What should a PCOS diet include? Weight loss can be particularly challenging for PCOS sufferers because insulin resistance is a common symptom of PCOS and often leads to weight gain. In addition, the hormonal disruptions caused by PCOS can also make it harder to control your weight. Conversely, research shows that only a small reduction in weight loss is needed to see noticeable improvements in insulin sensitivity and ovulation So it’s really important to make a PCOS weight loss plan you can stick to.
PCOS diet plan for weight loss
Read more about my PCOS story here.
There is no ‘one’ diet that is specific for treating PCOS, however a PCOS diet plan for weight loss should follow these principles:
- A low GI diet works best for PCOS sufferers. This means that it contains food that is low on the glycemic index and won’t spike your blood sugar. Why does this matter? Because high GI foods cause insulin spikes, and prolonged periods of high blood sugar cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a key component in PCOS, and may even be the cause of excess testosterone production.
- Avoids dairy. Why? There are a number of reasons, as Tarryn from PCOS Diet Support does a good job of explaining. Essentially dairy contains a number of hormones which are shown to have a negative impact on reproductive health (and other things): Insulin Growth Factor 1, Testosterone and Progesterone are just 3 of these. Dairy also can contain antibiotics used to treat illness in the milk-producing cows, and heaven knows we don’t need more of those in our bodies!
- Prioritise meals that are high in protein, and take care to combine protein with carbs. Why? Eating protein with carbs actually lowers the glycemic load of that food. So if you make sure you always have protein with a meal, you’re reducing the blood sugar impact of the carbohydrates in your meals.
- Avoids refined sugar. There’s a clear link between high sugar diets and insulin resistance, and insulin resistance as stated is the primary factor in PCOS. Also, sugar increases inflammation, which is problematic for PCOS. “Research has shown that women with PCOS have low-grade inflammation and that this type of low-grade inflammation stimulates polycystic ovaries to produce androgens”. (Source: The Mayo Clinic). Androgens are male sex hormones.
- Low in saturated fats. Saturated fats, found mostly in red meat and dairy, can cause oestrogen production to increase, which can lead to weight gain.
- As un-processed as possible. Processed food contains preservatives and additives that can ‘wreak havoc with our hormones’ to quote the PCOS Diva.
- Low in gluten, or gluten-free because gluten is a known inflammatory, and as mentioned above, inflammation is a common problem for women with PCOS.
While the above list of ‘don’ts’ may look a bit daunting, I’m here to tell you that a PCOS diet doesn’t have to feel restrictive! Having recently quit sugar AND wheat (and thereby eliminating most gluten from my diet) I can attest to the fact that there’s still a wide variety of healthy delicious foods you can eat. I’ve also recently started weaning off dairy and it’s not been too challenging. Fruit, vegetables, lean meat, nuts, seeds and eggs are enough to create some delicious meals that family and friends may not even notice there’s anything ‘missing’ from.
A PCOS meal plan could include any of the following recipes.
PCOS Friendly Recipes
PCOS breakfast ideas
CRANBERRY WALNUT PALEO GRANOLA
(Original recipe and photo courtesy of cookeatpaleo.com).
- 2 cups chopped walnuts
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 1 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit or 150 degrees Celsius.
- Mix together seeds, nuts, salt & coconut in a big enough bowl so you can stir around without making a mess.
- Add honey and coconut oil and honey to the dry mix and stir well until combined.
- Line a baking sheet or tray with cooking paper, spread the mix out and cook for 18 – 20 minutes, until it’s lightly golden.
- Add the cranberries and toss around to combine. Let cool completely before eating and store in an airtight container.
2 MINUTE PALEO PORRIDGE
(Original recipe and photo courtesy of The Paleo Mama)
- 1 very ripe banana
- 1/3 cup of shredded coconut
- 2 Tablespoons of cashew or almond butter
- Dried fruit
- fresh berries
- Coconut butter
To make this ‘uncooked’ porridge, simply mash together banana, coconut and cashew/almond butter. Top with any combination of the above ingredients you desire, or choose your own.
