If you’re wondering what a good PCOS lunch idea is, look no further. As a registered dietitian, my goal is to help you take the guesswork out of eating well for PCOS, and this post is intended to do just that for your lunchtime meal!
We’ll run through how to make a PCOS friendly lunch and then get right into some PCOS lunch ideas and recipes to make your life easier.
Why You Should Eat Lunch
Chronic inflammation and insulin resistance are common in those with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) (1, 2). These driving factors can exacerbate your PCOS symptoms, such as irregular periods, hair loss, unwanted hair growth, and acne.
Insulin resistance is when your cells don’t respond to the hormone insulin very well. It causes high insulin levels, which can lead to weight gain, carb cravings, and fatigue. Unfortunately, insulin resistance and chronic inflammation can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The good news though is that sustainable lifestyle changes, such as implementing a healthy diet, can dramatically improve insulin resistance and inflammation. Eating a balanced meal at lunchtime is an easy way to maintain a healthy blood sugar level and improve your insulin sensitivity (aka helping your body use insulin more effectively). It’s also a great chance to include anti-inflammatory foods that can help to lower inflammation.
To learn more about inflammation and which foods can help to lower inflammation, don’t miss this post: Anti-Inflammatory Foods List PDF.
How To Make A PCOS Friendly Lunch
If you eat a PCOS-friendly breakfast, even if it’s a big breakfast, you’re likely going to start feeling hungry for lunch a few hours later. This is because your blood sugar levels naturally fluctuate during the day, ebbing and flowing as you eat your meals or snacks.
So what should you choose to eat? You’ll want to make sure that you’re combining nutrients that will help to balance your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full. In order to do that, I recommend including the following nutrients in your lunch:
- Complex carbohydrates. These types of carbs are higher in fiber, which is digested slowly and keeps blood sugar levels more stable. Fiber is also instrumental for improving gut health and reducing bloating, a common PCOS complaint. Some examples include fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, and legumes. Learn more about the best fruits for PCOS here.
- Protein. Protein helps to build and maintain muscle mass. It’s also the most satiating macronutrient to keep you feeling full longer. Lean proteins are ideal to choose most often. Some lean protein sources include chicken, turkey, lean red meat, tofu, tempeh, edamame, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and protein powder.
- Fat. Healthy fats play a pivotal role in lowering inflammation, particularly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These heart-healthy fat sources can also lower cholesterol levels and your risk of cardiovascular disease. Some examples include avocado, extra virgin olive oil, salmon, sardines, olives, nuts, and seeds.
The appropriate portions of each macronutrient will vary person to person. It will depend on several different factors such as your height, weight, physical activity level, hunger level, and eating schedule.
Now that you know what you should include in your lunch, let’s talk about how to make this come to life with some meal ideas.
20 Healthy PCOS Lunch Ideas & Recipes
These PCOS lunch ideas are all balanced meal options with a source of complex carbs, protein, and fat. They include simple ingredients that can be found at most grocery stores. Most of these recipes can even be prepared in advance to make lunch time go smoother for you!
PCOS Lunch Ideas:
- Turkey & cheese sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce and tomato. Add carrot sticks + homemade ranch dip on the side.
- Fall Kale Salad with chicken added on top. This kale salad combines leafy greens with crunchy toppings like apples, pomegranate seeds, and pepitas (aka shelled pumpkin seeds – a great source of zinc!)
- Chicken burrito bowl. The brown rice, black beans, and corn provide the majority of the carbs here with a lot of fiber as well. If you’re trying to make things a bit more low carb, you could substitute cauliflower rice for the brown rice – but this isn’t required!
- This Sweetgreen Crispy Rice Salad is a copycat recipe that uses fresh ingredients with some crisped rice cereal and a spicy cashew dressing.
- Smoothies can be a great option for lunch too. The next few lunch suggestions are some of my favorite balanced smoothies. First up: Strawberry Cottage Cheese Smoothie. If you’re not a cottage cheese lover, this is a great way to sneak some of this probiotic-rich food into your diet. It makes this smoothie so creamy and almost cheesecake-like. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
- This Triple Berry Oat Tropical Smoothie copycat recipe combines some typical smoothie ingredients with some unassuming ingredients, like oats. Oats are great for gut health and blood sugar balance.
