Quitting smoking is one of the toughest get-healthy challenges there is, and many people will try to make it happen during this week’s Great American Smokeout, a program of the American Cancer Society.
But according to Ashley Koff, R.D., they may be leaving out one important piece of the puzzle says—good nutrition.
Koff, a renowned nutrition expert who’s a regular on shows like Dr. Oz, just launched the AKA Quit Kit for Smokers in collaboration with Conscious Box, and it includes a set of mostly food-related products that address common challenges smokers face while struggling to break the habit.
“I realized that smokers know they should quit but struggle with the how, and specifically, how to address the physiologic changes that occur in the body when you remove nicotine,” she says. “So I took the nutrition/nutrient approach to address these changes, with the idea that if you can feel better—or even just feel okay versus feeling really bad—you are more likely to be a successful quitter.”
In other words, if you eat McDonald’s and then feel lethargic and have digestive issues, it’s going to be harder to fight cigarette cravings, which you associate with making you feel better. If you eat a kale salad with wild salmon, you’ll be flooding your body with antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats, and you’ll feel less depleted and stronger when those cravings come. (Easier said than done, obviously.)
Here are three specific ways nutrition can help you put out your last Marlboro for good:
1. Substitute a sugar high. It’s not often a nutritionist will recommend sugar, but Koff says it’s a good temporary substitute for the “fix” that nicotine provides—as long as you follow it with a healthy protein snack, so you don’t go from sugar high to low quickly. She put an organic lollipop in the kit for this purpose (which also occupies your mouth), and the trail mix and hemp hearts are protein supplements to prevent the crash.
2. Help with digestion. “Some people smoke after a meal to settle their stomachs,” Koff says. But if you eat balanced meals with plenty of fiber, you won’t feel like you need it as much. Koff also includes digestive enzymes in the box to help.
3. Calm your quitting anxieties. Quitting is insanely stressful, and if you can’t calm down, you’ll likely fail. Healthy calming foods will help, like herbal teas and foods rich in magnesium, like cacao nibs (which also happen to be delicious). —Lisa Elaine Held