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What Foods should Patients Eat or Avoid when taking Semaglutide Medications?

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What Foods should Patients Eat or Avoid when taking Semaglutide (GLP-1RA) Medications?

— By Dawn M. Sweet, Ph.D.

To reduce GI side effects and fatigue, patients on semaglutide medications should focus on consuming lean protein, fiber, fruits, and vegetables to ensure nutritional needs are being met and energy is not depleted.

Pairing semaglutide medications with a healthy eating plan will yield optimal results for patients with obesity. Because many patients prescribed semaglutide medications may have type 2 diabetes, following a healthy eating plan will have the double benefit of ensuring nutritional needs are being while keeping blood sugar levels under control. When patients ask about what to eat while on Wegovy or Ozempic — which are GLP-1RA medications with the active ingredient semaglutide — health care providers, dieticians, and nutritionists should counsel them on the benefits of consuming lean protein, fiber, whole grains, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables every day.

 

 

Designing a healthy eating plan with macronutrients such as protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats can offset the fatigue that sometimes accompanies semaglutide medications. Macronutrients are the foundational nutritional components of food that fuel one’s body.1 Healthy eating plans should also include micronutrients,2 the vitamins and minerals needed in smaller amounts that support bone and muscle health, energy, and overall well-being. Anchoring semaglutide patients’ eating plan to nutrient rich foods can reduce the side effects of semaglutide (e.g., nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, delayed stomach emptying)3,4,5 and provide them with the energy they need to live a healthy and active lifestyle. The Dietary Guidelines for Adults6 was developed by U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) and is a resource that can be used to help design nutritionally optimized eating plans for patients taking semaglutide.

What Foods should Patient Eat when taking Semaglutide?

To optimize the benefits of semaglutide medications, following the recommendations offered in the Dietary Guidelines for Adults6 is a good starting point. In addition to providing guidance on caloric intake by age, gender, activity level, and portion sizes, a robust list of foods is offered to ensure a variety of healthy options is available. A 2023 review found that dietary diversity is a key dimension to increasing the chances of consuming nutrient-rich foods.7  Options for food group diversity are displayed below:

 

Food Group Common To Add Variety
Protein Skinless chicken, lean beef, pork

 

Lamb, game birds, turkey
Seafood Tuna, shrimp, sole Salmon, tilapia, sea bass

 

Dark Green Vegetables Broccoli, spinach, carrots, Bok choy, chard,  collard, mustard, turnip greens

 

Red and Orange Vegetables red or orange bell peppers Sweet potatoes, acorn squash, butternut squash

 

Starchy Vegetables Corn, white potatoes Black-eyed peas, cow peas, plantains, yams

 

Other Vegetables Cauliflower, onions, mushrooms Tomatillos, fennel bulb, eggplant, okra

 

Beans, Peas, Lentil Peas, green beans Chickpeas, edamame, lima beans, navy beans

 

Fruits Apples, pears, bananas Kiwi, kumquats, prunes, papaya
Whole Grains Brown rice, oats, whole grain cereals Bulgar, millet, quinoa

Considerations for Protein, Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals

When considering foods from the above food groups, there a few things to keep in mind. Consuming protein throughout the day is more optimal than consuming one meal that meets the RDA for protein. A 2015 study found that at least 1.2 – 1.6g/kg weight is recommended for preserving lean muscle mass.In addition to preserving lean mass, protein promotes satiety and helps regulate blood sugar levels which is important for patients with type 2 diabetes who are taking semaglutide medications. Because of the anorexigenic and GI side effects of semaglutide medications, patients with type 2 diabetes must be sure to consume foods with high nutritional values to help regulate blood sugar levels, among other benefits. Another consideration is fiber consumption and vitamins and minerals, which can be accounted for through consuming the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. (The USDA recommends 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories of food.9)

What Foods should Patients Avoid When Taking Semaglutide?

Because diet quality is so crucial when taking semaglutide medications, consideration must be given to foods to avoid. To mitigate the GI side effects of semaglutide and to optimize nutrition, foods high in saturated fat (such as fried foods; greasy foods like pizza), high-fat dairy products (such as ice cream), and foods with added sugars should be avoided. Generally, processed and ultra-processed foods (as identified in the NOVA classification10) can exacerbate the GI side effects of semaglutide (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and delayed stomach emptying) and contribute to insufficient nutrition. Processed and ultra-processed foods have been linked to insulin resistance and a clinically elevated risk of type 2 diabetes as well as all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. For patients who are actively trying to lose weight with semaglutide, these foods are not advised.11,12,13

Cultivate Healthy Eating Habits in Patients using Semaglutide

The GI side effects of semaglutide medications can be managed through proper nutrition. An added downstream benefit is that patients will cultivate healthy eating habits while taking semaglutide and have a framework in place to help them mitigate the risks of weight gain after stopping semaglutide. Using the Dietary Guidelines for Adults6 and the NOVA classification system10 can help health care providers work with their semaglutide patients to design a healthy eating plan with a variety of options. Talking with patients about the benefits of nutritionally designed meal replacement products should be part of conversations centered on healthy eating. Nutritionally designed beverages can contribute to nutritional needs while also helping patients manage GI side effects. Pairing weight loss medications with a healthy eating plan that is supplemented with a nutritionally designed meal replacement can mitigate nutritional deficits and the GI side effects of semaglutide.

Sources:

1 Macronutrients

2 Micronutrient facts

3 Gastrointestinal tolerability of once‐weekly Semaglutide 2.4 mg in adults with overweight or obesity, and the relationship between gastrointestinal adverse events and weight loss

4 Safety of Semaglutide

5 The effect of semaglutide 2.4 mg once weekly on energy intake, appetite, control of eating, and gastric emptying in adults with obesity

6 U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020

7 Measuring adherence to sustainable healthy diets: A scoping review of dietary metrics

8 Dietary protein and muscle mass: translating science to application and health benefit

9 How much fiber should I eat?

10 A new classification of foods based on the extent and purpose of their processing

11 Ultra-processed food consumption and type 2 diabetes incidence: A prospective cohort study

12 Relationship between ultra-processed food consumption and risk of diabetes mellitus: A mini-review

13  Ultra-processed food consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes among participants of the NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort

About the Author: Dr. Dawn M. Sweet has over 20 years of experience in the field of communication. Dr. Sweet has given several invited talks to and workshops for academic and private sector audiences on the role of nonverbal and verbal communication in achieving positive outcomes and mitigating bias. Her research has been published in several top ranked peer-review journals, and it has been featured on NPR’s River to River / All Things Considered, Buzzfeed, and Science Daily. Her research has also been used to inform expert testimony.

About Robard: For 45 years, Robard Corporation’s medical obesity treatment programs and nutrition products have been utilized by physicians, surgeons and hospitals across the United States to successfully treat patients living with obesity. To learn more about us and how we can help your practice and patients, visit us online at www.Robard.com, email us at info@robard.com, or call (800) 222-9201.

* Wegovy® and Ozempic® are registered trademarks of Novo Nordisk A/S. Novo Nordisk is a registered trademark of Novo Nordisk A/S.

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