4 foods to avoid while on Saxenda

Felix Gussone, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Felix Gussone, MD, Ro, 

Felix Gussone, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Felix Gussone, MD, Ro, 

last updated: Jul 14, 2023

4 min read

The good news? No foods are entirely off-limits while taking Saxenda (liraglutide). That said, certain foods such as highly-processed foods or sugary drinks could slow your weight loss progress and increase the likelihood of side effects. 

Weight loss medications like Saxenda (a type of drug called a GLP-1 receptor agonist) slow down digestion and stomach emptying to help you feel full faster and stay full longer. If you’re on a weight loss journey with Saxenda, consider avoiding these foods to help you get there faster (and improve some side effects). 

Saxenda Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.

What is Saxenda?

Saxenda, the name brand of the active ingredient liraglutide, is a prescription medication injected once daily to support weight loss goals. It belongs to a class of drugs called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists. These medications are used to treat type 2 diabetes, promote weight loss or both. 

An example of another GLP-1 receptor agonist is semaglutide (brand name Ozempic; see Important Safety Information and Wegovy; see Important Safety Information). Victoza, a lower-dose version of liraglutide (the same active ingredient in Saxenda), is FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes. 

For many people, Saxenda is an effective tool to help reach weight loss goals. A clinical trial of more than 3,000 people with obesity or who had a weight-related medical condition studied the efficacy of Saxenda to promote weight loss. The majority of participants lost 5–10% of their body weight while on Saxenda. The average weight loss was 12–23 pounds over a 56-week timeframe.

4 foods to avoid while taking Saxenda

While taking Saxenda can support your weight loss goals, it’s not the only thing you need to do to lose weight. Saxenda is designed to work alongside healthy lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and increased physical activity to support weight loss. 

There are no off-limit foods or specific diets to follow while taking Saxenda. However, some foods associated with weight gain might hinder your ability to reach your goals or increase the risk of side effects. Avoiding or limiting the following foods while taking Saxenda may help you lose weight more quickly:

1. Highly processed foods

Highly processed foods tend to be higher in sugar, fat, and salt, and lower in vitamins and minerals. Research shows a diet full of these foods is associated with weight gain. 

Some examples of highly processed foods to avoid include: 

  • Chips 

  • Donuts 

  • Ice cream 

  • Candy 

  • Packaged baked goods

  • Lunch meat

  • Fast food

  • Packaged sauces and dressings

Instead, try to eat minimally processed foods (foods that are as close as possible to their state in nature). These include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein sources like fish or chicken. 

2. Sugary drinks

Sugar-sweetened drinks like soda, sweetened fruit juices, and sports drinks contain large amounts of sugar and calories. Sipping on these drinks throughout the day may add more calories to your daily count than you realize, preventing Saxenda from supporting weight loss. 

Instead of reaching for sugary drinks like soda, try carrying a reusable water bottle throughout the day. Adding slices of lemon, lime, strawberries, or cucumber to your water can add flavor and make your healthy choice feel like a treat.

3. Foods high in saturated fat

Fat is higher in calories than protein or carbs. Eating less saturated fat may be associated with more significant weight loss. 

Some examples of foods high in saturated fat include:

  • Lard

  • Butter

  • Heavy cream

  • Sausages and bacon

  • Red meat

  • Dark meat from poultry

  • Cheese

  • Coconut and coconut oil

  • Palm oil

Too much saturated fat may increase the risk of health problems like heart disease. Studies suggest reducing saturated fat intake may lower the risk for cardiovascular events, like a heart attack or stroke.

4. Alcohol

There are no food interactions between alcohol and Saxenda. However, you should consult with your healthcare provider about how much alcohol is safe for you to consume.

Excessive alcohol use has been linked with overeating and may be a risk factor for obesity and weight gain — something you’re actively trying to prevent while taking Saxenda. Combining too much alcohol and Saxenda may also increase your risk of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia and pancreatitis.

Should you follow a Saxenda diet?

While there is no specific Saxenda diet plan, you can build healthy and balanced meals with these tips to support weight loss while taking Saxenda: 

  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruits like Brussels sprouts, asparagus, artichoke, salad greens, carrots, melons, citrus fruits, and berries.

  • Add a protein source to each meal.

  • Eat a variety of proteins like lean cuts of red meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans, and lentils.

  • Eat whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, whole grain bread, and whole grain pasta. As an added bonus, these provide fiber, which can help counteract constipation, a common side effect of Saxenda.

  • Pay attention to portion sizes

How to avoid Saxenda side effects 

The most common side effects of Saxenda are nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and stomach pain or discomfort. Your healthcare provider will typically start you on a low dose of Saxenda and gradually increase your prescription to help your body adjust to the medication. But if side effects persist, they may be relieved by following these tips: 

  • Eat small meals

  • Eat slowly

  • Eat foods that are light and simple in flavor (avoid spice)

  • Drink clear, cold drinks (like water or iced tea)

  • Don’t lie down immediately after eating

Side effects of Saxenda

Some common side effects of Saxenda include: 

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Injection site reactions like pain or skin irritation

  • Skin irritation or pain at the injection site 

  • Headaches

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)

  • Indigestion

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Abdominal pain

  • Fever

While not as common, some people taking Saxenda may also experience more serious side effects including:

  • Increased risk of thyroid tumors

  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)

  • Hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar)

  • Kidney and gallbladder problems

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Insomnia

  • Anxiety

  • Serious allergic reactions

  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors (very rare)

If you experience troublesome or serious side effects, make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

Should you take Saxenda with food?

You do not have to eat before injecting Saxenda–regardless of your meal schedule, you can take Saxenda at any time of day. However, the medication is most effective when taken consistently at the same time each day. Choose a time of day that’s convenient for you to take Saxenda and stick to it.

Talk to your healthcare provider about Saxenda if you struggle with weight loss. They will help you determine if Saxenda is right for you, and support you in making healthy lifestyle changes to promote weight loss. 


If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

  • Asif, M. (2014). The prevention and control the type-2 diabetes by changing lifestyle and dietary pattern. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, 3,

  1. doi:10.4103/2277-9531.127541. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24741641/

How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

July 14, 2023

Written by

Ashley Braun, RD, MPH

Fact checked by

Felix Gussone, MD

About the medical reviewer

Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.

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