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Prednisone and Weight Loss

author image Michelle Kerns
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.
Prednisone and Weight Loss
Eat oranges and other potassium-rich foods when you're taking prednisone. Photo Credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Prednisone, an anti-inflammatory medication, is used to treat conditions such as lupus, arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Weight gain, caused by fluid retention and an increased appetite, is one of the primary side effects of prednisone. If you're trying to lose weight while taking this drug, you may need to change certain aspects of your diet. Ask your doctor or a dietitian for help developing a meal plan that can help you avoid weight gain.

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Limit Sodium

The more sodium you eat, the more fluid you'll retain while you're using prednisone. The University of San Francisco Medical Center recommends limiting yourself to 2,000 milligrams of sodium daily to help keep your weight under control. Avoid processed, canned and prepackaged foods in favor or fresh or frozen produce, low- or nonfat dairy products, whole grains and fresh, lean meat, seafood and poultry. If you do buy convenience items, look for low- or no-sodium varieties. Do not use high-sodium seasoning mixes when cooking or add extra salt at the table.

Eat More Potassium

A diet lacking adequate potassium can worsen the fluid retention caused by prednisone. Adults should aim for at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day by regularly including a variety of potassium-rich foods -- vegetables, fruits and dairy products, such as yogurt or milk. A medium-sized baked potato with its skin intact supplies 926 milligrams of potassium, or almost 20 percent of the required daily intake. Dried plums, spinach, raisins, bananas and winter squash are also high-potassium choices.

Focus on Protein

To help control your appetite while on prednisone, eat plenty of lean protein. People following a diet where protein contributed about 34 percent of the calories were more likely to lose weight and feel less hungry than people on a high-carbohydrate diet, according to a study published in 2008 in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." Opt for skinless poultry, fish, shellfish, low- or nonfat dairy products, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds instead of beef or pork. If you do eat red meat, practice moderation and pick the leanest cuts.

Watch Your Carbs

Your blood sugar levels might rise while you're on prednisone, possibly causing your body to store more fat. Keep blood glucose steady by obtaining the bulk of your daily carbohydrates from whole grains, including brown rice, quinoa, vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products, such as whole-wheat bread. Steer clear of foods made with refined carbohydrates: regular pasta, white rice and white bread. Also, limit your intake of cookies, snack foods, honey, jams, jellies and candy.

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