Ozempic and Wegovy for Weight Loss: What Foods to Eat
Losing weight with Ozempic or Wegovy can lead to reasonable but potentially jarring changes in eating habits.
Both drugs contain semaglutide, which mimics a hormone that tells the brain you've eaten. Patients taking these drugs feel less hungry, and they may experience side effects such as nausea that affect how well they can tolerate food.
Jeannine DellaVecchia said she sometimes forced herself to eat while taking Ozempic because she had “absolutely no appetite,” “completely nauseous” and “vomited all the time.”
“Some days, I'll eat an omelet just to get me something to eat,” DellaVecchia, 40, who works at a hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, told TODAY.com.
“You don't want to eat…it's not good for me.”
DellaVecchia was prescribed the type 2 diabetes drug Ozempic to treat insulin resistance-related symptoms caused by congenital adrenal hyperplasia and polycystic ovary syndrome. Losing weight isn't a priority, though she says she's intrigued that the drug will help her lose weight as well.
In doing so, DellaVecchia lost 30 pounds between August 2022 and February 2023, when she stopped taking the drug because she couldn't tolerate the side effects, she said. DellaVecchia currently weighs the lowest at 152 pounds and is trying to maintain her weight loss with a healthy diet and the help of registered dietitian Emily Rubin.
“I've seen patients taking (semaglutide) with chronic nausea and vomiting, and if you don't get enough calories or fluids every day, that can lead to dehydration and malnutrition,” said Rubin, chief of clinical nutrition in the Thomas Jefferson Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. University Hospital of Philadelphia told TODAY.com.
How to Eat While Taking Ozempic and Wegovy
Wegovy, which is FDA-approved for weight loss, should be used in addition to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, the agency noted. Ozempic is not FDA-approved for weight loss, although many people use it off-label for that purpose.
Patients trying to lose weight with either drug should work with a dietitian to develop a guided meal plan, but generally they should aim for 1,200 to 1,800 calories per day, depending on their starting weight, Rubin said . As a rule of thumb, eating 500 fewer calories per day than usual can result in about 1 pound of weight loss per week, she adds.
Build your diet with a variety of vegetables and healthy protein, advises Louis Aronne, MD, physician in obesity medicine and director of the Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Center for Integrative Weight Control.
“The research we've done shows that if you eat vegetables and protein first, and then you eat carbohydrates after meals, it's actually good for your blood sugar and probably good for your weight,” says scientist Aronne. A consultant to Novo Nordisk, the company that makes the Ozempic and Wegovy, told TODAY.com.
“The cornerstone of the diet must be real food…healthy food.”
For people taking the drug, Rubin recommends increasing your intake of lean protein, such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, beans, soy, and low-fat dairy. If you're losing your appetite or feeling nauseous, try a low-calorie protein drink, she adds.
She recommends getting at least 60 grams (about 2 ounces) of protein per day, preferably spread out between meals and snacks. Protein maintains muscle mass and provides the amino acids needed for growth and development, says nutritionist Kristin Kirkpatrick.
Rubin notes that vegetables and fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, which are essential to a healthy weight loss plan. She also recommends consuming one to two servings of healthy fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds per day.
Choose small amounts of whole grains — half a cup at each meal — such as whole-grain pasta, whole-wheat tortillas, quinoa or sweet potatoes, Rubin suggests. These are complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber.
How to Control Nausea While Taking Ozempic and Wegovy
According to Novo Nordisk, the most common side effects of Ozempic and Wegovy include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and constipation.
Rubin advises patients to discuss any troubling symptoms with their doctor and discuss the optimal dosage of each drug to minimize side effects.
Patients start with the lowest dose and work their way up to higher doses, Aronne said. Doctors know how to deal with nausea, he added. Some patients were treated with anti-nausea drugs.
In general, side effects are well tolerated if the dose is increased slowly and the doctor advises the patient not to overeat and to be aware of which foods may aggravate their symptoms and eat them less, said Ania Jastreboff, MD, PhD, is weight management and obesity prevention at the Yale Stress Center in New Haven, Connecticut. She serves on Novo Nordisk's Scientific Advisory Board.
For example, DellaVecchia loves sandwiches, but if she wants to eat one, she gets sick, she says. A better option is yogurt with almonds, peanuts and some cinnamon, which she finds tasty and filling.
Another Ozempic patient previously told TODAY.com that after starting the medication, greasy food was “really hard” for her to eat.
Rubin offers these nausea-reducing tips:
- Drink eight glasses of fluids (such as water or non-caloric electrolyte drinks) a day to stay hydrated.
- Drink ginger or peppermint tea.
- Try ginger chewables or capsules.
- Eat small meals often.
- Do not eat or cook foods with strong odors.
- Avoid hot, fried or greasy foods.
- Do not eat too quickly, and do not drink large amounts of beverages with meals.
- Do not lie down immediately after eating.
- Don't wear tight clothing that corsets your waist.
Novo Nordisk has these additional tips:
- Eat light, low-fat foods such as biscuits, toast, and rice.
- Eat foods that contain water, such as soups and gelatin.
- Get outside and get some fresh air.
DellaVecchia said that as soon as she stopped taking Ozempic, the hunger returned. She has been able to maintain her weight loss so far.