- Whether or not fertility is on your mind, this Berry Avocado Fertility Smoothie combines a variety of nutrient-dense foods that can improve fertility and your overall health.
- Pesto chicken salad in a whole grain wrap or pita pocket. I’d add some raw veggies like cucumber strips, bell peppers, or celery chunks right into the sandwich too for some added crunch!
- Chickpea pasta with vodka sauce, spinach, tomatoes, and turkey meatballs. This makes a great make-ahead option for lunches!
- Sweet potato and black bean quesadillas. This vegetarian lunch option is a great way to pack some fiber and antioxidants into your midday meal!
- If you’re looking for a bit of versatility, this edamame quinoa salad can be eaten cold or warm! It combines quality plant-based protein sources and loads of fiber. The dressing is tangy yet sweet, thanks to the natural sweetness of the maple syrup. It is a little light in protein so you may want to add some tofu, chicken, or shrimp if you feel better with more protein at meals.
- These turkey taco bowls are great for meal prep because they warm up great! To make it even easier on yourself, use minute rice instead of cooking rice from scratch.
- Adult lunchables can be a fun and nostalgic PCOS lunch! Think of an enormous snack plate for this one here. One adult lunchable idea: sliced apples, peanut butter dip, hard boiled eggs, and edamame. Another combination could be whole grain crackers, tuna salad, guacamole, raw veggies, and tzatziki sauce.
- Greek yogurt bowls are a great option for lunchtime too! Make sure you add some toppings like berries and chia seeds. These toppings add fiber and omega 3 fatty acids to keep you feeling full and reduce inflammation.
- Tuna salad with sriracha on whole grain bread. Add some celery sticks on the side for some added crunch!
- This Thai Pasta Salad is a great vegan option that’s high in protein thanks to the chickpea pasta. It’s also a nice way to get some cruciferous vegetables like cabbage in too! Cruciferous veggies help to promote estrogen detoxification pathways, which is important for healthy hormone levels.
- Berry Walnut Salad: leafy greens like spinach, berries, walnuts, goat cheese (or feta cheese), and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Adding some beans or grilled chicken can increase the protein content too!
- Chili is one of my favorite meals to eat for leftovers. It just seems to taste better the second time around, and this turkey chili is no different. Be sure to top with some avocado for heart-healthy fats and magnesium!
- This Greek chicken mason jar salad is another great meal prep option. Mason jar salads stay fresh for several days so you can prep a few different types of salads in advance to enjoy during the week.
- This lentil salad with an apple maple dressing has loads of filling nutrients and plant-based protein staying power!
For more guidance on eating well for PCOS, don’t forget to check out this post that includes a PCOS meal plan: A Dietitian’s 7 Day PCOS Diet Plan (PDF Included).
- Meal planning. Having a plan for your meals in advance is often key to ensuring you have the groceries you need for your lunch meals. Expecting to just be able to throw together a PCOS-friendly lunch on a whim may work for some people, but doesn’t work for everyone. Check out this PCOS grocery list for guidance on some good pantry staples I recommend keeping on hand!
- Meal prep. Preparing your lunch meals in advance is sometimes the difference between eating a balanced meal and grabbing takeout or delivery. This could be preparing several servings of a meal on a Sunday or just cooking enough during the week to have leftovers for lunch. It could also be making a sandwich the night before so you’ll have it ready to go for the following day.
- Keep it simple. Don’t be afraid to keep it simple. Your meals don’t have to be elaborate or super fancy to get the job done.
While the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, insulin resistance and inflammation appear to play a big role in this condition. A healthy PCOS diet that balances blood sugar levels and includes anti-inflammatory foods can decrease your PCOS symptoms.
The optimal PCOS lunch includes complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat. The previous sections have several lunch ideas. If you need more straightforward guidance on what to eat for PCOS, check out the PCOS Meal Plan.