PALEO BREAKFAST MUFFINS (WHOLE 30 APPROVED)
(Original recipe and photo courtesy of Gal On a Mission)
- 9 large eggs
- 8 ounces ground breakfast sausage
- 1 red, green, or yellow pepper, I used a mix of colors because that is what I had
- ½ cup frozen kale, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Spray a muffin tin with non-sticking cooking spray and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius.
- Cook the ground sausage in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat until brown.
- Whisk the eggs in a large bowl then add the rest of the ingredients including the cooked ground sausage.
- Spoon the mix into the muffin pans, filling each only 3/4. Bake for 20-25 until they look cooked.
- Cool muffins for a few minutes before gently removing from the pan using a knife if necessary to help loosen them.
PCOS lunch ideas
QUINOA FRITTERS WITH HEALTHY GARLIC AIOLI
(Original recipe and photo courtesy of Becomingness).
- 2-4 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 cup of cooked quinoa
- 3 medium eggs (replace with mashed potato for vegan)
- 1 medium carrot, grated
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
- 1 tablespoon coriander, chopped
- 1/4 cup of almond meal
- Salt & pepper, to taste
Healthy Garlic Aioli
- 1/2 cups blanched almonds or cashews, soaked for a minimum 4 hours
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon organic dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup water, as needed
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Mix all the fritter ingredients together in a bowl.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a medium frying pan on moderate heat then spoon the mix into the pan forming individual ‘fritters’. You may need to flatten the mixture down a bit with the back of the spoon. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan or it makes them hard to turn.
- Fry gently for a few minutes on each side, until lightly golden and drain on paper towels.
- For the aioli, place all the ingredients except the water in a blender or food processor and mix until well combined. Add the water slowly and mix until the garlic aioli is smooth and creamy.
- Serve and enjoy!
RAINBOW SALAD WITH BALSAMIC ROASTED BRUSSELS & PALEO ALMOND CRUSTED CHICKEN
(Original recipe and photo courtesy of Linda Wagner).
For the Almond Crusted Chicken you’ll need:
- 2-4 organic, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup almond flour – you could also use coconut flour or leftover almond pulp from making homemade almond milk!!
- 1 Tbs spices of choice, for this recipe I used organic steak seasoning to give it a more intense flavor.
- sea salt & black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or 200 degrees Celsius. Line a large baking tray with foil.
- In a large bowl, mix together almond meal, salt, pepper and spices.
- In a second large bowl beat a cracked egg until well combined.
- Dip each chicken breast into the egg mixture until thoroughly coated on all sides, then dip into the almond meal mixture and do the same.
- Transfer on to the baking tray and bake for 10-15 mins (with the brussel sprouts – see below).
For the Balsamic Roasted Brussel sprouts you’ll need:
- 1 large bag of brussels sprouts, as many as you think you’ll need
- olive oil
- sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
- any pre-made balsamic glaze.
- Place your brussel sprouts in a ziplock bag with as much olive oil as you wish. Shake around until well coated.
- Put brussel sprouts on the same tray as the chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake as per above.
- Remove the tray from the oven when the brussel sprouts start getting a little soft and turn the oven to broil/grill.
- Sprinkle balsamic glaze liberally over the brussel sprouts, then broil/grill on the top shelf to broil for a few minutes until the veggies are brown and just beginning to char.
- Switch the oven back to ‘Bake’ and continue to bake your chicken for another 5-10 mins until cooked through.
For the salad you’ll need:
- 1 head romaine lettuce chopped fine
- shredded carrots
- raw corn
- cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 an avocado
- balsamic brussels sprouts cut into halves
- Paleo Almond Crusted Chicken, cut into slices
- vinaigrette dressing of choice
This is an easy one – simply toss all the ingredients together in a large salad bowl, serve and enjoy!
Pretty simple, totally gorgeous!!
MEDITERRANEAN TUNA SALAD
(Original recipe and photo courtesy of Skinny ms).
- 1 (6-ounce) can or jar of tuna (packed in spring water)
- 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, diced
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
- 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons slivered basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Easy-peasy. Simply mix all ingredients together in a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve!
PCOS dinner recipe ideas
CAULIFLOWER FRIED RICE
(Original recipe and photo courtesy of The Recipe Critic).
