PCOS Meal Plan [Complete Guide & 7 Day PCOS Meal Plan pdf]

Cup of coffee with a meal planner and a pencil on table.

Do you struggle to figure out what to have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Exhausted from working and you come home hungry and end up just ordering take out?

This was me once, but I have found a system that works for me and makes meals seamlessly easy all week long. 

In this post I am going to walk you through why meal planning is important for PCOS, what to include in meals, and how to make a meal plan. I have also included a free template so that you can get started in making your own PCOS meal plan!

What is PCOS?

First of all, PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome. It is a condition that affects the endocrine system, or your hormones (1). This happens when your ovaries produce too much of certain hormones called androgens. These excess hormones can contribute to excess hair growth, acne, irregular periods, and infertility(1). 

What causes PCOS

While the exact cause is still unknown, there are many contributing factors. There are 3 main factors that may increase risk of developing PCOS and can contribute to worsening symptoms. 

  1. Excess androgen production by the ovaries (1). The exact cause of this is unknown. 
  2. High insulin levels in the blood or insulin resistance may be a root cause of PCOS (1). This happens when our bodies do not process insulin correctly and we get a build up in the bloodstream. This can contribute to weight gain, excess androgen production, and worsening symptoms. 
  3. Lastly, low-grade, persistent inflammation is associated with PCOS (1). 

It is important to remember that the 3 things mentioned above do not necessarily cause PCOS. Researchers are not sure yet whether these are a result from PCOS or if they are causing it. 

These are things that can be targeted through diet and lifestyle changes, and these can make a huge difference when it comes to reducing your PCOS symptoms and putting it into remission. 

Why is meal planning important?

Meal planning gives us structure during the week and the ability to choose healthier food choices. Just like with anything else in life, if we don’t have a clear plan or directions, things often don’t work out the way that we would like. 

Think about your busy week and all the things you need to do during the day. Then think  about having an empty fridge or a fridge full of random ingredients that you don’t have a plan for. More likely than not, in times like these you are going to choose an unhealthy choice since it is easier. 

Now think about if you had taken the time on Sunday afternoon to plan out your meals for the week and stock your kitchen with ingredients for those meals. Meal times become a lot less stressful since there is not much thinking involved. 

Meal planning can empower you to make better food choices during the week and save valuable mental energy for the other things in your life like work or your family. 

How to make a PCOS Meal Plan

There are several different strategies for meal planning. Some people prefer to plan out every meal and plan exactly which date and time they will have it. Others like to have a rough guideline of what meals they will have within a given week, but leave room for flexibility. 

Either way is ok, just as long as it’s something that works for you and is sustainable. 

There are apps, books, and pdf versions of meal planners that are all available for you to try. At the end of this article, I have provided a meal planning guide that I have created for you to use if you would like! 

Meal Structure

When meal planning, you will want to start with meal structure. This means figuring out what kind of components you would like to include with each of your meals. 

For PCOS, the structure of your meals matter greatly. Without a good meal structure, you may cause blood sugars to spike which can then cause insulin to spike and stay high. Poor meal structure can also cause you to be hungry more and snack more than needed. 

There are 4 main components that you want to include in each of your meals. 

Protein 

Including protein with your meals is important for satiety, muscle retention/growth, and blood sugar management. You want to make sure you include an adequate amount of protein, so aim for 30 grams of protein with each meal.

Sources of Protein
  • Meat (poultry, beef, lamb, pork)
  • Fish and other seafood 
  • Soy products (tofu, tempeh, edamame)
  • Protein supplements (shakes and bars)
  • Eggs
  • Dairy (greek yogurt, cheese, milk, cottage cheese)

Complex Carbs

I know you have probably heard at some point that the best diet for PCOS is a no carb or very low carb diet, but this is not the case. Going very low carb or no carb can cause stress on the body and is not usually sustainable. 

We want to make sure that we are fueling with the best types of carbohydrates. This is going to be complex carbohydrates. 

You should be conscious of portion size when eating carbohydrates. Try to limit your carbs at meals to a ¼ of your plate or about a cup size portion or less. 

