PCOS-Friendly Meal Options To Try This Week, Per Dietitians

If you've ever dealt with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and its array of uncomfortable symptoms, you're not alone. A complex endocrine disorder, PCOS throws reproductive hormones off balance, causing about eight to thirteen percent of women of reproductive age to experience issues like irregular or missed periods, polycystic ovaries (large ovaries with many small follicles), and excess body hair, per the World Health Organization (WHO). And although there's no one-size-fits-all treatment for PCOS, sometimes, little changes can go a long way—including to your diet.

From a functional medicine perspective—which emphasizes a personalized, systems-oriented approach that considers the underlying causes of disease—nutrition plays a critical role in managing PCOS, says Samantha Schleiger, RDN, a functional dietitian and women’s health specialist at Simply Nourished. “A strategic approach when it comes to nutrition and PCOS is centered upon lowering inflammation, supporting balanced blood sugar, and providing an overall nourishing nutrient-dense diet to the body.”

Meet the experts: Samantha Schleiger, RDN, is a functional dietitian and women's health specialist at Simply Nourished. Clare Goodwin is a registered nutritionist and founder of Ovie.io, an online clinic for PCOS support. Ana Cristina Lewis, RD, is a dietitian and owner of Functional Nutrition By Ana.

What’s the connection between PCOS and diet?

There’s a lot to unpack, but PCOS is a multifaceted condition that generally affects various body processes, such as insulin resistance, inflammation, and obesity. Having a healthy and balanced diet can improve insulin levels, reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, and help you manage weight, along with less-talked-about symptoms including fatigue, intense hunger and cravings, mood imbalances, and poor gut health, says Clare Goodwin, a registered nutritionist and founder of Ovie.io for PCOS.

Between fifty and ninety percent of women with PCOS are insulin resistant, per a study in Clinical Medicine—which means that the cells in the body struggle to absorb sugar from the blood. This causes blood sugar levels to spike, triggering the pancreas to produce more insulin in an attempt to help cells respond—but when the pancreas can’t keep up, blood sugar levels can reach diabetic levels, per Cleveland Clinic. Obesity exacerbates insulin resistance, creating a vicious cycle. So, making dietary changes may help improve things over time.

Best Foods To Eat For PCOS

If your doctor diagnoses you with PCOS, consider prioritizing foods rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, says functional nutritional dietitian Ana Cristina Lewis, RD. "When meals have sufficient protein, fiber, healthy fat, and nutrient-dense carbohydrates, it will promote satiety, support balanced energy levels throughout the day, and help avoid huge peaks and pits of blood sugar (which then helps insulin, too),” says Lewis. “By choosing whole food, high-quality versions of these foods, it will be anti-inflammatory in nature versus choosing processed, packaged versions.”

It may also be helpful to go for foods that help regulate blood sugar and have anti-inflammatory properties, Schleiger says, such as:

  • Leafy greens: Picks like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and arugula contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory components that may reduce chronic inflammation.

  • Fruits: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are all low-glycemic foods that support balanced blood sugar. Avocado is a great option, too.

  • Fatty fish: Foods like wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout contain a high-quality protein which is necessary for muscle repair and metabolic function, Schleiger says.

  • Whole grains: High in fiber, options like quinoa, brown rice, oats, and barley aid in blood sugar control and may improve insulin sensitivity, per Schleiger.

  • Legumes: Options like lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans are high in fiber and protein which can help stabilize blood sugar levels and improve satiety, which ultimately helps weight management.

  • Nut and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds contain protein and fiber, which support satiety and blood sugar regulation, Schleiger says.

  • Vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables contain compounds that help reduce inflammation, making broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage helpful options to add to your diet.

  • Probiotic-rich foods: Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi can help improve your digestion and nutrient absorption, says Schleiger.

Foods To Avoid/Limit When You Have PCOS

Avoiding or limiting certain foods can prevent the worsening of symptoms, inflammation, and insulin resistance, says Schleiger. This doesn’t mean tossing everything in your pantry, but it can help to be more cautious about consuming these foods:

  • Sugary foods and beverages: sweets, candy, pastries, sugary cereals, soda, and fruit juices with added sugar

  • Refined carbohydrates: white bread, white rice, pasta, and baked goods made with white flour

  • Heavily processed foods: fast foods, processed snacks, processed meats, frozen dinners, and anything with a lengthy ingredient list

  • Alcohol: beer, wine, and spirits

  • Artificial sweeteners: aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin

7-Day PCOS Diet Plan

Schleiger’s recommendation:


  • Breakfast: full-fat Greek yogurt (prioritize grass-fed, organic options) with fresh berries, a variety of seeds (chia seeds, hemp hearts, and ground flaxseeds), and a dollop of nut butter

  • Lunch: quinoa salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and a lemon-tahini dressing

  • Dinner: baked salmon with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potato

  • Snack: sliced apple with almond butter and a grass-fed beef stick


  • Breakfast: smoothie made with frozen berries, half a semi-green banana (which has a lower glycemic index than ripe bananas, Schleiger says), 1 scoop of quality protein powder, liquid (like unsweetened almond milk, cashew milk, etc.), spinach or kale, frozen cauliflower rice (Bonus: chia seeds, ground flaxseed, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, etc.)

