If you’ve suffered an injury, it’s important to begin physical therapy as soon as possible. Every day and week you delay can further complicate your recovery. Once you begin PT, you’ll be getting detailed stretching and strengthening advice tailored to your needs. And if you’ve finished physical therapy, and are transitioning back into fitness or daily life, you can get expert advice from a personal trainer specializing in corrective exercise. But regardless if you’re working with a trainer or a physical therapist, are you addressing your unique nutritional needs? Very few people in recovery from an orthopedic injury think to go to a nutritionist. Most people contacting nutritionists are going for weight loss, and a few are going for help managing a chronic illness like diabetes.
But people recovering from injuries or surgeries need nutritional guidance just as much as they need exercise guidance. The only way to get customized advice is to meet with a dietician or nutritionist (in person or on the phone). However, some general principles apply to most people in rehab or post-rehab. Nutritious foods should:
- Be easy to prepare—if you’re recovering from injuries, you likely have limited time and energy to fix food; even if you’re taking time off work and seem to have a lot of “free time,” there may be times when you’re in too much pain or just too worn out to focus on food preparation
- Taste great—life is too short to eat things you don’t like! There are so many healthy foods, if you don’t like one, just skip it! Keep trying more and more foods until you find healthy things you do like.
- Reduce inflammation—whether your injury required surgery or not, it’s likely you have increased inflammation throughout your body, and healthy food can help dial it down
- Increase alkalinity—while each person is unique, most people coming back from an injury are too acidic; however, fresh, vibrant, organic foods can help bring your body back into balance by nudging you back toward alkaline
There are already plenty of great cookbooks to teach you how to cook healthy meals (like Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen), but what about healthy snacks? Here are some tasty, simple snacks to power your rehab and post-rehab experience. You should be able to find most of these items at Whole Foods, or your local neighborhood health food store.
- Go Hunza brand “Go For It” trail mix—yummy, easy snack—a great alternatives to chips, fries, and other fatty, pro-inflammatory foods. All the Go Hunza brand mixes are great. This particular one is a nice mix of crunchy and soft. It doesn’t contain almonds, cashews, or peanuts, so it’s perfect for most people with nut allergies. (There are some raw pistachios, however, so watch out if you’re allergic to all nuts.)
- Harmless Harvest brand coconut water—Why can’t all food prep be this easy? All you have to do is unscrew the cap, and you get a hefty dose of potassium and electrolytes. It’s a perfect alternative to soda and sugary, bottled juices. While any brand of coconut water will work, I like Harmless Harvest because it tastes the most like fresh coconut, is organic, and is not made from concentrate.
- Suja brand Fuel juice—one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories on the planet isn’t a drug, it’s a plant called turmeric, the ingredient in curry powder that turns it yellow. Turmeric juice is even more powerful than turmeric powder, but the taste can be a little much for some people. Suja has hidden the turmeric taste perfectly in this fruit and vegetable juice blend. All the Suja juices are made with organic fruits and vegetables. They’re not from concentrate and there are NO added sugars or sweeteners. While all the flavors taste great, only the “Fuel” flavor contains turmeric.
- Kale chips, such as Rhythm Superfood brand Bombay Curry or Mango Habanero flavors, or Just Pure Foods brand Cheesy Kale flavor—any brand will work, as long as it’s organic. Kale is frequently listed on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of most sprayed vegetables. But when it’s organic, kale is one of the most nutrient dense, most alkalizing foods you can eat. All you have to do is tear open the bag and dig in!
- Vigilant Eats brand Superfood Cereal, Goji Cacao flavor—big brand name oat-based cold cereals may have the marketing dollars to tell you health claims (you know who I’m talking about). But they also have plenty of added sugar and are not organic, meaning the grains they’re made from were grown with carcinogenic pesticides. Not so tasty. Your typical instant oatmeal isn’t so hot either, as it’s also loaded with sugar and other unnecessary ingredients. This healthier twist on instant oatmeal is high in protein and fiber, with no white sugar. It has high antioxidant ingredients like goji berries and raw chocolate nibs.
- Fresh squeezed juice from your local juice bar, any flavor—while fresh juices are profoundly healing and loaded with enzymes and antioxidants, asking someone recovering from an orthopedic injury to shop for vegetables, scrub and chop them, feed them through a juicer, wash that juicer, and repeat all this on a daily basis is a little ridiculous. But the solution is simple: drop by your neighborhood organic juice bar, and let them do all the work for you! It’s often the same price (or even less) than you’d pay for the ingredients anyway.
- Raw almond butter or other raw nut butters—packed with Vitamin E, other antioxidants, and healthy unsaturated fats. These do take a little more effort to fix than some of the other items on this list: when you first get a jar of raw nut butter, you have to stir it thoroughly to blend in the naturally occurring oil. Then it must be stored in the refrigerator. Whenever you see a jar of peanut butter or other nut butter with no oil on the top, you know it’s unhealthy (the way they keep the oil from separating is to add a large amount of sugar, or worse, corn syrup). By leaving the nuts raw before grinding them into butter, the enzymes and other nutrients are preserved.
Missed last month’s column? Read it now:
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