Steroids or corticosteroids such as Prednisone or Decadron can affect your nutritional status. Usually steroids increase your appetite. Many people feel hungry all the time. Steroid use also changes the way your body uses the food you eat. Your body produces more fat and it is deposited around your middle.
You can make some changes in your daily diet that can help you keep a healthy nutritional status while you are taking steroids:
Make sure you are getting enough protein. High protein foods include lean beef, chicken, fish, pork, cheese, eggs, peanut butter, any bean or pea that can be dried, low fat milk and yogurt and soy products. Choose lean and low fat or fat free versions whenever possible. Have a high protein food at each meal.
Decrease the sodium or salt in your diet. Steroids can cause you to retain water. By taking in less salt you help your body to retain less water. Use little to no salt in your cooking. Season with pepper, herbs, seasonings like Mrs. Dash and onion. Be careful of foods and seasonings that are high in salt like lemon pepper, seasoning salt and Accent. Many prepared and prepackaged foods are very high in salt. Choose fresh foods whenever you can.
Make sure you get enough Vitamin C. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables including oranges, grapefruits, pineapple, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers. If you can’t get enough Vitamin C in your diet, take a supplement. Get your doctors approval first and then take about 250mg each day.
Be sure you are getting enough calcium. Steroids can cause osteoporosis. Most adults need about 1000 mg calcium daily. If you are a postmenopausal woman and aren’t on hormone replacement therapy you need 1500 mg. calcium each day. You can get 1000 mg calcium in about three servings of milk or cheese or yogurt each day. You can also take a supplement – take no more than 500 or 600 mg at a time as your body cannot absorb more than that. Most people take one tablet in the morning and one in the evening.
Drink plenty of liquids. Water is the best choice. Other good choices include (unsweetened) naturally decaffeinated tea, green tea, herb teas and coffee, occasional sugar-free, decaffeinated soft drinks, and diluted juices.
Add some light exercise to your daily routine with your doctor’s approval. Walking, light weight lifting (3-5 pound hand weights) and other weight bearing exercises, swimming, etc. are good choices. Exercise helps maintain your weight, your muscle mass and energy level. Weight bearing exercise also helps strengthen your bones.
The following information may be helpful if you are gaining weight:
- Limit your meals to three times a day.
- Have a well-balanced, adequate meal with something from most of the food groups.
- Snack on low calorie foods when you get hungry between meals. Good snack choices include raw vegetables like carrots, celery, bell peppers, lettuce salads, cucumber slices, fruits (in limited amounts), rice cakes, sugar free gelatin, diet drinks. Keep these foods on hand washed and prepared to help you eat less of the higher calorie foods.
- Bake, broil, boil your foods. Avoid fried foods.
- Use “light” dressings, margarines, breads, etc.
- Anywhere you can cut some calories do! Just remember you cannot eat unlimited amounts of light or low fat or sugar free foods.
- Watch your portion size.
Good nutrition is important in all stages of life. Taking steroids can be an added stress on your body and what you eat may make a difference in how well you feel during this time. A healthy diet can also play a role in your health in the long run.