Smoking and Nutrition

young man drinking orange juice

The nutritional needs of smokers and non-smokers are not much different. Smokers need more Vitamin C each day - about what you would get in half an orange but other than that they can meet their nutritional needs every day by eating a variety of healthy foods

There are concerns about weight gain when smokers try to stop. These are unfounded. Quitting does not need to result in weight gain for everyone. Being active and eating three healthy meals and one to two healthy lower calorie snacks every day can help with cravings and keep your weight in check.

Do I need to take a vitamin C supplement if I smoke?

No. Vitamin C is important for preventing uncomfortable bleeding of your gums and getting the extra 35 mg per day of vitamin C needed by smokers can be easy. Focus on eating lots of vegetables and fruits each day, plus add one more vitamin C - rich food each day such as:

  • 1/2 orange
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) broccoli
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) 100% apple juice with vitamin C or 100% orange juice

If you are not regularly eating like this, ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable vitamin C supplement.

Will I gain weight if I quit smoking?

Not everyone gains weight after quitting. Since food tastes better, some people find they eat more. As well, their metabolism will go back to a normal, slightly slower rate which may result in some weight-gain. Others might use higher calorie foods as a way to deal with cravings or stress. The good news is that this is all manageable so try not to worry too much about your weight for now. Your primary goal is to quit and stay smoke free.

Good to know:

Are you worried about the negative health impact of gaining weight by quitting smoking? Focus on quitting and staying smoke-free and take small steps to help manage your weight when you are ready.

Everyday ways to keep your weight in check

You may just want to focus on quitting and staying smoke free before tackling eating and exercise. That’s fine. Keep these tips in mind when you are ready to focus on eating and exercise or choose one or two ideas you feel you can start now. These ideas can help with cravings too.

  • Eat regularly. Skipping meals can result in over-eating later in the day and irritability which may make it harder to resist cravings. Eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and one to two snacks. That works out to eating about every 3-4 hours.
  • Choose healthy snacks. Think “mini meal” – small portions of healthy choices from two or three food groups. Mix and match raw veggies, fruit, smoothies, low fat yogurt, whole grain crackers and cereals, hard-cooked eggs and low fat white or chocolate milk.
  • Move more. Fit activity into your daily routine to burn calories, boost your metabolism, help you deal with stress and feel great. Take a walk at lunch or do some errands by foot or bike. Find out more: Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods each day Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often. Limiting processed foods and making water your drink of choices are all healthy steps. 
  • Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel satisfied. Not sure if you are hungry? Have a glass of water, distract yourself by making a phone call or go for a walk around the block. If you still feel hungry enjoy a healthy snack.

What should I do if I crave unhealthy food all the time?

Keep tempting high calorie foods out of the house. If you really want ice cream or some chips take a walk to the nearest ice cream parlour or store. Order and enjoy a single scoop of ice cream or buy a small bag of chips. Then take a longer way to walk home.

Keep your mouth busy. Drink water, suck on a mint toothpick, eat sugar-free gum, or snack on low sodium (salt) pretzels, plain popcorn, raw cut up veggies, fresh fruit or sugar-free candy.

Beverage tips:

  • Too much caffeine can make you irritable and may make it harder to stay smoke free. Slowly cut back coffee, tea and cola to about three in total a day. Choose de-caffeinated tea and coffee or mix half and half, drink water with lemon or lime, choose fruit juice mixed with half club soda.
  • Choose water first to quench your thirst. Keep a jug of cold water in the fridge where you will see it and you’ll likely drink more water.
  • Try to avoid alcohol if you are still working on staying smoke free. It may make it harder for you to resist cravings.

Find out more:

Smoking and pregnancy, by Public Health Agency of Canada
The road to quitting program, by Health Canada

Last Update – November 24, 2020

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