7 Foods to Avoid to Manage Ozempic Side Effects

Learn how Ozempic works and its side effects, and get guidance regarding the best food choices and foods to avoid while taking Ozempic.

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by
Sarah Bullard, MS, RD, LD
— Signos
Dietitian and Nutrition Writer
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
February 25, 2024
December 20, 2023
— Updated:

Table of Contents

Semaglutide, also known by the brand names Ozempic and Wegovy, is an FDA-approved injectable prescription drug intended to be used alongside lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, for people with type 2 diabetes to assist in blood glucose control. 

Ozempic is recommended if other diabetes medications (i.e., metformin), diet, and exercise changes have not successfully lowered blood glucose levels and hemoglobin A1C. Hemoglobin A1C is a three-month average of your blood glucose levels.1 

Ozempic can also help people achieve significant weight loss. In two studies monitoring Ozempic's effectiveness in improving blood glucose levels, adults with type 2 diabetes also lost between 8 and 14 pounds.

While Ozempic has benefits, all medications can have unpleasant side effects like nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain.1 Food choices can help prevent these side effects (or make them worse).

In this article, you’ll learn how Ozempic works and its side effects and get guidance regarding the foods to avoid and the best food choices while taking Ozempic.

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Understanding How Ozempic Works

Ozempic is a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1 RAs) manufactured by Novo Nordisk.2 This once-weekly injection works in several ways:

  • Enhances insulin release after eating, helping blood glucose levels return to healthy ranges
  • Stops glucagon release from the liver, which reduces blood glucose made in the body
  • Slows the speed at which the stomach empties, slowing carbohydrate digestion and absorption, and the subsequent blood glucose rise
  • Increases fullness and lowers appetite with food being digested slower

These digestion changes help you have lower blood glucose levels and lose weight but can lead to gastrointestinal (digestive) side effects.

The most commonly reported side effects from people in the clinical trials were digestive complaints. The common side effects of Ozempic were:

  • Nausea (in 15-20% of people)
  • Vomiting (in 5-9% of people)
  • Diarrhea (in 8-9% of people)
  • Abdominal pain (in 5-7% of people)
  • Constipation (in 3-5% of people)3 

The higher dose of Ozempic led to more reported cases of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Most people have a spontaneous resolution of digestive symptoms while still taking Ozempic.3 

Making strategic food choices while symptoms exist can help you feel better.

7 Foods To Avoid While Taking Ozempic

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There is no danger in eating any food while taking Ozempic. However, the majority of Ozempic side effects are related to digestive issues. 

Certain foods can worsen (or improve) the unpleasant digestive side effects. Additionally, certain foods are more likely to raise blood glucose levels above your target range. Avoiding those foods can help you be more successful while taking Ozempic.

Here are seven foods to limit or avoid while taking Ozempic:

  • Sugary Foods and Drinks

Food and drinks packed with sugar cause quick blood glucose spikes and crashes. High-sugar foods can make it challenging to maintain healthy blood glucose numbers. 

High sugar intake is associated with higher rates of obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.4 Foods with added sugar include soda, sugar-sweetened drinks like sweet tea, coffee drinks, sports/energy drinks, cakes, cookies, donuts, table sugar, honey, ice cream, candy, desserts, and breakfast cereals.5 

Check the food label for added sugar amounts. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugar to less than 10% of daily calories (about 50 g or 12 teaspoons per day).5

The American Heart Association recommends a stricter limit of 25 g or six teaspoons of added sugar for women and 36 g or nine teaspoons daily for men.6  

  • Fatty or Greasy Food

Foods high in fat can make digestive side effects worse. Since food hangs around longer in the stomach, it has more time to cause problems. 

Some studies have shown that consuming too much fat can increase symptoms of fullness, nausea, and bloating in individuals with digestive issues and heartburn. Reducing fat intake resolved symptoms.7 

Fatty foods include fried foods, pizza, cheeseburgers, donuts, ice cream, fatty meat like sausage or fatty cuts of meat, and foods containing cream, butter, lard, and cheese. 

  • Carbonated Beverages

Carbonated beverages affect the esophagus and the stomach by incorporating more bubbles, which can lead to burping. When your stomach is full, burping can cause reflux, nausea, and vomiting. 

Carbonated beverages include sparking waters, no-calorie carbonated drinks, and soda. Some of these beverages are high sugar, and some include no added sugars. The food label will indicate if there are added sugars or not. 

You don’t have to eliminate carbonated beverages. Monitor your side effects when drinking carbonated drinks, and limit or avoid them if needed. However, sugary carbonated beverages like soda should be avoided because of their high sugar content. 

  • Refined Carbohydrates

Foods high in refined carbohydrates (and sugar) are high glycemic index foods.  

The glycemic index is a scale that measures your blood glucose response after eating a set serving size of a specific food. High glycemic index foods raise blood glucose levels quickly.8 

High glycemic foods include breakfast cereals, sugary drinks, chips, bagels, white bread, white rice, and white flour.8 These foods don’t have to be excluded but should be used in moderation. 

You can also pair them with high-fiber and protein foods to reduce their effect on your blood glucose level.

