a health coach telling you to vote? Because it’s good for your health as its empowering, as its only at the polls that each one of us has the same power. Don’t sit at home and complain about the state of our country, go out to vote and make the world better, one vote at a time. And its good for your health too!

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC

The Joy of Oatmeal


As those of you who follow me on social media know, some of my favorite childhood memories are those that include food. One of my first memories of my Dad is of him making oatmeal on a Saturday morning and watching cartoons with a bowl of hot oatmeal in my hands.

Now that I am older, I still find myself eating oatmeal for comfort, or as I am doing homework late at night and yes, while watching television. While CNN might have replaced my Saturday morning cartoons, my love of oatmeal has never changed.

Is there something magical about oatmeal or is it just the memory connection? I would say probably both but first let’s look at the importance of breakfast in recovery and then examine the nutritional benefits of oatmeal further.

The Importance of Breakfast in Recovery

We all have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but breakfast becomes an even more vitally important meal for people in recovery. It’s because breakfast can set the tone and temperament of your body and brain for the entire day. Too many people skip breakfast as they run out the door for work or think coffee alone is breakfast. Both are wrong, as when you wake in the morning your body is both dehydrated and your glucose reserves are low and by skipping breakfast you set your morning on a HANGRY rollercoaster that may last for the rest of the day.

Ok, now that I have hopefully convinced you to take the time to eat breakfast, what foods should you eat? Keep in mind that high-protein foods tend to wake us up and the complex carbohydrate of whole grains tends to help keep us calm and regular. A combination of the two makes for a good start to the day.

While the traditional hearty American breakfast of eggs with all the trimmings has come under attack from every corner in the last decade and with good reason (as it is high in saturated fats, salt, and sugar, thus remarkably low in nutrient value), too many of us still choose to pick up a fast food version of our American breakfast on our way to work. And if you look at the cold cereals that stock our grocery shelves as a fast alternative for breakfast, many are packed full of simple sugars and refined grains. So what should you eat?

In recovery, a breakfast of whole grains, hot or cold breakfast cereals, or whole-grain breads, muffins, waffles, or pancakes with a side of a healthy protein such as a greek yogurt, an organic hard boiled egg, or a scrambled egg is the best way to maintain energy through the day and build resilience to stress.

Many of us still have a lot of preconceived notions about what constitutes a breakfast food. Many cultures start the day with fish or beans and corn bread. A tuna salad on whole-grain toast would make an excellent breakfast, as would a whole grain english muffin with nut butter but most of us would classify this as lunch or dinner fare. So keep in mind that many recipes outside the breakfast section of your favorite cookbook would make for a super breakfast and as a result last night’s leftovers are often great morning foods options.

Oats: A Superfood for Recovery

Now let’s unravel the mysteries of oatmeal. The grain oats started from humble beginnings as a weed in the barley and wheat fields and later became the staple grain of Ireland, Scotland, and northern England.

Oat groats (the harvested “as-is” product) are cleaned, dried, and toasted to crack the inedible kernel (or hull) surrounding the oat. Hulled oat groats taste more like wheat than the oatmeal we know, and they can be used in soups or breads or cooked like buckwheat.

To make “old-fashioned” rolled oats, the hulled groat is heated and rolled. Steel-cut oats are sliced with thin blades. Quick-cooking rolled oats are heated and sliced an additional time and then prepared as rolled oats. Instant oatmeal comes from precooked oats that are dried and rolled thin.

Oat flour makes a coarse but firm crust with a slightly nutty flavor. It is a good extender for other foods, especially meats.

Oats are a whole-grain food, known scientifically as Avena sativa. Oats (also known as the common oat) are among the healthiest grains on earth and are considered by many to be a superfood. A superfood are foods that are nutritionally dense and thus good for one’s health. These foods provide a high nutritional return on their calorie investment and should become a mainstay of your recovery diet.

Oats are a wholegrain powerhouse and are rich in carbohydrates and fiber, but also higher in protein and fat than most other grains. Oats are very high in many vitamins (especially several different B vitamins) and minerals (especially manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, copper and zinc).

