Why do you need to plan your meals with PCOS?
The food that you eat plays a vital role in how well your body functions. It also affects and regulates your hormonal balance. With a condition like PCOS, where the symptoms and side effects are largely driven by your hormones; eating the right meals is a crucial step to overcome it.
How does diet help with PCOS?
1) Reduces insulin resistance
Increased blood sugar levels and low efficacy of insulin are one of the main causes and effects of PCOS.
Now, the food that you eat consists of carbohydrates. The carbs are further converted to glucose and transported by insulin to the cells of your body. The more carbs that you eat, the more blood glucose/sugar your body has to deal with.
With insulin resistance, your body needs to produce high amounts of insulin to deal with the increased blood sugar levels from your meals. If persistent, this can cause type 2 diabetes.
The right kind of diet with the right composition and balance of food can help control insulin resistance in your body.
2) Brings down androgen levels
If you’re suffering from PCOS, hyperandrogenism is the most problematic and the most common problem that you might face. Hyperandrogenism is an excess of male hormones (androgens) circulating in your body. Due to the increased androgen levels, a range of side effects follow. These include acne, hirsutism, hair loss and even fertility problems.
Including and cutting down certain food items from your diet can have a significant impact in balancing your androgen levels.
By reducing your androgen levels, your diet also improves your chances of pregnancy.
3) Reduces low grade inflammation
Low grade inflammation is one of the contributing factors of Inflammatory PCOS. Additionally, it only escalates with the worsening of your PCOS. It not only increases your chances of contracting infections but also poses the risk of cardiovascular health problems.
Some of the food items in your regular diet can be responsible for increasing inflammation in your body with PCOS. Thus, you need to follow a PCOS friendly diet which excludes all inflammatory food.
It also consists of anti-inflammatory foods which help in reducing the damage already caused due to PCOS.
4) Helps in quicker weight loss
With PCOS, you’re much more susceptible to quick and excessive weight gain. In extreme cases, it might even take you over the edge to obesity. This only worsens your other symptoms of PCOS and makes recovery even harder.
Following a PCOS meal plan for weight loss can help you massively. Pairing up the right meal plan with regular exercise is the quickest and most effective way to lose weight with PCOS.
Thus, dietary interventions are a key factor in reaching the right fitness levels and ideal body weight, especially with PCOS.
Now that you know how the right diet plan can help improve certain conditions related to PCOS, let’s dive into the specific ways in which PCOS meal planning helps you overcome PCOS.
Why is PCOS meal planning important?
1) Helps control YOUR symptoms
Most PCOS diets that you find online or otherwise, are very generic. These may or may not help, depending on the chances that it caters to your specific symptoms. Dealing with PCOS is very difficult as it is. You can’t rely on a ‘one size fits all’ diet to improve your condition.
The symptoms and side effects of PCOS affect everyone differently. The right diet for your condition is the one that reduces the side effects that you’re dealing with.
When you plan your meals, you have greater leeway of including food items that help reduce your specific symptoms. So, you can focus on customizing your meals according to your priorities.
If your primary focus is to lose weight, you can customize your meals according to a diet plan for PCOS weight loss. And once you’re close to achieving that goal, you can move on to tackling the other symptoms.
2) You can stay on track
PCOS meal planning on your own helps you take charge. You can track your progress much more easily and make adjustments to ensure better planning further. You have to be consistent and you’re accountable to yourself.
Preparing weekly or monthly PCOS meals plans are the most time effective. They’re easy to follow, save time and give you enough time for preparation. Taking matters in your hand helps you feel responsible. It also makes you much more sincere in following the meal plans as well.
3) Cater to your tastes
No meal plan is sustainable unless you enjoy it. While it doesn’t mean that you focus only on the taste, making sure that you enjoy what you eat is a crucial factor in the long term. It helps prevent sudden cravings and also significantly reduces the chances of cheating.
While planning your own meals with PCOS, you can customize the taste according to your preferences, within the ambit of the diet of course! You can choose the recipes that you like, and switch up the meals as per your mood and willingness.
You can simply take your picks from the best food items for PCOS and curate a healthy and delicious meal plan, which you love!
4) Helps get a PCOS meal plan on a budget
Purchasing a customized diet plan from a professional dietician can surely do you good; but it can get quite expensive. And if you can’t afford that expense at the moment, that shouldn’t stop you from taking control of your life and overcoming this condition.
Planning your own PCOS meals at home is much more economical. It not only saves you the fees that you’ve to pay to a professional; but also helps save more money indirectly. While doing your own PCOS meal planning, you can customize the ingredients used based on your budgetary requirements.You can also make quick changes and replace costly ingredients with budget-friendly ones that still match your taste. Now that’s a win-win!
5) Easier for you to execute your meals
When you plan your own meals, you’re far more likely to execute that plan well. Planning in advance helps you prepare for your meals. It not only saves time but is also so much more convenient.
Ingredient shopping and meal prep are important components of making your meals. And doing your own PCOS meal planning makes these two things much more easy for you.
Also, since you’d be doing your own PCOS meal prep, you don’t have to resort to unhealthy packaged food that worsens your condition. It’s really helpful, especially when you’re working.
By now, you’re probably convinced and ready to plan your own meals with PCOS. So what’s next is a step-by-step guide for you to curate your very own PCOS meal plan in an easy to execute way.
Let’s dive right in!
Steps for making your own PCOS meal plan
Here are 7 simple and easy to follow steps for PCOS meal planning:
Step 1: Choose a target time frame
The first step for you is to choose a target time frame. While you could make any target, the most common ones include:
- 7 days
- 10 days
- 30 days
- 45 days
If you’re new to meal planning for PCOS, you should definitely start with 7 days. It’s long enough to see if you’re managing well, prepping on time, liking the food. Yet, short enough to not be stuck with anything that doesn’t work out. It’s perfect to begin with! You can experiment without the fear of wasting time or spoiling your meals and easily customize.
If you’re confident, short on time or want a longer trial, jump on to 10 days, but not more than that. Once you’ve got the hang of it, 30 days is the best time frame while meal planning for PCOS. You can plan for an entire month in one sitting and also stock up on the ingredients together.
It’s also convenient as it becomes part of your monthly chores. You won’t have to take out time again and again every couple of days to do the same thing.
Step 2: Pick your Planning Platform
Once you’ve picked the ideal time frame for your PCOS meal planning, the next step is to find the right platform which can act as your PCOS meal planner. There are several options available for you to choose from.
The right platform will help you plan better and quicker. It’s extremely convenient and helps your planning in the long run.
Let’s discuss the different alternatives one by one and then you can take your pick.
Spreadsheets are the most common and widely used platform for PCOS meal planning. They’re easy to use and very organized. There are a bunch of templates available online and all you’ve to do is fill them accordingly. You could even customize it however you want.
It saves a lot of time and is one of the least complicated options. You can even make up your own spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. It’s very simple and it’s FREE!
Evernote is an online software that helps you take notes and keep records. It’s also a great platform for designing your meal plans and storing them. The best part about Evernote is that it does most of the things for you.
The best part is that it’s absolutely free of cost and you can store a bunch of plans without any problem.
Pen and Paper
Using the good ol’ pen and paper is the oldest medium for PCOS meal planning. If playing with technology is not your thing, this is the best option for you. Traditional and simple. Even though the process is a little more time consuming, it’s a conventional method and works very well.
You can draw up a table or even replicate the format from the spreadsheet templates mentioned above. It might be a little out of date but nonetheless works perfectly!
MealBoard Meal and Grocery Planner App
MealBoard is a meal planning application which is very organized and helps manage your meals professionally. It helps you create a meal plan within minutes due to it’s quick and user-friendly algorithm.
You can easily edit the plan at any time, add notes and make any adjustments. It also helps you set reminders for prepping meals. All in all, it can help with your PCOS meal planning right from the start to end.
However, MealBoard might not be right for all because of 2 reasons. First, it’s an application that’s only available on iOS phones. So if you’re an android user, you won’t get access to it. And secondly, it’s a paid app. But, if you’re an Apple user and ready to spare a couple of dollars into planning your meals, MealBoard is the best choice for you.
Paprika is a great and a very affordable option as a meal planning software. It provides you a platform to create recipes and even import them from other websites. It’s super convenient and very quick to use. The Paprika platform also gives you a chance to create full blown meal schedules for a month.
