PCOS 101: How to build a PCOS-friendly plate

meal in bowl

How the basics of a balanced meal can help support polycystic ovary syndrome.

PCOS can be a confusing and overwhelming condition to live with. For most people trying to manage it, the support they receive from traditional medicine is limited. This can leave people unsure about how to look after themselves as they navigate their health alone. It might feel isolating or overwhelming, especially with the amount of information available about how to look after yourself when living with PCOS.

If this has been your experience so far, the following post is here to help make your life a whole lot easier.

Introducing: how to build a PCOS-friendly plate. With these simple foundations, you can remove the stress and struggle that comes with supporting yourself and instead feel more in control of your health. “But what does a PCOS-friendly plate even mean?” you might be wondering. Well, PCOS causes issues with the hormone insulin, meaning blood sugar imbalances are common. As we’ve discussed (see previous blog post), it is considered one of the leading causes of many PCOS symptoms (skin, mood, hair changes, and even infertility).

There are various ways to support blood sugar management, and one of them is by creating balanced meals. Adding protein, fat, and fibre to our meals slows the breakdown of carbohydrates. As a result, our blood sugar levels are more steady, helping regulate our insulin release. This can help us feel more energised, have more stable moods, and improve skin, hair, and body changes (and more!).

Here’s how to build a balanced PCOS-friendly plate:

Step #1: Start with a carbohydrate of your choosing

Unfortunately for those with the condition, there is a common misconception that people with PCOS should avoid carbs at all costs. Thankfully, this is not the case, and you CAN enjoy your carbs! The worry is that, as carbohydrates break down into sugars, they are a direct ‘cause’ of poor insulin control. While this is the case if eaten by themselves, as mentioned earlier, adding other nutrients to your meal can help to slow this down. Plus, carbohydrates are needed for a range of functions, from energy to focus, hormone metabolism, and more. Alongside bigger portions of fibre, fat, and protein, using them as a base for your meal is a positive place to start.

Examples: brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa, chickpeas and other legumes, sourdough bread

Step #2: Add a hearty source of protein

Proteins help make up the building blocks of our body and are essential for hormone and enzyme production. Plus, it is also vital in slowing carbohydrate breakdown, making it a beneficial addition to every meal. When looking to portion your protein intake, a fillet or palm-sized amount of protein is generally sufficient to support this per meal.

Examples: fish, meat, black beans, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh

Step #3: Add a few spoonfuls of a source of fat 

People often forget about fat when trying to build balanced meals. It has had such a bad rap in the past century that it is easy to worry about consuming it. As with carbohydrates, however, it serves a very useful (and delicious) purpose. Fats are needed for cell function and hormone metabolism, aka, the movement and communication between our body’s processes. Polyunsaturated fats are especially helpful for managing inflammation in the body, which is known to disrupt hormonal pathways involved in insulin release.

Examples: avocado, walnuts, oily fish, seeds, extra virgin olive oil

Step #4: fill the rest of the plate with fibre

Although we cannot digest fibre, we can use it to help move digestion along – a key part of slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates. Not only this, but we also use fibre to feed our gut bacteria, which is known to help regulate hormones like insulin. A handful or two of your favourite veg can help finish the plate off.

Examples: kale, broccoli, peppers, beans, legumes

And that is how you can build a PCOS-friendly balanced plate! It is important to remember that each meal will look different, and you should always listen to your body’s needs. That means that it is OK if not every meal looks like this, as you can and should enjoy food without worry. This is a guide that can hopefully help take away the confusion of mealtimes when it comes to PCOS. Happy plating!

If you’re interested in learning more and receiving personalised support to help optimise your PCOS to your lifestyle and needs, my PCOS POWER journey is here to help you feel your best. Plus, I’ll soon be launching my cycle syncing workshop! To receive updates about this and be the first to know once it’s live, sign up for my newsletter now. 

Success! You're on the list.

If you’re looking for further support, please feel free to get in touch via my contact page, or email me at jgreen.nutrition@gmail.com.

1 – Kolhe, J.V., Chhipa, A.S., Butani, S. et al. PCOS and Depression: Common Links and Potential Targets. Reprod. Sci. 29, 3106–3123 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43032-021-00765-2
2 – Devi OJ, Pushpari C, Manaswini K, Anjum SN, Lakshmi VB. PCOS: a common but underdiagnosed condition in reproductive women. World J Pharm Res. 2021 May 4;10(7):598-612. https://wjpr.s3.ap-south-1.amazonaws.com/article_issue/1623923778.pdf
3 – Spritzer PM, Marchesan LB, Santos BR, Fighera TM. Hirsutism, normal androgens and diagnosis of PCOS. Diagnostics. 2022 Aug 9;12(8):1922. https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4418/12/8/1922
4 – Harris HR, Titus LJ, Cramer DW, Terry KL. Long and irregular menstrual cycles, polycystic ovary syndrome, and ovarian cancer risk in a population‐based case‐control study. International journal of cancer. 2017 Jan 15;140(2):285-91.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ijc.30441
5 – Carmina E, Dreno B, Lucky WA, Agak WG, Dokras A, Kim JJ, Lobo RA, Ramezani Tehrani F, Dumesic D. Female adult acne and androgen excess: A report from the multidisciplinary Androgen Excess and PCOS committee. Journal of the Endocrine Society. 2022 Mar 1;6(3):bvac003. https://academic.oup.com/jes/article-abstract/6/3/bvac003/6523224
6 – Carmina E, Azziz R, Bergfeld W, Escobar-Morreale HF, Futterweit W, Huddleston H, Lobo R, Olsen E. Female pattern hair loss and androgen excess: a report from the multidisciplinary androgen excess and PCOS committee. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2019 Jul;104(7):2875-91. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-abstract/104/7/2875/5342938

Leave a Reply