  • Lunch: grilled chicken breast with a mixed greens salad (spinach, kale, arugula, and/or romaine) topped with walnuts, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette

  • Dinner: stir-fried grass-fed beef with broccoli, bell peppers, snap peas, and an organic white rice-cauliflower rice 50:50 mix

  • Snack: fresh berries, raw cashews, and string cheese


  • Breakfast: organic overnight oats topped with chia seeds, unsweetened almond milk, fresh blueberries, and a drizzle of honey

  • Lunch: lentil soup made with carrots, celery, and spinach, served with a side of whole-grain or sourdough bread and pastured butter

  • Dinner: grilled wild shrimp and a quinoa-vegetable pilaf (bell peppers, zucchini, garlic, and onions)

  • Snack: fresh cherries served alongside carrot sticks with hummus


  • Breakfast: scrambled pastured eggs (with spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and feta cheese) served with a whole-grain English muffin and a side of fresh fruit

  • Lunch: turkey and avocado slices wrapped in a tortilla with lettuce, tomato, and red onion (with avocado-based mayonnaise)

  • Dinner: baked cod with a side of roasted purple cauliflower, steamed green beans, and a baked potato

  • Snack: greek yogurt topped with homemade granola and a handful of raw nuts


  • Breakfast: chia pudding made with chia seeds and coconut milk, and topped with fresh raspberries and ground flaxseeds

  • Lunch: chickpea and vegetable curry with brown rice and a side of fresh mixed berries

  • Dinner: grilled chicken/steak/shrimp skewers with bell peppers and onions served with a side of mixed greens salad and a side of whole grain rice

  • Snack: fresh fruit salad (melon, berries, and kiwi) served alongside cottage cheese


  • Breakfast: pastured hard-boiled eggs topped with everything but the bagel (EBTB) seasoning and seaweed sprinkles served alongside whole-grain avocado toast topped with feta cheese and cherry tomatoes

  • Lunch: canned wild tuna/salmon salad made with celery, onions, capers, cucumbers and avocado-based mayonnaise served inside a whole-grain or nut-based tortilla

  • Dinner: stuffed bell peppers made from ground turkey, black beans, onions, quinoa, and tomatoes

  • Snack: half an avocado sprinkled with sea salt, pepper, and seaweed flakes served alongside cucumber slices and turkey roll-ups


  • Breakfast: smoothie bowl with blended spinach, banana, almond milk, topped with granola, sliced strawberries, and chia seeds

  • Lunch: mediterranean salad made from mixed greens, olives, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, chickpeas, feta cheese, and sliced grilled chicken served with a lemon-olive oil dressing

  • Dinner: baked eggplant parmesan (using almond flour for breading) with a side of whole-grain pasta and marinara sauce

  • Snack: dark chocolate with a handful of almonds

How To Treat And Manage PCOS

A healthy and balanced diet is one way to manage PCOS, per a study in the journal Maedica—but making other lifestyle modifications can be helpful, too. For example, incorporating exercise throughout your day can help, Lewis says. “Ideally there is a enjoyable movement that provides a mix of cardio and strength training throughout the week without being too taxing on the nervous system,” she says. “Avoid working out after an overnight fast to avoid putting extra stress on the body.”

Practicing good sleep hygiene may also help with PCOS management, and you should try to aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night if you can, Schleiger recommends. "Poor sleep can affect insulin sensitivity, increase stress hormones, and disrupt overall hormonal balance as our bodies heavily rely on healthy circadian rhythms,” she says.

In addition to a nourishing diet, exercise, and getting plenty of sleep, try reducing your stress levels. Chronic stress can worsen PCOS symptoms and throw your hormones off balance, according to Schleiger. You can do this by journaling, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or whatever helps quell your nervous system. While there’s no one end-all solution for PCOS, taking a holistic wellness approach can help you reduce inflammation, prevent insulin resistance, and manage conditions associated with PCOS better.

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