La Hacienda’s Nutrition and Fitness Services

Nutrition and Fitness

Nutrition Fitness Images Provided Amino Acids | La Hacienda

When individuals enter treatment for alcoholism or drug dependency, it is quite common for them to be in poor health. The focus on drinking or doing drugs pushes good nutrition and physical fitness out of the picture. They don’t care what they eat or when they eat.

Long-term abuse of the physical body can result in a drastic decline of overall health and lack of energy, especially when coupled with the detrimental effects of alcohol and drug abuse on the mind and spirit.

According to an article featured on the National Institutes of Health website, substance use disorders negatively impact the user’s nutrition and dietary habits. Persons with SUDs often have a disordered and messy lifestyle, and usually spend their income on drugs instead of nutritious food. Their food intake suffers, eventually leading to undernourishment. They lose weight to a dangerous degree.

La Hacienda’s treatment program focuses on recovery for the body, mind and spirit, in addition to the medical and clinical components. Our patients receive a nutritional assessment, have access to a healthy diet, and are encouraged to participate in a variety of wellness and therapeutic activities.

Healthy Eating is Part of the Program

La Hacienda’s Food and Nutrition staff serves home-cooked style meals for patients to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A variety of foods are available at all meals to satisfy everyone’s taste buds while supplying essential nutrients. In addition to hot entrees and vegetables and a full salad bar, diners can request made to order cold and hot sandwiches (with the option of whole-grain bread or others) or pizza.

Low-fat items such as baked chicken and fish (a good protein source) are always available for those counting calories. A balanced diet can include lean proteins (for those watching their protein intake) and lean meats.

For those who think dessert is the best part of the meal, ice cream and non-fat yogurt are lunch favorites, and homemade cakes, pies or cookies are served with dinner.

If upon admission the medical staff orders a special diet after the patient\’s nutritional assessment, a dietitian will counsel the patient and approve their menu choices to make certain the ordered nutritional requirements are supplied.

Some holidays are celebrated sumptuous buffets that are a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach featuring turkey and dressing, ham, salmon and more. It may include more carbohydrates than the normal menu, but its for a special occasion.

A Healthy Diet Aids Recovery

A well-balanced, healthy diet that is rich in whole foods from the five recommended food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy — is healthy eating for anybody, not just those in recovery.

A healthy diet emphasizes whole foods, as opposed to processed foods or fast foods. A whole food is any fruit, vegetable, grain, protein or dairy product that has not been artificially processed or modified from its original form. Fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs and ancient grains like quinoa and oats are good examples of whole foods.

Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients contained in foods are important to health. If vitamins and minerals are lacking in meals persons in recovery eat, supplements can help fill the difference, but natural sources are best.

Certain whole foods are especially good during early recovery because their nutrients can boost brain health and mood, alleviate some of the mental and physical symptoms of withdrawal, and speed the healing process.

Examples of whole foods that are recommended as part of a nutrition plan during treatment include the following.


The amino acid tyrosine is the precursor to the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine, that usually is present at very low levels in early recovery. Low energy, apathy, depression and substance cravings are some symptoms of this state.

Eating tyrosine-rich foods is a natural way to increase dopamine levels. Examples of high-tyrosine foods include bananas, sunflower seeds, soybeans, lean beef, lamb, pork, whole grains and cheese.


L-glutamine is one of the amino acids that provide immune and antioxidant benefits, among others. It can help reduce the desire for sugar, sometimes common during early recovery.

Sugar consumption has been linked to higher rates of anxiety, depression and inflammation.

Dark, leafy greens (and complex carbs) like spinach, kale and parsley boost L-glutamine levels. Other natural sources include beets, carrots, beans, Brussels sprouts, celery, papaya and protein-rich foods like beef, chicken, fish, dairy products and eggs.


Antioxidants can help restore the immune system following addiction-related damage and hasten the body’s cleansing during detox and withdrawal.

Antioxidants are also shown to reduce inflammation in the human body.

Foods high in antioxidants include berries like blueberries and strawberries as well as leeks, onions, artichokes and pecans.

GABA Boosters

GABA is a neurotransmitter that promotes calm and relaxation. Anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia can often accompany withdrawal during detoxification.

Kefir (a fermented yogurt-like drink), shrimp, and cherry tomatoes are foods that boost GABA levels and can, in turn, help alleviate and offset these symptoms.


Tryptophan can increase the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It is another essential amino acid in the body that is the precursor to serotonin — which, at optimal levels, promotes a positive mood.

Tryptophan is famously found in turkey, a source of lean protein, but gets a bad rap at Thanksgiving for putting diners to sleep. Other sources are cheese, lamb, pork, tuna fish, oat bran, and beans and lentils.

