PCOS and Small Frequent Meals


If you are a young woman diagnosed with PCOS, you may have heard the recommendation that you should eat “small frequent meals” instead of two or three large meals during the day. This is suggested for several reasons. One reason is that it helps to keep your metabolism efficient which is a good thing if you are trying to maintain or lose weight. Another reason is that it will keep you full throughout the day rather than getting overly hungry which can lead you to then overeat, or make less healthy food choices.  In addition, it is beneficial for a person with insulin resistance to have small amounts of carbohydrates in their diet spread throughout the day rather than having a couple of large quantities of carbohydrates which can spike insulin levels in the body.

So what does small frequent meals actually look like? And how can you make the change? First, take a look at how you are currently eating. A lot of young people I work with might report something like this:

Breakfast: nothing – or maybe a granola bar on the way out the door

Lunch: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple, bag of chips, water

Snack: yogurt

Dinner: pasta with meat sauce

Snack: ice cream

If you are trying to change from an eating pattern similar to this and want to have small frequent meals instead, you might shift things around a little bit to look like this:

Breakfast: bowl of whole grain, low sugar cereal with 1% milk and a banana

Snack: whole grain granola bar and string cheese

Lunch: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple, 1% milk

Snack: yogurt parfait with granola and fruit

Dinner: small portion whole grain pasta with meat sauce and vegetables

Snack: handful trail mix of nuts, dark chocolate, dried cranberries

In order to shift to having small frequent meals, usually the meals need to get a little bit smaller (especially dinner) and the in-between mean snacks need to get a little bit bigger. Each eating occasion should have a balance of protein, carbohydrates (preferably whole grain or vegetable-based), and dietary fat. This isn’t always easy to do, especially if you eat out at restaurants often, but try it out for a couple of days and see if it makes a different in your energy and hunger level.

-Dietitian Katrina