You can also create your shopping lists and add relevant pictures with the recipes for a better user experience. Even though Paprika is a paid service, it doesn’t require you to purchase monthly subscription plans. You just have to make a one-time purchase to get the app and you're good to go!
BigOven is amongst the best recipe management apps that can be used on a regular basis. You can create your own recipes and add them on this platform. But the only problem is that you won’t be able to import recipes from a third party website. Despite that, BigOven gives you many more reasons to opt for it.
You can start out by using this app if you have budget constraints or are unwilling to invest money into a platform. BigOven gives you the opportunity to store upto 200 recipes even with the free plan. Additionally, it has a database of over 500,000 recipes which you can access any time.
Using any of these platforms, you can simply make your very own PCOS Meal Plan PDF and you’re all set to move to the next step!
Step 3: Set your Daily Calorie Requirement
This is where the actual planning begins. Now that your platform is in place, you have to start by setting your daily calorie requirements. With PCOS meal plans, it’s not only important to eat the right kind of food but also the right quantity of it.
Targeting the right number of daily calories is very important. Eat too much and you won’t be able to lose weight. Eat too little and you cause all kinds of other problems with appetite, energy and your metabolism.
To make the job easier, here’s a calculator that can help you figure out the ideal daily calorie and nutrient requirements for your PCOS meal plan.
Just enter a few details and get a precise calorie count that you need to fulfill.
By now, you have your calorie and nutrient numbers. The next step is to divide it into your meals. First, you have to set the number of meals that you will consume daily. Ideally, you should have 3 main meals and 1-2 light snacks throughout the day. But since you’re the planner here, you can make adjustments based on your preferences and schedule. Find out some amazing recommendations for PCOS Snacks: 21 Super Quick and Simple Recipes You Need To Try Now!
For example, if your calorie intake comes out to 1200 kcal per day, you can divide them in your meals as:
- Breakfast - ~ 380 kcal
- Lunch - ~ 400 kcal
- Dinner - ~ 350 kcal
- Snacks - ~ 70 kcal
Step 4: Prepare your food list
This is the most important step for PCOS meal planning. Without the right set of food items, your meal plan with PCOS won’t do any good. The right order of priority is to first include the food items that help relieve your worst symptoms.
Here’s a list of the most common and effective food items that you can use to plan your meals with PCOS. Further on, there’s also a list of food items that you need to cut entirely or at the very least minimize.
Foods to Include in your PCOS Meal Plan
- Low Carb Fruits - Berries, Cantaloupe, Watermelon, Honeydew, Plum
- Anti-Inflammatory Foods - Fatty fish, leafy greens, extra virgin olive oil
- Low Glycemic Index (GI) Food - Whole Grains, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds
- Low Carb Vegetables - Spinach, Broccoli, Lettuce, Asparagus, Bell Peppers
- Natural herbs - turmeric, cinnamon, black cohosh
- Gut healing Food - Sauerkraut, Pineapple, Onion, Apple Cider Vinegar
- Lean Protein - Salmon, Chicken, Beans, Peas
- Heart Healthy Fats - Coconut Oil, Butter, Nuts, Avocado
- Antioxidant rich food - Goji Berries, Dark Chocolate, Pecans, Green Tea
PCOS food list to avoid
- Refined Carbs - Cookies, Bread, Cakes, Ready to Eat Meals
- Inflammatory Foods - Artificial and Trans Fat, Vegetable and Seed Oils, Sugar and Fructose Corn Syrup
- Dairy - Cow’s milk, Goat milk, Low fat cream, Low fat cheese
- Processed Food - Chocolate Bars, Ketchup, Instant Noodles, Pastries
- Red Meats - Hamburgers, Steaks, Pork
- Bad Fats - Trans Fat, Semi hydrogenated Fats, Hydrogenated Fats, Refined Oils
Apart from these food items, if you’re confused about a particular food item, just google it and check its composition. And learn more about saturated fats vs unsaturated fats to determine the right kind of fats for your body. The bottom line is to keep your diet largely low in carbs and high in fiber, healthy fats and proteins.
Step 5: Choose a PCOS friendly diet type
Having a specific diet type to base your meals around helps make your PCOS meal plan more organized. With the defined guidelines, you can easily plan your meals without the fear of too much experimenting.
