8 Easy Ways to Improve your PCOS Diet

Sometimes we get bogged down in the detail, in trying to adhere to the PCOS diet way of eating 100% of the time. And there are days that we’re able to achieve perfection but there are also many, many days when it just seems out of reach. You think, “Surely there must be an easier way to improve your PCOS Diet?”

And this is especially true when you’re first getting started on this way of eating. We go all gung-ho, making changes faster than our brains and bodies can keep up and before we know it, we’re exhausted, frustrated and straight back to our old ways of eating.

So, here are 8 easy ways to improve your PCOS diet. They’re habits, that when done consistently, can make a huge difference for your PCOS and overall symptoms.

Eat more protein and eat protein at every meal

Image of different sources of protein to help improve your PCOS DietProtein is an important aspect of our diets and it is important for many biological reasons.  It is important for the building and repair of muscle tissue, all of our enzymes are made up of proteins and it plays an important role in our immune systems.

Helpfully, protein also helps us to feel satiated after meals. For example, a meal of pasta and tomatoes will probably not fill you up as much as a meal of grilled chicken breasts and roasted vegetables.

Increasing your daily protein intake can also help with weight loss.
So, it is important to include protein at every meal and even for every snack.

You may be wondering how much protein you should be having per day. The rough estimate is that we should be aiming for 1.2-1.6g of protein per kg of body weight.

Now, no one wants to go around with a scale, weighing their food. So, a good rule of thumb is to aim for 1-2 palm-sized portions of protein per meal.

Slow down your eating

I know that this sounds easy and too simplified but there is some really good research behind this one.

We live in a fast-paced society where we are permanently busy, rushing from one place to the next, eating at our desks or in our cars as we rush to the next appointment.

Image of clock with knife and fork for hands to show that you should slow down your eating with PCOS

We struggle to find time to sit down, distraction-free and savor our food.

And this leads to a very common problem – overeating or eating more calories than we need.

You see, it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach satiety signals to reach the brain. So, if you tend to eat really quickly, you may well eat more calories than you need before your brain realizes that you are full.

Add to this the fact that women with PCOS tend to have disordered hunger hormones already. The research shows that we tend to be less satisfied after meals. It is, therefore, easier for us to consume more calories than we actually need.

So, slowing down your meals as much as possible will enable you to become more aware of your body’s hunger cues. You will feel more satisfied after your meal and you will be less likely to consume more calories than you actually need.

Other benefits of slowing down your eating:

  • Improved digestion with less gas and bloating
  • You are likely to eat less (calorie restriction)
  • You enjoy your food more and actually taste the flavors

Stop striving for perfection

Image of blackboard with dumbells and apple. Written on the blackboard is "progress, not perfection"

When it comes to following a specific way of eating, we tend to have an all or nothing approach. Our thinking (whether we realize it or not) goes something like this, “For the rest of my life, I will not eat over 20g of carbohydrate per day. I will avoid milk (ice cream, cheese and everything that goes with it) and I will make sure that I never, ever eat any gluten.”

Reading it like this it seems obvious – that is just not realistic. There is no way that this is possible.

But, we

do this to ourselves time and time again. We follow these super restrictive diets and expect that we are going to be able to stick with them 100% of the time.

And when we “fall off the wagon” or cheat, we beat ourselves up about it, bringing shame and judgment on ourselves. We think that we’re broken or we are destined to stay this way forever, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

The other thing that happens is that we often think that because we have messed up the day already, we may as well not try for the rest of the day. We throw in the towel and give up on the rest of the day.

This is obviously not ideal.

It would be so much better if we were just realistic with ourselves. Acknowledge that there are going to be days when you’re not going to get it right 100% of the time. BUT, if are consistently including whole, unprocessed foods in our diet, 80% of the time, we’re doing okay.

Treat yourself with the love and the grace that you would treat your friends with. We’re on a journey and it can be tough to commit 100% a PCOS diet. Making small consistent changes and trying to improve your diet by just 1% every day is more realistic than making 100% changes for a week and giving up when you run out of steam.

Make your Environment Work for You

woman-in-organized-pantryIf we’re honest with ourselves, we will know that there are going to be times when we are going to face obstacles when it comes to our PCOS diet. Things will get busy and we’re going to struggle to prepare good food.

Or we’re going to have a rough day and the cravings are going to hit.

And there are going to be times that willpower alone is not enough. Those cravings are going to wear you down, no matter how many times you try to redirect your thoughts or distract yourself.

So, what can we do in this situation?

Make your environment work for you.

It would be super helpful if you don’t have access to junk foods.

Let’s say that you have noticed that you tend to have cravings at night after dinner. You would normally reach for a box of Oreo cookies.

One way you could make your environment work for you is to make sure that you don’t have Oreos or any other junk food in the house.