- 1 head of cauliflower, (about 2½ cups chopped in a food processor)
- 2 Tbs sesame oil
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
- 2-3 Tablespoons soy sauce (more or less to taste)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 Tbsp chopped green onions (optional)
- Chop cauliflower into small pieces, then use either a food processor or a cheese grater to process it into small pieces so it looks like rice.
- Heat sesame oil in a large frying pan or wok. Stir fry the onion, peas and carrots until tender.
- Remove the veggies, and pour the beaten eggs into the pan. Scramble, then add the vegetables back in and mix together.
- Add the cauliflower to the veggie and egg mixture, add the soy sauce, then gently stir fry until the ‘rice’ is tender. This is the vegetarian version but of course you could add anything else you like including ham or bacon before serving.
PALEO SESAME CHICKEN
(Original recipe and photo courtesy of Wicked Spatula)
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1.5 lbs chicken breast or thighs
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil, for frying
1-2 Cups Optional Veggies (choose as many as you like)
- Green Beans
- Water Chestnuts
- Bell Peppers
- 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
- 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1.5 tablespoons arrowroot powder
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Optional Serving Suggestions
- White rice
- Cauliflower rice
- Shredded cabbage
- Chop the chicken into small pieces. Whisk the egg, arrowroot (2 tablespoons), salt, and white pepper together in a bowl until smooth. Add the chicken and toss around until it’s well coated.
- Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl until it’s smooth and any arrowroot lumps have disappeared.
- Heat approx. 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Fry the chicken in batches (so you don’t overload the pan) until golden all over and almost cooked through.
- Once the batches are cooked, add all the chicken back together into the pan and add your vegetables. If you’re using frozen veggies make sure they’re well thawed.
- Once veggies are nearly cooked through, pour in the sauce and mix through. The sauce will thicken quite quickly.
- Serve with white rice, cauliflower rice, or shredded cabbage.
AWESOME PALEO LASAGNE
(Original recipe and photo courtesy of Paleo Newbie).
- 1 lb mild or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1/2 lb grass-fed ground beef
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped small
- (1) 28-oz can San Marzano peeled tomatoes and sauce
- (1) 15-oz can of tomato sauce
- (1) 6-oz can of tomato paste
- (2) 8-oz pkgs of sliced mushrooms
- (2) 10-oz pkgs of frozen spinach (thawed)
- 4-5 medium-sized zucchini
- 1 1/2 cup of cashews
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 3 cloves of garlic pressed or minced
Seasonings for Lasagna Sauce
- 1 tsp of dried basil
- 1 tsp or dried thyme
- 1 tsp of dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/4 ground black pepper
- 1-2 Tbsp of fresh parsley
- Optional: Add red pepper flakes as desire
Seasonings for Cashew Cheese
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp dried onion
- 1/4 tsp dried garlic
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Soak cashews in water overnight (don’t forget this step!).
- Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until onions are tender.
- Add the sausage and beef and cook until brown.
- Drain excess fat away.
- Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste and any remaining lasagna sauce spices.
- Simmer the sauce gently while continuing the rest of the recipe.
- Sauté mushrooms in olive oil in a frying pan. Add any herbs or seasonings you like, then set aside.
- Place thawed and well-drained spinach in bowl and set aside.
- Drain the cashews and put into a food processor with almond milk and spices. Blend until cashews are smooth and creamy.
- Add 2 cups of the cashew “cheese” into the bowl with spinach and blend together.
- Preheat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius.
- Slice zucchini lengthwise about 1/4 inch thick
- Pour a bit of the lasagna sauce which has been bubbling away on the stove into the bottom of a lasagne/casserole dish.
- Compile the lasagne by layering zucchini noodles, cashew ‘cheese’ and spinach mix, mushrooms, then lasagne sauce. Repeat until you’ve run out of ingredients or space, whatever comes first!
- Bake uncovered for about an hour or until it looks cooked.
- Cool for a few minutes then enjoy!
I hope the above collection of recipes have given you some inspiration for designing your own PCOS diet plan. When looking for ideas of your own, here’s a hint: search for Paleo recipes and they’ll automatically be dairy-free grain-free and refined sugar-free so they’ll be just what you’re looking for in a PCOS-friendly diet.
I also wrote a post about natural alternatives to Metforim, which may interest you.