Whole oats are also high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Most notable is a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which are almost solely found in oats. Avenanthramides may help lower blood pressure levels by increasing the production of nitric oxide. This gas molecule helps dilate blood vessels and leads to better blood flow. In addition, avenanthramides have anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effects. Ferulic acid (another antioxidant) is also found in large amounts in oats.

Oats are also loaded with dietary fiber (containing more than many other grains) and the high soluble fiber beta-glucan found in oats has numerous benefits as it helps reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels, promotes healthy gut bacteria and increases feelings of fullness. Beta-glucan may also promote the release of peptide YY (PYY), a hormone produced in the gut in response to eating. This satiety hormone has been shown to lead to reduced calorie intake and may decrease your risk of obesity. All good things for those of us in recovery.

Other possible health benefits of oats include reducing the risk of coronary artery disease and reducing one’s risk of colorectal cancer.

How to Incorporate Oats in Your Recovery Diet

Now that I hopefully sold you on giving oats a try, I have suggestions on how you can you add them to recovery diet.

For Breakfast, there are several options for adding oats to your diet:

1. Oatmeal: You can cook oatmeal on your stove top, in your microwave, or in a slow cooker. Here are some types:                         

  • Instant oats: Oat groats that have been steamed and flaked.
  • Rolled oats (also called regular, quick or old-fashioned oats): Oat groats that have been steamed and rolled into flakes that are thicker (and thus take longer to cook) than instant oats.
  • Steel-cut oats (also called Irish oats): You get the whole oat kernel, cut up. These take about 20 minutes to cook.
  • Scottish oats: These are like steel-cut oats, but instead of being cut, they are ground.
  • Oat groats: This is the whole oat kernel — no cuts, flakes, or grinding. They take longer to cook than other oats. Give them 50-60 minutes to cook, after you bring the water to a boil.

Now, I am not suggesting you get up earlier to cook oatmeal before work. My morning breakfast routine takes two minutes from start to finish. I have shared my favorite recipe, “Mary’s Quick Superfood Recovery Breakfast” to help you add oats to breakfast in under two minutes at the end of this blog.

2. Granola (we have a great recipe for homemade granola in our “Food For Recovery” book and on our website,  But if you buy packaged granola in the supermarket, read the label to pick your healthiest option.

3. Museli is also a delicious way to add oatmeal to your diet. I love mine with greek yogurt.

4. Oatmeal Pancakes, Waffles, or Muffins.

*Be sure to add a source of protein of your choice so you have a good nutritional balance to your breakfast.

Oats aren’t just for breakfast: There are many other ways to add them to lunch, dinner, or snacks. Think baked goods, muffins, cookies, bars, or cakes, or breads. Oat groats are great in soup or breads, or cooked like buckwheat. And one of my favorite dinners is the Quaker Oatmeal Prize Winning Meatloaf recipe that uses oatmeal, it’s the recipe that many of our Mothers and Grandmothers made.

Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they are sometimes contaminated with gluten. That’s because they may be harvested and processed using the same equipment as other grains that contain gluten. If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, read the label before you purchase and only choose oat products that are certified as gluten-free.

I hope you discover the joys of oatmeal as its a great superfood to add to a recovery diet and its tasty too!

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, HC


Mary’s Quick Superfood Recovery Breakfast

½ cup Organic Quick (not instant) Oats

1 cup Hot Water

1 cup Frozen Organic Blueberries

28 ounce Bowl


  1. Add ½ cup Organic Quick Oats to a deep cereal bowl. I use one that is 28 ounces to avoid a spill over of oatmeal in the microwave.
  2. Add 1 cup hot water to oatmeal and mix.
  3. If you are starting with hot water from a Keruig coffeemaker microwave on high for 1 minute. If you are using cold water, microwave on high for 1 ½ to 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from microwave with caution as it will be hot.
  5. Stir in 1 cup frozen blueberries and mix, enjoy.


Note: If you don’t like blueberries you can add any other fruit (applesauce, bananas, peaches, or pears are great), cinnamon or any other spice, nuts, seeds, pumpkin puree, and or greek yogurt to make oatmeal tastier and even more nutritious.

Note: Remember to add a side of protein of your choice for nutritional balance.





From: Food For Recovery 4th Edition: The Complete Nutritional Companion for Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Eating Disorders

Copyright © 2018 by Mary P. Cheney, H.C., Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. and Susan Knightly