Part of the mechanism behind why Ozempic, a prescription medication FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes, leads to weight loss in patients is that it reduces appetite. You may wonder if that means you don’t have to think too much about what you do—or don’t—eat while on the medication, but it actually becomes arguably more important.
ICYMI: Ozempic is technically not approved for weight loss. But the active ingredient, semaglutide, is available at a higher dose (known as Wegovy), which is FDA-approved to treat obesity and type 2 diabetes, explains Dina Peralta-Reich, MD, an obesity medicine specialist and founder of New York Weight Wellness Medicine. And Ozempic is often prescribed and used off-label to treat obesity.
Because Ozempic slows down digestion (also known as gastric emptying), it’s important to fuel your body with the proper nutrients to maximize its weight loss effects, says Dr. Peralta-Reich. Plus, since Ozempic directly impacts your gastrointestinal tract, certain foods may exacerbate undesirable side effects like nausea, bloating, constipation, and gas, adds Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CEO of Virtual Nutrition Experts, and the author of The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan.
Whether or not Ozempic is right for you—for any reason—is up to you and your medical provider. But we will provide some helpful information here for those who are already prescribed the drug. Here’s what you need to know about eating when taking Ozempic and the foods to avoid while on the medication.
Meet the experts: Dina Peralta-Reich, MD, is an obesity medicine specialist and founder of New York Weight Wellness Medicine. Lisa Moskovitz, RD, is a registered dietician, CEO of Virtual Nutrition Experts, and the author of The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan.
Does it matter what you eat while on Ozempic?
While you do end up eating less while on Ozempic—it can lead to a feeling of satisfaction or fullness with about 40 percent of the food intake you were previously accustomed to eating before starting the medication, says Dr. Peralta-Reich—it’s important to ensure you’re getting necessary nutrients.
“If your goal is weight loss and adopting a healthier lifestyle while on semaglutide, it becomes essential to make the most of the decreased appetite and prioritize the quality of foods you choose to nourish your body,” says Dr. Peralta-Reich. Fueling it with healthy and nutritious options like lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and good carbohydrates, while avoiding high-fat and processed foods, is ideal. FYI: Eating enough protein in particular is super important for ensuring you maintain your muscle while on Ozempic.
Additionally, because Ozempic directly impacts digestion, certain foods can worsen gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, adds Moskovitz.
“Ozempic acts by slowing down gastric emptying, resulting in a prolonged feeling of fullness, so it’s important to be mindful of the types of foods you consume,” Dr. Peralta-Reich explains. Fried and greasy foods, or those rich in cream, in particular, will take even longer to be processed in the body, which can be taxing on your digestive system, she adds.
It’s also critical you work closely with your prescribing doctor or a registered dietitian who can provide personalized guidance on meal plans and tailored tips to maximize your nutritional intake, says Moskovitz. From there, they can help you understand how many calories you need based on your body composition, medical history, and activity level, she adds.
Best Foods To Eat On Ozempic
Alongside mindful eating and consuming smaller portions (more on this in a minute), it’s helpful to stick to the following food groups to provide you with adequate nutrients, according to Dr. Peralta-Reich and Moskovitz.
- Lean Protein like chicken, turkey, lean beef, fish, eggs, tofu, and yogurt
- Vegetables like lettuce, cauliflower, and zucchini
- Fiber like oats, apples, carrots, chia seeds, and nuts
- Complex carbohydrates like whole wheat or multigrain bread, brown rice, barley, quinoa, bran cereal, oatmeal
- Healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, flax oil, avocado, and avocado oil
Foods To Avoid On Ozempic
Nothing is entirely off limits while on Ozempic, but certain foods may be better to forgo to maximize the medications effects and avoid exacerbating side effects, says Moskovitz.
Greasy food like pizza, cheeseburgers, and donuts can slow down digestion and lead to bloating, nausea, and gas, says Dr. Peralta-Reich. You should also do your best to avoid fried foods like French fries or fried chicken, because they are high in unhealthy fats, making them harder to digest, she adds.
