Eating well while you quit

We want to help you feel your best while quitting and beyond and eating a balanced diet can really help. Here’s some pointers to set you on the right path.

Healthy eating is known to provide a variety of health benefits, in relation to stopping smoking – it can make life easier to navigate cravings and you’ll likely feel better along the way. 

Hopefully you’ve noticed an improvement in your taste buds. Lots of people quitting report that food tastes better, a change that happens pretty quickly after you stub out that last cigarette. If it’s motivated you to try new foods and look at the way you eat, now’s the perfect time to start eating well. 

What’s a balanced diet? 

A balanced diet means eating from each food group in moderation to stay a healthy weight and give your body all the nutrients it needs. Let’s delve a bit deeper. 

The food groups 

Fruit, veg and carbs 

Aim for 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day. A portion is 80g for fresh, canned or frozen fruit and veg. A tablespoon of dried fruit counts too!  

Base your meals on starchy carbohydrates like:  

  • Rice and grains  
  • Bread  
  • Pasta  
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes  
  • Oats and cereals  

Aim for wholegrain options if you can. You’ll feel fuller for longer and they contain more nutrients. 

Protein and fats 

Add protein to each meal, like meat, fish, beans, lentils or eggs. Try to opt for lean cuts of meat and keep processed meat like burgers and sausages as a treat now and then. Even though fat gets a bad rap, a small amount is an essential part of a balanced diet. When you can, choose unsaturated fat or healthy fats like: 

  • Avocados  
  • Olive oil and olives  
  • Nuts and seeds  
  • Oily fish like salmon  

Dairy, drinks and alcohol 

What about dairy products? Try to pick lower fat and lower sugar options of both dairy and dairy alternatives. When it comes to keeping hydrated, aim for 6-8 glasses of water per day – low fat milk, tea and coffee all count! Fizzy drinks contain high amounts of sugar and few nutrients so try to keep them to a minimum. A 150ml glass of fruit juice will count once towards your 5 a day, but only once as it’s high in sugar. When it comes to alcohol, keep within the guidelines of less than 14 units a week for both men and women.  

A tip on dividing your plate 

When you’re serving up your meal, how you divide up your plate can be key. Aim for starchy carbohydrates and vegetables to make up most of your plate alongside a hand-sized amount of protein and a small amount of fat to get the right balance.  

Don’t be too harsh 

If you’re experiencing an increase in appetite, or finding you want to snack a little more to help you manage cravings, that’s completely normal. You’re making a big change to improve your health by quitting smoking and it’s a tough journey. Do what you need now and know that in time it’ll get easier and you can address anything you want to change when you’re on an even keel. 

Last thing – you don’t have to set any foods as ‘off limits’. All foods have a place in a healthy lifestyle. To enjoy a balanced diet you should be getting the right amount of each food group, which includes having the occasional high saturated fat and high sugar foods like cakes, chocolate, desserts and fast food. It’s all about moderation!  

If you’re looking for support to help you quit, Thriving Nottingham’s free quit smoking programme can help. Take the first step towards a smoke-free life today.