How to Plan Your Meals for PCOS?
Purabi Gunjal (she/her)

Purabi Gunjal (she/her)

May 03PCOS

How to Plan Your Meals for PCOS?

This article has been compiled by Vaibhavi Kodnani, a content writer at Proactive For Her.

Your diet and nutrition play a crucial role in managing your PCOS and its symptoms. Focusing on a healthy diet and good nutrition will help you with your PCOS in various ways, stated below.

  • Production of your hormones
  • Balancing your hormones
  • Managing the insulin levels
  • Managing your weight
  • Managing other PCOS-related symptoms

What nutrients should you include in your meals?

The top three nutrients that your meal should consist of if you have PCOS are:

  • Healthy fats
  • Protein
  • Fibre

Healthy fats and protein are necessary for making up the hormones. Including fibre-rich foods lowers the glycemic index of the meal that in turn helps to improve insulin sensitivity. Protein and fibre are also great for losing and maintaining a healthy weight.

The other necessary nutrients to include are:

  • Complex carbohydrates
  • All vitamins and minerals

Complex carbs also help in keeping the insulin levels stable, while vitamins and minerals are micronutrients that are crucial for all the processes of the body.

pcos meal planning

What foods should you eat?

Whatever you eat should be as close to its natural form as possible. You can focus on eating the following kinds of foods.

Low Glycemic Index foods

Foods with a low Glycemic Index help in keeping the insulin levels stable, thus improving insulin resistance in the body.

  • Unprocessed carbohydrates
  • Whole grains: whole wheat, jowar, bajra, barley, rolled oats
  • Beans and legumes
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts
  • All seeds
  • Vegetables: all green leafy vegetables, all gourds, pumpkin, lady’s finger, tomato, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage
  • Fruits: all berries, kiwi, pomegranate, cherries, plums, apricots, citrus fruits

Anti-inflammatory foods

As PCOS is an inflammatory disorder, including foods that have anti-inflammatory properties will be helpful.

  • Omega-3 rich foods: fatty fish, flax seeds, walnuts
  • Healthy fats: nuts, coconuts, avocado, fatty fish, egg yolks, wood pressed or cold-pressed oils, ghee
  • Good quality cooking oil: olive oil, cold-pressed or wood-pressed oils
  • High fibre foods: whole grains, vegetables, fruits
  • Dark green leafy vegetables: spinach, fenugreek, amaranth, kale
  • Broccoli
  • All the coloured fruits: grapes, apples, bananas, all berries like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, mulberries, cherries
  • Foods rich in Vitamin C: citrus fruits
  • Beans (legume)
  • Legumes, lentils, pulses
  • All nuts: walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts
  • All oilseeds: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Anti-inflammatory spices: turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves
  • Unsweetened dark chocolate or cocoa

What foods should you avoid and why?

All of the following foods are detrimental to managing your PCOS and its various symptoms. It may not be possible to completely stop eating them but you can consciously reduce their intake and ensure that your diet does not majorly consist of these foods.

  • Refined carbohydrates: Refined flour foods like white bread, cakes, pastries; foods made with semolina. As all of these foods being highly processed have a poor nutrient profile. Furthermore, they have a high Glycemic Index and raise insulin levels, leading to cravings.
  • Refined sugar: It is used in most desserts and sugary beverages like sodas, squashes, juices, etc. It affects immunity as well as triggers acne.
  • Fried foods, fast foods: These foods are cooked in oil that is constantly reheated due to which it gets oxidised. It destroys all the nutrients of the foods and increases the inflammation in the body.
  • Processed meats: Sausages, salami, hot dog
  • Non-organic poultry and meat: Commercially bred chicken and meat are injected with hormones and antibiotics which remain in it, making it harmful for our consumption. Hence, it is better to opt for organic meat.
  • Trans fats, refined oils: These also have negative health effects on our body.  
  • All types of bad fats: Margarine, lard that is used in bakery items are not good for health.
  • If required, avoid milk and dairy products: Cows or buffaloes are injected with hormones so that they produce more milk. These also enter the milk that we eventually consume. Thus, it creates more imbalance in the body.
  • If required, avoid inflammatory foods: Chicken, red meat

What lifestyle changes are necessary?

Your goal should be to attain a healthy body composition. For that not only a good diet but also other below-mentioned changes are crucial. Managing weight will improve your insulin sensitivity, regularise your menstrual cycle, reduce the androgen levels in your body, and decrease the other PCOS symptoms. These changes will also make you feel good about yourself.

