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Breakfasts For PCOS: Reduce Carb Cravings and Care For Your Hormones

by | Oct 28, 2023

I know, I know, eating breakfast is a rule as old as time. As kids, we’re taught breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But the thing is, so many people don’t do it. Eating in the morning, especially if you have a day-job, can have oodles of benefits for your health, your mood, and your hormones. If you have PCOS, however, it’s possible this is extra difficult for you. In this blog post, I’ll explain why breakfast is so important, help you identify why it’s hard for you, and give you some breakfast ideas, specific for PCOS, so you can take good care of your health and your hormones.

Why Breakfast Is Important With PCOS

Because PCOS is a metabolic syndrome, the key to managing symptoms and improving your underlying health is managing your metabolism. That means blood sugar, lipid metabolism, and inflammation. As simple as it may seem, eating breakfast can help with all of these things, and much more. Let me explain.

eating breakfast balances blood sugar & reduces carb cravings

If you don’t eat breakfast, you’re more likely to experience blood sugar dips and spikes, which exacerbate PCOS symptoms. You can also feel the symptoms of this: fatigue, mood swings, and the ever-frustrating sugar cravings.

Starting the day with a nutritious breakfast can help maintain balanced blood sugar levels all day long. Stable and regulated blood sugar actually reduces cravings for high carb foods later in the day, like sweets, chips, or other starchy snacks. So, if you notice that you are craving these foods mid-afternoon or in the evening, but you’re also not eating breakfast – this is your cue.

And it doesn’t have to be complicated. A breakfast that includes protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates slows the way sugar (or any glucose) is absorbed into the body. The slower it goes in, the slower is goes out. