If you want a PCOS friendly diet, it’s actually a good idea to have most of your calories at breakfast and then have a light lunch and dinner with a few snacks in between meals. A study from the American Friends of Tel Aviv University found that eating a calorie dense breakfast and lower calorie meals throughout the day resulted in lower levels of testosterone and a dramatic increase in ovulation frequency. For some breakfast ideas that work for PCOS click here.
So if you’ve had a calorie dense breakfast, what do you do to keep lunch light and nutritious? The following suggestions are go-to lunch ideas for many tastes and situations.
The Right Combination
Trying to have a light, nutritious lunch with PCOS is a matter of achieving the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. If you make sure that there is a bit of all three in your lunch, you’re going to ensure that your lunch is well balanced. For example, having a whole wheat pita with hummus and a tossed salad includes all the elements you need in your lunch and is delicious to boot.
You don’t need too much protein, as women only need 1-2 servings of protein per day, but there should be some in your lunch as it will help fill you up and prevent excessive snacking later on in the day. When people think of protein, there is a tendency to go straight for the meat. While having something like chicken or salmon are excellent choices for your protein option, consider exploring plant-based options for protein.
Filling up on plant-based protein helps you avoid hormones that can be within meat and avoid mercury content in foods like tuna. Something like lentils, hemp seeds, or chia seeds are high in protein but help you avoid some of the undesirable qualities of meat. Women with PCOS do not have to completely switch over to plant-based protein, but including some throughout your week will add variety to your diet.
Whole Wheat Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates should be chosen carefully. If you’re including bread in your meal, make sure you’re selecting a whole wheat option to prevent excessive spikes in blood sugar after lunch. Whole wheat bread or a whole wheat pita are good low GI choices that can be combined with something like tuna or salmon, with some lettuce and tomato on top. Add in a small amount of low fat mayonnaise for some extra flavor and you have a decent lunch right there.
You can also add carbohydrates in the form of a snack in your lunch, such as with whole-wheat pretzels or air-popped popcorn without butter or salt.
Add Some Healthy Fats
Fats are an important component of lunch, although you should avoid fats that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Try adding in some nuts or trail mix as part of your lunch to get some healthy fats. Peanut butter is a good non-meat option that gets you both fat and protein, for example making a peanut butter and banana sandwich. If you’re a fan of seeds, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds are a tasty way to get some fat into your lunch.
Don’t Abandon Fruit
Some women with PCOS try to stay away from fruit because they’re worried that fruit will cause blood sugar spikes. While fruit is high in sugar and could affect blood sugar levels, it really depends what fruit you’re adding to your lunch. Something like dried dates or raisins rank higher on the GI and should be avoided as they are too sugary. Grapefruit, pear, or watermelon are some examples of fruits that would be okay and won’t negatively affect your blood sugar levels.
If you’re looking for a warm, filling lunch option, go with soups. Soups can be especially good for a chilly autumn or winter day. Another reason why soups are a good lunch choice for PCOS is soups are readily available: if you don’t want to make homemade soup, there are plenty of options at the supermarket and they are also at most restaurants and fast-food places, making it a safer choice when you’re going out for lunch.
Some low GI soup options include lentil, vegetable, chicken, and pea soup. It’s best to avoid cream based soups though due to their high amount of calories and saturated fat. When having soup, you can include a whole wheat or pumpernickel roll to add some acceptable, low GI carbs to the meal.
If you don’t like the idea of drinking your lunch in a soup or smoothie, you could try making a salad instead. There is plenty of variety when it comes to salads and there are many choices of vegetables that can be combined to make delicious salads.
Start with a nutrient dense lettuce like spinach or spring mix rather than iceberg lettuce. While iceberg lettuce isn’t high on the glycemic index, it also doesn’t have a lot of nutrients. By selecting something like spinach or spring mix instead, you can get some important nutrients like iron into your lunch. Some other vegetables that would be good to add to a low GI salad are tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, and carrots. You can also add a protein option such as hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken, salmon, or nuts. If you’d like some sweetness in your salad, put in some fruit like berries or apples.
The tricky thing about salads is it seems like they’re low in calories, but that really depends on what type and how much dressing you put on the salad. Keep it simple with your salad dressing such as by putting a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top.
And of course, it’s always a smart idea to make use of your dinner leftovers instead of letting them go to waste in your fridge. Anything that you’ve had for dinner can be warmed up and used at lunch. Consider prepping some food beforehand like grilled chicken breasts or hard boiled eggs that can be paired with a dinner leftover like some leftover brown rice, or be used as part of a salad or sandwich.
As mentioned above, there are many combinations you can do to have creative, nutritious lunches. The most important thing is making sure you have a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to give you a well-rounded meal. How you actually include those elements can take many forms. You may want to have a minestrone soup with some yogurt and fruit on the side or maybe a leafy green salad with grilled chicken and a multigrain roll.
Remember that with a healthy diet for PCOS, it’s essential you have a filling breakfast and lunch is simply meant to be light and prevent your blood sugars from dipping too low. What are some winning lunch combinations that work for you? Be sure to share in a comment!
(13 August 2013) “Meal timing can significantly improve fertility in women with polycystic ovaries.” Science News. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130813121626.htm.
Galan, Nicole. (4 February 2017) “Lunch Ideas for a Woman on a Low GI Diet.” Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/lunch-ideas-for-a-woman-on-a-low-glycemic-index-diet-2616574.
Hurley, Vanessa. (5 October 2005) “The GI Diet Made Easy.” Retrieved from http://www.canadianliving.com/health/nutrition/article/the-gi-diet-made-easy.
Nall, Rachel. (28 January 2015) “Low GI School Lunch Ideas.” Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/444244-low-gi-school-lunch-ideas/.