The best foods to help quit smoking

If you’re looking to kick your smoking habit, what you eat (or don’t) can improve your chances of success.

Resisting cigarettes requires plenty of willpower, and some of the most common triggers can be food and drink related.

To give yourself the best chance of going smoke-free permanently it can help to understand which foods you should include in your diet, as well as what you need to avoid.

Food and drinks to help you quit smoking

To aid in your transition to becoming a non-smoker, load up your daily intake of fruit and veg.

US research found smokers who consumed more fruit and vegetables were three times more likely to be tobacco-free for at least 30 days.

Another study found one of the most commonly reported categories of foods that worsen the taste of cigarettes were fruits and vegetables.

“Seasonal fruit is always a fantastic option when you want something sweet,” dietitian Sophie Rindfleish says.

“Serve it with some Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey or peanut butter, and you’ve got a deliciously filling snack or dessert.”

And don’t skip breakfast.

A report by Nutrition Australia recommended you enjoy a wholesome breakfast of wholegrains and cereals to help reduce cravings, as well as drinking plenty of water.

It explained water can aid digestion (a problem for some smokers who’re quitting), and regularly sipping water can help keep your hands busy.

There is also research to suggest a nice cuppa ginseng tea may assist nicotine addiction.

“Keep your mouth occupied by sipping on herbal tea or flavoured water, or chewing gum,” Sophie suggests.

Foods and drinks to avoid when quitting smoking

According to Professor Ron Borland, an expert in health behaviour and professor at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, aspects of your routine such as particular moments of eating and drinking can trigger a cigarette craving.

Many smokers associate certain drinks such as coffee and alcohol with having a cigarette so, at least while you’re trying to give up, it might help to give these a rest too.

“We develop habits, and habits tend to cue off each other,” Prof Borland says.

“So, if you are in the habit of having a cigarette when you sit down and have a cup of coffee, then the thought of having a cigarette will immediately occur to you.

“In fact, in some cases, you won’t even have a conscious thought. You’ll just pull out a packet of cigarettes and light one if you’re a smoker.”

Research shows people that people quitting smoking tend to reach for high salt, sugar and fat food options – so junk food.

To help avoid smoking cessation-related weight gain, try to resist unhealthy, fast foods.

Dietary tips to help quit smoking

Swap out your food triggers: Whether it’s pairing a cigarette with your morning coffee or a wine after dinner, it’s worth swapping out what you would usually eat or drink with a juice instead of a latte or a flavoured sparkling water instead of wine.

Avoid getting hangry: Research has found food deprivation can undermine a smoker’s ability to resist smoking.

“The best way to feel satiated for longer is to ensure that your meals contain a balance of fibre, carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats,” Sophie says.

“This helps slow digestion to keep you feeling fuller for longer.”

She suggests filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with low-GI carbohydrates, and the remaining quarter with a good source of protein and finishing with a tablespoon of a good fat such as olive oil or avocado.

Have healthy snacks at the ready: Sophie says it’s important to “include 8-10g of protein in a snack, as this helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer.”

Some of her suggestions include hard boiled eggs, tuna and tomato on rice cakes, apple dipped in peanut butter, roasted chickpeas or fava beans, cottage cheese on toast and raw veggie sticks with hummus.

Keep your mouth and hands busy: Smoking is a tactile habit, and often smokers become used to the hand-to-mouth action. Prof Borland says one of the results of this is you may find yourself more prone to snacking, so be smart about what you choose to eat.

Written by Tania Gomez.