  • Eat a good diet
  • Keep yourself hydrated
  • Get enough sleep at night
  • Do enough physical activity
  • Manage your weight
  • Manage your stress, anxiety

Is dieting beneficial?

Extreme dieting plans, calorie-deficit meals, food restrictions do not work well for people with PCOS. It will slow down your metabolism and also lead to nutrient deficiencies. Instead, they should focus on eating balanced meals, consuming good quality and nutritious foods, and eating mindfully. As PCOS is a lifestyle disorder, making sustainable lifestyle and diet changes will be more beneficial.

Then, how many calories should you consume every day?

The number of calories will depend on your clinical conditions, personal health goals, and physical activity every day. But rather than counting calories, it is crucial to focus on the source of your calories. Therefore, natural, healthy and nutritious food remains the baseline.

How can you plan your meals?

Planning your meals will make your life much easier and better. Both weekly plannings, as well as daily planning, are equally important.

If you plan your meals:

  • You will not end up eating unnecessary foods.
  • You can buy your ingredients in advance and prepare for the week.
  • You can be in sync with your health goals.
  • You can stay on track with your PCOS journey.

Take note of these tips to help you plan your meals for weeks to come!

Write down your meals for the week

Before your week begins, write down your food schedule for the week. Decide what you would be eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Once you know what and how much you have to eat, you can purchase your ingredients accordingly. Being well-prepared in advance will save you a lot of time, energy and make your life much easier. It will also ensure that you are incorporating different foods to get a maximum number of nutrients.

Repeat your meals

If you are fond of cooking and want a variety, go ahead and skip this point. But if you often struggle with deciding what to eat, then the advice is to repeat your meals during the week. Suppose you have salad on Monday; you can repeat it on another day with few alterations. Similarly, you can repeat the ingredients but cook different recipes with them. For example, using spinach, you can make a spinach curry, a spinach omelette or a spinach khichdi.

Stock up your pantry

If you have pre-decided your meals, it will be easy for you to stock up your pantry with all the necessary and required ingredients. As far as possible, buy everything fresh and natural.

Prep your ingredients in advance

Once you have bought all your ingredients, prepare them for the coming week. For example, clean and chop your greens like coriander, spinach, fenugreek. You can even make a large dough to last you for 1-2 days. If you have planned to make idlis or dosas, soak the ingredients for making and fermenting the batter. Similarly, keeping your food schedule in mind, ready your ingredients accordingly.

Prepare homemade snacks

Everyone loves their evening snack time. When you have consciously planned your snacks, you are less likely to make spontaneous unhealthy purchases. Always keep nuts, seeds, vegetable chips, popcorn, fruits etc., at home. You can even eat homemade energy bars, smoothies, egg dishes and bhels. Always carry some dry snacks with you wherever you go. It will again prevent you from temptations and cravings when not at home.

Check your meal plan a night before too

Planning for the week will help you stock up your pantry. However, make it a daily habit to check your meal plan one night before as well. It can particularly be helpful if you know you do not have a fixed work schedule. So even if you have to travel the next day, you can alter your meal plan accordingly. You can carry snacks for the journey to avoid buying unhealthy foods or starving yourself.

How many meals should you eat, and at what intervals?

It will differ from person to person. If you feel hungry every two hours, you must eat smaller meals every two hours. But consume the three main meals, i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner if your lifestyle allows it. You can adopt whatever your lifestyle can sustain for a longer time.

What nutrients should you include in each meal?

Ensure that the three main meals you consume are high in protein, fibre, good quality carbohydrates and healthy fats. It will help you curb your cravings during the day. Secondly, rather than focusing on the number of calories, focus on getting them from good quality food. Home-cooked, fresh food should be sufficient. If you have to go to restaurants or order food, opt for grilled, baked or steamed dishes, whole-grain foods, salads. You can even request the chef to customise your meal to make it healthier by using less oil or increasing the vegetables. 

Should you visit a nutritionist?

First, visit your doctor to diagnose the cause of your PCOS. All the lifestyle and diet changes will be targeted at resolving those issues, thus managing your PCOS. The blood tests will also help understand the nutrient deficiencies or surplus. After that, you can consult a nutritionist who can decide an appropriate diet plan for you based on your causes and symptoms. If allowed by your doctor, you can even make the diet changes on your own.

Bottom line

To conclude, everybody’s causes and symptoms of PCOS will differ. Hence, there cannot be one standardised diet plan for all. You must plan your meals based on your condition and lifestyle. Set sustainable health goals for yourself to stay motivated for long. If your willpower wavers in between, don’t beat yourself up for it. Take it easy, focus on becoming healthier and up your goals gradually.

Disclaimer: This information is educational and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements.

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