Alcohol abuse is any pattern of alcohol consumption that harms your health, relationships, or work. Alcohol abuse can affect how your body breaks down and absorbs nutrients from food by causing your liver to work abnormally. Additionally, many people who abuse alcohol do not eat enough carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. This can cause poor nutrition (malnutrition) and a lack of nutrients (nutrient deficiencies), which can lead to further complications.

Nutrients that are commonly lacking (deficient) among people who abuse alcohol include:

  • Vitamin A. This is stored in your liver. It is important for your vision, metabolism, and ability to fight off infections (immunity).
  • B vitamins. These include vitamins such as folate, thiamin, and niacin. These are important in new cell growth and maintenance.
  • Vitamin C. This plays an important role in iron absorption, wound healing, and immunity.
  • Vitamin D. This is produced by your liver, but you can also get vitamin D from food. Vitamin D is necessary for your body to absorb and use calcium.
  • This is important for your bones and your heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) function.
  • This is important for blood, muscle, and nervous system functioning.
  • This plays an important role in muscle and nerve function, and it helps to control blood sugar and blood pressure.
  • This is important for the normal function of your nervous system and digestive system (gastrointestinal tract).

Nutrition is an essential component of therapy for alcohol abuse. Your health care provider or dietitian will work with you to design a plan that can help restore nutrients to your body and prevent potential complications.

What is my plan?

Your dietitian may develop a specific diet plan that is based on your condition and any other complications you may have. A diet plan will commonly include:

  • A balanced diet.
  • Grains: 6–8 oz per day.
  • Vegetables: 2–3 cups per day.
  • Fruits: 1–2 cups per day.
  • Meat and other protein: 5–6 oz per day.
  • Dairy: 2–3 cups per day.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements.

What do I need to know about alcohol and nutrition?

  • Consume foods that are high in antioxidants, such as grapes, berries, nuts, green tea, and dark green and orange vegetables. This can help to counteract some of the stress that is placed on your liver by consuming alcohol.
  • Avoid food and drinks that are high in fat and sugar. Foods such as sugary soft drinks, salty snack foods, and candy contain empty calories. This means that they lack important nutrients such as protein, fiber, and vitamins.
  • Eat frequent meals and snacks. Try to eat 5–6 small meals each day.
  • Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables each day. This will help you get plenty of water, fiber, and vitamins in your diet.
  • Drink plenty of water and other clear fluids. Try to drink at least 48–64 oz (1.5– 2 L) of water per day.
  • If you are a vegetarian, eat a variety of protein-rich foods. Pair whole grains with plant-based proteins at meals and snacks to obtain the greatest nutrient benefit from your food. For example, eat rice with beans, put peanut butter on whole-grain toast, or eat oatmeal with sunflower seeds.
  • Soak beans and whole grains overnight before cooking. This can help your body to absorb the nutrients more easily.
  • Include foods fortified with vitamins and minerals in your diet. Commonly fortified foods include milk, orange juice, cereal, and bread.
  • If you are malnourished, your dietitian may recommend a high-protein, high-calorie diet. This may include:
  • 2,000–3,000 calories (kilocalories) per day.
  • 70–100 grams of protein per day.
  • Your health care provider may recommend a complete nutritional supplement beverage. This can help to restore calories, protein, and vitamins to your body. Depending on your condition, you may be advised to consume this instead of or in addition to meals.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine. Replace drinks like coffee and black tea with decaffeinated coffee and herbal tea.
  • Eat a variety of foods that are high in omega fatty acids. These include fish, nuts and seeds, and soybeans. These foods may help your liver to recover and may also stabilize your mood.
  • Certain medicines may cause changes in your appetite, taste, and weight. Work with your health care provider and dietitian to make any adjustments to your medicines and diet plan.
  • Include other healthy lifestyle choices in your daily routine.
  • Be physically active.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Spend time doing activities that you enjoy.
  • If you are unable to take in enough food and calories by mouth, your health care provider may recommend a feeding tube. This is a tube that passes through your nose and throat, directly into your stomach. Nutritional supplement beverages can be given to you through the feeding tube to help you get the nutrients you need.
  • Take vitamin or mineral supplements as recommended by your health care provider.

What foods can I eat?


Enriched pasta. Enriched rice. Fortified whole-grain bread. Fortified whole-grain cereal. Barley. Brown rice. Quinoa. Millet.


All fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables. Spinach. Kale. Artichoke. Carrots. Winter squash and pumpkin. Sweet potatoes. Broccoli. Cabbage. Cucumbers. Tomatoes. Sweet peppers. Green beans. Peas. Corn.


All fresh and frozen fruits. Berries. Grapes. Mango. Papaya. Guava. Cherries.

Apples. Bananas. Peaches. Plums. Pineapple. Watermelon. Cantaloupe. Oranges.


Meats and Other Protein Sources

Beef liver. Lean beef. Pork. Fresh and canned chicken. Fresh fish. Oysters.

Sardines. Canned tuna. Shrimp. Eggs with yolks. Nuts and seeds. Peanut butter.

Beans and lentils. Soybeans. Tofu.


Whole, low-fat, and nonfat milk. Whole, low-fat, and nonfat yogurt. Cottage cheese.

Sour cream. Hard and soft cheeses.


Water. Herbal tea. Decaffeinated coffee. Decaffeinated green tea. 100% fruit juice.

100% vegetable juice. Instant breakfast shakes.


Ketchup. Mayonnaise. Mustard. Salad dressing. Barbecue sauce.

Sweets and Desserts

Sugar-free ice cream. Sugar-free pudding. Sugar-free gelatin.

Fats and Oils

Butter. Vegetable oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, and walnut oil.


Complete nutrition shakes. Protein bars. Sugar-free gum.

The items listed above may not be a complete list of recommended foods or beverages. Contact your dietitian for more options.

What foods are not recommended?


Sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals. Flavored instant oatmeal. Fried breads.


Breaded or deep-fried vegetables.


Dried fruit with added sugar. Candied fruit. Canned fruit in syrup.

Meats and Other Protein Sources

Breaded or deep-fried meats.


Flavored milks. Fried cheese curds or fried cheese sticks.


Alcohol. Sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Sugar-sweetened tea. Caffeinated coffee and tea.


Sugar. Honey. Agave nectar. Molasses.

Sweets and Desserts

Chocolate. Cake. Cookies. Candy.


Potato chips. Pretzels. Salted nuts. Candied nuts.

The items listed above may not be a complete list of foods and beverages to avoid.

Contact your dietitian for more information.


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