For PCOS, the most preferred types of diet are the ones which are low in carbs. But since there are so many options available, it’s best to choose the one that you think will work best for you. Pick a diet plan from the following and use it to streamline your meals.
The Ketogenic diet is a low carb diet that is widely adapted in PCOS meal plans. Since it’s low in carbs and rich in healthy fats as well as protein, the keto diet for PCOS meal plan is considered as one of the best options. In fact, several medical studies have concluded that the keto diet can help reduce the effects of PCOS on your body.
It focuses on helping you improve insulin sensitivity by reducing your carb intake. It does so by shifting your body’s energy source from glucose to fats. A keto diet also helps with quicker weight loss. So if weight loss and insulin resistance are the two of your primary targets, then Keto is the best choice for you!You can check out the Keto Diet Plan for Women: The Complete 2022 Guide (Get FREE PDF!) as a reference for your PCOS meal planning. Just be aware of the side effects of a keto diet to avoid any complications in the future. And if you’re not sure whether you should go for keto or a regular low carb diet, find all your answers related to Keto Diet vs Low Carb: Compare & Know Which One Is Best For You!
Another popular and widely followed diet form for PCOS is the Atkins diet. Like Keto, this also focuses on significantly reducing your carb intake. The major benefit that Atkins offers is that it works in phases. This helps the transition into a new meal plan much easier.
You can take your time with each phase and make sure that your body gets used to it instead of making several changes at once. This gives your body the time to adapt into a dietary style that you have to sustain over a long period of time.Since you’re new to PCOS meal planning, the Atkins diet will make the execution part easier for you. It also helps you reduce the risk of developing other diseases and conditions, which is very common with PCOS.
The B.E.B.B.I.S. diet is a relatively less popular diet form but nonetheless very effective for PCOS. It’s specifically recommended as a PCOS diet plan to get pregnant. Bacon, eggs, butter, beef, full-fat ice cream and salt are the primary components of a B.E.B.B.I.S diet.
Since the items are limited, planning meals is also relatively easier. But the biggest drawback is that it can become boring and repetitive, which makes it difficult to follow in the long run. So if you’re someone who can get used to having these food items frequently, go for it!
A paleo diet focuses on eating only those food items which were available in the pre industrial and agricultural revolution era. Based on the outcomes of medical studies, a paleo diet has several health benefits. Improvement in insulin sensitivity, weight loss and prevention from cardiovascular issues are the key effects of PCOS that it can help in dealing with.
It’s more of a lifestyle change as it eliminates all meal options that come under comfort food in today’s age. If you’re considering following a paleo diet, make sure you also increase your physical activity alongside to reduce the chances of digestion problems.
The ingredients used in a Paleo meal plan are quite common and regular, the only difference is that they're whole and not processed.
So make sure that you include the raw and organic form of food items. For example, as opposed to the canned fruits widely available these days, only raw organic fruits should be consumed.
Intermittent Fasting can work really well for improving insulin sensitivity and helps lower blood sugar levels. The most recommended type of Intermittent fasting for PCOS is the 16/8 plan. But you’re free to explore the other types as well and choose the one that works best for you.
It’s also a great plan for weight loss with PCOS and can also be paired with other diet forms recommended above.
If you’re not someone who likes to stick to one diet plan, it’s alright as long as you stick to the ingredient list. You can plan your meals according to your regular diet and just incorporate the changes required for PCOS.
There are no other specific guidelines to follow here or a pattern to adhere to. So all the decision making is in your own hands. It’s definitely convenient but if planning is not your forte, it’s advisable to choose one of the options above.
And if you’re already following a particular diet plan, stick to it! The transition and planning will be much easier and convenient for you that way.
You can also customize your diet form to follow a vegetarian or vegan PCOS meal plan.
Step 6: Choose your meals and add recipes in your planner
This is the second last step in your PCOS meal planning. With all the components now in place, you’ve now got to pick your meals using the chosen ingredients and add the recipes to your planner.
The best way to go about this is to divide your key ingredients amongst the target days, the one that you chose in Step 1. Next, you have to find meals that are made from those primary ingredients. To make the task easier for you, there are several tools available that recommend the best meals along with easy PCOS recipes for weight loss for your chosen ingredients. You can also get vegan PCOS recipes, vegetarian PCOS recipes and PCOS meal prep recipes.