It’s best to limit alcohol consumption while on these medications because too much booze can lead to nausea and an upset stomach, explains Dr. Peralta-Reich. When combined with Ozempic, it’s known to worsen these undesirable side effects.
What’s more, combining alcohol with certain diabetes medications can increase your risk of developing low blood sugar which can cause drowsiness, confusion, and dizziness, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Refined carbohydrates like pasta, white bread, and bagels may be heavy on the stomach, so it’s better to consume them in moderation, says Dr. Peralta-Reich. Plus, most refined carbs are stripped of fiber and vitamins and can lead to spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
This is definitely important for individuals using Ozempic for diabetes management, but also for those using it to address overweight and obesity, says Dr. Peralta-Reich. “When the objective is to shed excess weight and mitigate the risk of diabetes, pre-diabetes, hypertension, inflammation, and more, adopting a more health-conscious dietary approach becomes essential, including opting for foods with a lower glycemic index.”
Sugary Foods And Drinks
Similarly, it makes sense to avoid sugary items like soda, candy, cake, cookies, and even juice, since they are high in added sugar which can lead to unwanted weight gain and blood sugar fluctuations, says Dr. Peralta-Reich. Not to mention, filling up on these foods will leave less room for the nutrient-dense ones you need to mitigate muscle loss and keep you feeling your best.
The same line of reasoning applies here: Packaged snacks and overly processed foods like chips and crackers offer limited nutritional value, says Moskovitz. “To maximize long-term success and results of this medication, it’s best to adopt a healthier lifestyle and that includes a healthier diet with mostly whole and plant-based foods,” she explains. “Ultra-processed foods, especially those higher in added sugar, sodium, and inflammatory fats can diminish effectiveness of Ozempic and contribute to unwanted digestive distress.”
We love our veggies, but it’s best to take a moderation approach with starchy options like potatoes, corn, carrots, and beets, says Dr. Peralta-Reich. This is because starchy vegetables may cause GI distress and are considered high glycemic foods which can increase blood glucose levels, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Instead, Dr. Peralta-Reich recommends focusing on non-starchy veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and celery to maintain a steady blood sugar and keep uncomfortable symptoms at bay.
Lifestyle Tips To Practice When On Ozempic
Lifestyle modifications also play a crucial role in achieving success on Ozempic, says Dr. Peralta-Reich. “The medication’s decreased appetite effect allows you to make the most of what you put into your body,” she explains, adding that a helpful approach is to practice mindful eating habits and slow down during meals. This allows your brain to communicate with your stomach so you can identify when you’re actually full and stop eating, even if there’s still food on your plate, she explains.
Beyond prioritizing nutrient-rich foods in general, she recommends leading with them during each meal too, and starting with, say, your protein and veggies and saving your carbs for last.
Another pro tip? Stay hydrated! Vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea are known side effects of Ozempic which can cause dehydration, so drinking plenty of water is key to avoiding worsened symptoms, adds Dr. Peralta-Reich.
And naturally, it’s smart to implement regular exercise into your weekly routine to complement the medication’s effects and promote overall well-being, says Dr. Peralta-Reich. If you’re unsure what type and how much exercise is right for you, have a conversation with your doctor.
Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based writer and graduate student at Northwestern Medill. She’s a mass consumer of social media and cares about women’s rights, holistic wellness, and non-stigmatizing reproductive care. As a former collegiate pole vaulter, she has a love for all things fitness and is currently obsessed with Peloton Tread workouts and hot yoga.
Obesity medicine specialist
Dina Peralta-Reich, MD, is an obesity medicine specialist and founder of New York Weight Wellness Medicine. Additionally, Dr. Peralta-Reich is the director of pediatric hospitalist medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital and a fellow of the Obesity Medicine Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.