Healthy Fats

Some body functions rely on the presence of fat. For example, some vitamins require fat in order to dissolve into your bloodstream.

Healthier fats play an important role in a healthy diet, but their consumption should be moderated because all fats are high in calories.

The unsaturated fats — monounsaturated and polyunsaturated\–are the more “heart-healthy” fats.

Research consistently proves that eating foods containing monounsaturated fat can improve blood cholesterol levels and decrease the risk for heart disease. These foods, which are also good sources of plant protein, include:

  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans)

  • Vegetable oils (olive oil, peanut oil)

  • Peanut butter and almond butter

  • Avocado

Polyunsaturated fats are called “essential fats” because the body cannot make them. They must come from what we eat, primarily plant-based foods and oils. Polyunsaturated fat can also help decrease the risk of heart disease.

Unhealthy Fats

There are two types of unhealthy fats, saturated fat and trans-fat.

Sources of saturated fat include:

  • Fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb

  • Dark chicken meat and poultry skin

  • High-fat dairy foods

  • Tropical oils

  • Lard

Too much saturated fat intake can increase levels of blood cholesterol and LDL, the so-called “bad” cholesterol. There is debate about the how bad saturated fat is for our health, but it’s still not a good idea to eat too much.

Trans fat (abbreviated form of “trans fatty acid”) occurs in foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. We ingest trans fat when we eat these:

  • Baked goods (cookies, cakes, pastries)

  • Fried foods

  • Margarine

  • Processed snack foods

  • Vegetable shortening

The Struggle to Lose Weight

Concerns about body weight management may be ingrained in drug use and treatment. Many people desiring weight loss start with prescription drugs and move on to drug abuse. They may lose weight, but they also impair their overall health.

When they enter treatment for this disorder, eating more calories and the resulting weight gain and increased body fat provide a potential risk factor for relapse. And the cycle of using drugs for weight loss may start again.

Therapeutic Activities at La Hacienda

La Hacienda’s Activities Therapy (AT) program promotes recovery by helping patients identify problems and strengths in areas critical to the recovery process: use of leisure time, social involvement, stress management techniques, physical fitness, communication skills, and degree of positive self-regard.

ROPES Course

The La Hacienda ROPES Course involves patients in activities requiring intensive teamwork and cooperation.

Through high and low element exercises, they develop trust in themselves and in others, improve their decision-making, cooperation, problem-solving and communication skills.


Those who prefer walking as exercise have several options at La Hacienda. They can walk or run anywhere from a quarter mile to a mile (or more) on our walking trail loop on Serenity Hill.

For those seeking additional exercise, there are fitness stations along the trail to help them stretch, balance, or increase their heart rate.

Individual Exercise Routine

Physical health and time permitting, a patient can maintain a regular exercise routine and meet fitness goals while in treatment for a substance use disorder.

Active people with an active lifestyle and enough energy may enjoy the benefits of a healthier activity schedule that can help boost athletic performance.

Exercise equipment is available for individual patients to use, whether their goals is to burn carbohydrates or build muscles.

Athletes in treatment often desire to maintain their athletic performance and energy levels through exercise and eating the right foods.

It’s important, no matter what level of exercise one does, to drink plenty of water and not become dehydrated.

La Hacienda for Healthy Recovery

La Hacienda Treatment Center has been providing a healthy road to recovery for 50 years. Our program is individually designed to treat people in mind, body and spirit. Whether its medical care, individual counseling, the food they eat or concerns about body weight, each person receives unique care.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, call (800) 749-6160 and talk with one of our admission specialists today.

Mayo Clinic Staff Eating | La Hacienda

Personal Trainer

Persons coming out of addiction treatment may benefit from working with a personal trainer who will create a safe and effective exercise program that relates to physical condition of the person in recovery.

Essential Fatty Acids | La Hacienda

Nutrition Specialist

A certified nutrition specialist (CNS) is an advanced, credentialed professional who promotes healthy lifestyles. They suggest the healthy eating habits and nutrition tips, such as eating more protein or limiting carbohydrates, that improve nutrition and overall health. 

Heart Disease And Calories And High Protein | La Hacienda

Life Program

A life program outlines a positive lifestyle going forward, from what a person will eat, to how many calories we burn in a day, and what activities are vital to a healthy life.

Eat Carbohydrates For Calories | La Hacienda

Fitness Center

A fitness center at an addiction treatment facility provides patients with both group and individual opportunities for therapeutic activity. There usually is space for team sports like basketball and volleyball, body exercise classes, and exercise equipment, which is especially important for athletes.