Sources of Complex Carbs
  • Whole grains (wheat, quinoa, oats, bulgar, barley, etc)
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas, butternut squash, acorn squash)
  • Fruit
  • Beans and lentils

Fats

Always include a source of fat with your meals and snacks. Fat can improve the flavor of your food and it can help you to stay fuller for longer. This can help decrease unnecessary snacking throughout the day. 

Fat is also important for absorbing nutrients, like fat soluble vitamins. Those vitamins are A, D, E, and K which are found in many plant based foods. Lastly, fat can help to reduce spikes in blood sugar since it can help slow the absorption of glucose from your foods. 

You should also be conscious of portion size when it comes to eating fat since it is so calorically dense. You will want to aim for 1-2 tablespoons of fat with meals and snacks. 

Sources of Healthy Fat
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olives
  • Avocados
  • Oil (olive, avocado, flax, chia, canola, etc)
  • Full fat dairy
  • Egg yolks
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines)
  • Hummus 

Fiber

The final component that you should always include with any meal or snack is fiber. This is one of the most important things that you can include in your overall diet. 

A diet that is high in fiber has many benefits including regulations in weight control, inflammation, insulin resistance, lipid metabolism, and hormonal derangements (2). Adequate intakes of dietary fiber can also aid in the protection against type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even malignancies such as colorectal and breast cancer (2). 

Aim for 8-10 grams of fiber with every meal. This will help you to meet a daily goal of 30 grams or more. Click the link here to see fun ways to add more fiber in your diet from me and other dietitians.

Sources of Fiber
  • Beans
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds

Choose your Meals

Now that we have reviewed what your meals should look like, we can begin to choose which meals you will include in your meal plan. This part can be very individualized and really depends on your unique flavor preferences and needs. 

Regardless of your preferences, I do recommend a few things to everyone. The first would be to choose easy and quick meals for weekdays. When we are meal planning on a weekend, an elaborate meal might seem doable, but come Wednesday evening it’s usually a different story. 

Try to choose meals that will make good leftovers. If you can cook a meal and use it for the next day, then this saves you time and effort. This will make meal planning and cooking at home feel more sustainable for you. 

Once you’ve chosen your meals, put them into your meal planner. 

Choose your Snacks

Snacks are so important to include in your meal plan since they often get missed. If you aren’t prepared with healthy and filling snacks on hand, it can be easy to make poor choices when hungry. 

Snacks should ideally include all 4 categories that are also included in a meal. Think of a snack as a mini meal. 

If a mini meal seems like too much to handle at first, start with 2 categories. This could mean a protein + carb, fiber + protein, or protein + fat. 

If you notice in the examples above, I included protein in each one. Protein is vital in providing you with energy and helping you to feel satisfied. This is why you should be sure to include protein with every snack. 

Make a Shopping List

The next step is to make your grocery list. Look at your recipes and figure out what items you need to purchase from the supermarket. Be sure to check your refrigerator and pantry first to make sure you don’t already have an ingredient that may be needed. 

This is an important step because if you’ve ever tried to make a meal while missing an ingredient or two, it can be very frustrating. This may cause stress or cause you to just give up with the meal completely. 

If you are needing more help or inspiration for making your grocery list, check out my blog post all about it here.

Common Questions

How many meals should a person with PCOS eat in a day?

This answer is highly individualized and for the best answer, you should talk with a registered dietitian. For most people with PCOS, 3 meals a day works the best. There are also some people who prefer to have 5 small meals/large snacks throughout the day. 

Regardless of the number of meals, I recommend trying to eat at least every 3-5 hours to avoid getting overly hungry. When we are overly hungry, we do not usually make the smartest food choices, this can also cause stress on the body. 

Is it better to fast or eat breakfast with PCOS?

It is recommended to eat breakfast within the first 2 hours of waking for optimal energy. Read more about the reasoning behind this and what the best breakfast is for PCOS in my blog post here.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we have discussed just how important meal planning is for success when trying to make changes to your nutrition. 

We reviewed what PCOS is and why it’s important to meal plan. We also talked about how to meal plan and how to structure each plate. 

If you would like to get started, click the link below to receive my free PCOS meal plan template and free 7 day meal plan! This includes a weekly and daily planner. It also includes a model of how meals should be set up for optimal success.

This meal plan is to provide you with an example and is not intended to be individual medical advice. Head over to this page if you would like to work with me for more 1:1 help.

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