  • Alcohol

Avoiding alcohol is wise while taking Ozempic. The liver’s job is to break down alcohol and maintain blood glucose levels. It is difficult for the liver to do both simultaneously. The liver prioritizes alcohol breakdown, which can lead to low blood glucose levels. 

Drinking alcohol with a slowed digestion rate from taking Ozempic could further lower blood glucose levels, leading to hypoglycemia.9 Additionally, depending on the choice and amount of alcohol, the carbohydrate content could lead to unstable blood glucose levels (high or low). 

  • High-Glycemic Vegetables

Vegetables are encouraged for all people, including those with type 2 diabetes. However, consuming primarily high-glycemic or high-carbohydrate vegetables like potatoes, corn, peas, and carrots can raise blood glucose levels out of the target range.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends the Diabetes Plate Method to optimize your diet. A 9-inch plate is divided into three sections: one-half is non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter is protein foods, and one-quarter is foods with carbohydrates, including high-glycemic vegetables.10

  • Foods High in Sodium

Sodium is another word for salt. Sodium does not affect blood sugar levels. However, consuming high-sodium foods can increase the risks of high blood pressure and heart disease.11

Generally, foods high in sodium tend to be highly processed foods with lower beneficial nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Aim for 2,300 mg of sodium daily to prevent heart disease and high blood pressure.11 

Watching sodium content on the food label can help you monitor whether a food is high in sodium. Packaged and processed foods like soups, canned items, certain seasonings, frozen foods, and convenience foods are high in sodium.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href="alcohol-and-blood-sugar">Does Alcohol Raise Blood Sugar?</a>.</p>

What to Eat While on Ozempic

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There is no official “Ozempic Diet.” On the Ozempic website, people taking Ozempic are encouraged to follow a plate method similar to the Diabetes Plate Method encouraged by the ADA to manage their type 2 diabetes.1, 10 Dietitians recommend people follow this method for a healthy diet.  

This method is an easy-to-use visual for planning, shopping, and preparing meals. Consuming adequate protein and fiber-rich foods and limiting starchy or high-glycemic index foods will further support lower blood sugar levels and fast-track your success with Ozempic. 

Lean protein and fiber help you to stay full longer, preventing unnecessary snacking. Fueling your body well improves your energy levels. The divided sections of the plate help you portion each type of food, whether cooking at home or eating away from the house. 

Prioritizing non-starchy foods and filling the carbohydrate section with nutrient-rich options like beans, fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains will provide you with more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 

Adding regular physical activity can help reduce digestive symptoms. Walking after meals is also an excellent way to lower blood glucose levels. 

Work with a registered dietitian to determine a customized meal plan for your conditions and lifestyle. Registered dietitians are uniquely qualified to empower you to make impactful, realistic changes. 

Learn How To Manage Blood Sugar Levels with Signos’ Expert Advice 

A Signos continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can help you discretely and conveniently track blood glucose levels and their impact on food, medications, beverages, and exercise. This tool (CGM) can help you understand how your body reacts to different choices and help you make effective changes.  

A Signos’ CGM can help you improve your health while trying to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. 

Learn more about nutrition and healthy habits on Signos’ blog. Take a quick quiz to determine if Signos fits your needs.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read: </strong><a href="/blog/high-fiber-breakfast">10 High-Fiber Breakfast Ideas to Start Your Day Right</a>.</p>

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References

  1. Ozempic. (n.d.). What is Ozempic (semaglutide) injection? https://www.ozempic.com/why-ozempic/what-is-ozempic.html
  2. Nauck, M. A., Quast, D. R., Wefers, J., & Meier, J. J. (2021). GLP-1 receptor agonists in the treatment of type 2 diabetes - state-of-the-art. Molecular metabolism, 46, 101102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molmet.2020.101102
  3. Ozempic. (n.d.). Ozempic product information. https://www.novo-pi.com/ozempic.pdf
  4. Ma, X., Nan, F., Liang, H., Shu, P., Fan, X., Song, X., Hou, Y., & Zhang, D. (2022). Excessive intake of sugar: An accomplice of inflammation. Frontiers in immunology, 13, 988481. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2022.988481
  5. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, December). Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, 9th edition. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/resources/2020-2025-dietary-guidelines-online-materials
  6. American Heart Association. (2021, November 2). Added sugars. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars
  7. Khodarahmi, M., & Azadbakht, L. (2016). Dietary fat intake and functional dyspepsia. Advanced biomedical research, 5, 76. https://doi.org/10.4103/2277-9175.180988
  8. The Nutrition Source. (n.d.). Carbohydrates and blood sugar. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/
  9. American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). Alcohol and diabetes. https://diabetes.org/health-wellness/alcohol-and-diabetes
  10. American Diabetes Association. (2020, February). What is the diabetes plate method? https://www.diabetesfoodhub.org/articles/what-is-the-diabetes-plate-method.html
  11. American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). Making sense of food labels. https://diabetes.org/food-nutrition/reading-food-labels/making-sense-food-labels

About the author

Sarah Bullard is a registered dietitian and nutrition writer with a master’s degree in nutrition. She has a background in research and clinical nutrition, personalized nutrition counseling, and nutrition education.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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