Here are some of the best and most popular tools that you could use:
Supercook is a great platform for finding the best meal options by simply entering a number of ingredients. Using the food items that you’ve entered, it generates several options along with the recipes. You can take your pick from any of these options and even add backups. It works really well and is super easy to use!
Recipeland is similar to the first alternative and has a similar algorithm as well. All you’ve to do is enter the ingredients and you’re good to go. You can directly copy the recipe and add it to the planner. Make sure that you add at least 2-3 ingredients which include the main type of protein, fat as well as low carb food items for the best results.
The more specific you are with the ingredients, the more streamlined the recipes will be. And most importantly, you won’t have to sort the recipes for the right fit.
BigOven is not only a great platform for planning meals but also very helpful in finding recipes. It is a large recipe database with over 5,00,000 free recipes and several more with the paid subscriptions. The meal options they recommend are not only easy to follow but also super delicious. This option is also quite user friendly. They also have several recipe videos which can help in meal preparation with the step by step tutorial of making the dishes.
Step 7: Prepare your grocery list and prep your meals
The last step while planning your meals with PCOS is to prepare your grocery list, shop for the ingredients and do your meal prep.
First, prepare a running master ingredient list which includes all the items that you want to stock up on. Then make another weekly list to shop for fresh ingredients that you’ll need throughout the week. And finally, choose a day when you’ll go to the supermarket to grab all these ingredients. This will help you set a routine and keep things in order.
Once you’ve shopped for your groceries, the final leg that you have to cover is prepping for your meals. Meal prep helps you save a lot of time and comes in handy especially when you’ve to work on weekdays.
And since you do the prep in big batches, you can get things ready for the entire week by putting in a few extra minutes. Marinations, preparation of sauces and gravies, salad pouches and preparing the base for your meals come under meal prep.
Once you’ve prepared the basics, divide them into portions. Then, pack them in separate packets or airtight containers. Then on the day that you’ve planned that meal for, simply heat it or garnish it within a couple of minutes and enjoy!
With these 7 quick and easy to follow steps, you’re all set to plan your own meals. You must definitely know by now how much easier, more convenient and budget friendly this is. So let’s quickly hop onto the last section and then get ready to start your PCOS meal planning!
The Role of Exercise in Boosting Metabolism
Now that you’re all set to do your own PCOS meal planning, here’s a little something extra for you. Here are 3 tips that’ll make your planning process easier and much more effective.
So let’s dive right in!
Tip #1: Mix things up a little for variety
Variety is extremely important for sustaining any activity. If you get bored due to the monotony, you’ll either mess things up or drop it altogether. So the best way to prevent this is by adding variety.
The ultimate goal of planning your meals is to ensure that your meals are more effective in reducing your PCOS symptoms and, well, are more enjoyable. Adding variety to your meal plan helps you do the job. It keeps things spiced up which makes following the meals much more fun and easy.
So, with PCOS meal planning, keep the ingredient distribution such that the main meal component is distinct for each day of the week. By avoiding repetition, you’ll have a lot of options and won’t get sick of following the plan.
Tip #2: Check your ingredient alternatives
Not being able to have your staples or favorite food items due to a particular condition can be quite emotionally taxing. It can push you towards the edge of cheating or dealing with excessive cravings.
What if you could enjoy your favorite meals without compromising your meal plan? Well, PCOS Meal planning can help make that possible for you. And it’s not even that difficult!
All you have to do is find the right PCOS friendly alternatives to the problem ingredients of your favorite meals. For example: Most high carb food items have low carb alternatives.
Take bread for instance. While it’s not permitted on a PCOS meal plan, several of its alternatives including cloud bread, cheese bread and egg loaf can all be included in your meals without hampering your meal plan.
So make sure that you check all the ingredient alternatives so that you can enjoy your meals with minimal changes.
Tip #3: Measure your progress and improvise
The key to successful meal planning for PCOS is to measure all the progress you’ve made and make relative improvements. When you note how far you’ve come, you’ll be able to ascertain the areas that need improvement so that you can make your next plan better.
So, devise a pattern for measuring your performance and make it a part of your routine. You’ll learn more by doing and it’s the best way to get better. The sooner you start with your PCOS meal planning, the sooner you’ll get better.
So kickstart your PCOS meal planning now and keep track of all that you can improve along the way!