What happens if your partner or husband has junk food (which he is totally entitled to have) ask him to hide them or make them super difficult to get to. That is another way to make your environment work for you.

Have a Plan

Open journal with pencil and eraser surrounded by healthy foodThis probably sounds so simple. But, it is really helpful to have a plan for what you are going to eat, even if it is just for the next 24 hours.

This is helpful for a couple of reasons:

You become mindful of what you are eating

When you start to plan, it draws your attention to what you are going to be putting in your mouth. It makes you more aware of what and how you eat. It is super important to make your plan realistic. It’s okay if your plan is not 100% PCOS friendly. You can work towards being more PCOS friendly as you go.

It makes life easier

Let’s say you’re making your 24-hour plan the night before. You don’t have anything at home that you can take to the office for lunch. What do you do?

Well, with a little bit of thought, you can come up with some healthier alternatives. Instead of hitting up the vending machine or ordering a pizza, think about how you can make it slightly more healthy:

Can you order a salad instead of a pizza?

Instead of a burger and fries, can you have a bunless burger with a salad?

Making small changes on a daily basis can make a massive impact on your PCOS and your health.

Become More Mindful

Fruit with a tag which reads "mindful eating"There was some research recently that looked at cravings in women with PCOS (Jeanes et al, 2017). And the results may surprise you. The research found that 99% of women with PCOS (irrespective of their weight) struggled with cravings.

That is HUGE!

So, we know that cravings are coming.

And when they do come, we tend to resist and resist and resist…

Until we can’t resist anymore and we give in.

And before you know it, that entire pack of Oreos has been demolished before you have even come up for air.

And then we’re left to deal with our own self-judgment and shame as we beat ourselves up for “falling off the wagon”.

So, how can we change the perspective in this scenario?

Well, instead of eating those Oreos on autopilot, become mindful of the whole experience of those Oreos. Take as long as you possibly can to eat them. Become aware of your emotions before you eat them, while you eat them and when they’re done.

So often we do these things on autopilot and we “turn off” our conscious brains to the experience. It is important to become more aware of our relationship and experience with food.

It is only when we become aware and mindful of how we eat can we change it.

Drink Water

water being poured into a glassThis is one of the pillars of health advice. But drinking more water is crucial to your health and well being.

There are a number of benefits to staying hydrated. Water is vital for transporting nutrients are the body. It helps to flush the body of harmful toxins and provides lubrication to our joints.

Drinking water also aids to weight loss, believe it or not. Now, your goal may not be weight loss per se.

But let’s talk about this a little more.

Women with PCOS have disordered hunger hormones. This means that we tend to feel less satisfied after meals. As a result we tend to eat more calories than we need. It doesn’t really seem fair, does it?!

But back to the water…

Research has shown that drinking 2 glasses of water before meals can help you feel more satisfied after your meal. That will help with satiety and manage the number of calories that you eat.

Also, research shows that the average American drinks about 400 calories in juice, sodas, coffee, etc…

So, switch to water and you will save a lot of those calories too….

Have a Weekly Ritual

It doesn’t really matter when you do your weekly ritual but it would be helpful to spend 20 minutes a week preparing for the coming week.

What does the weekly ritual look like?

That is totally up to you. Any of the following things would be helpful as part of your weekly ritual:

Look Ahead

Look ahead to the week and see what you have coming up. Are there any late-night meetings? Afternoons spent running around with the kids? Special celebrations that you need to consider?

Just by being aware of what you have coming up will allow you to plan food for the week.

Hit the Shops

Your weekly ritual may be stocking up on protein. Remember that we should be having lean protein at every meal?

Where is that protein going to come from?

You could make sure that you are well stocked on plant-based proteins, meats, and eggs.

What’s the fruit bowl and vegetable drawer looking like?

Make sure that you have access to good quality foods to make your week smoother sailing.

Meal Prep if you Can

Healthy food in two lunch boxes - meal prepI have been doing a live video call with my PCOS Foodies women every Sunday night this month as I prepare 3-4 meals for the week.

This has made life so much easier in the week, especially as the afternoons are full of children’s activities and it makes cooking time a bit more pressurized.

Meal prep has been so helpful and I know that the recipes have been really easy for the women in my PCOS Foodies community.

So, it doesn’t really matter what your weekly ritual looks like. Just having the time to plan ahead and be mindful of what is coming your way would be helpful.

To Sum it Up

Okay, so there are 8 ways that you can improve your PCOS diet. They are small, simple steps that you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle.

  • Eat more lean protein and lean protein at every meal
  • Slow down your eating
  • Stop striving for perfection
  • Make your environment work for you
  • Have a plan
  • Become more mindful
  • Drink water
  • Have a weekly ritual

Doing even one or two of these habits on a consistent basis can make a huge difference to your overall health and your PCOS.

Is there something that I have missed that you think would be helpful in improving our PCOS Diets? Leave me a comment a let me know!

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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

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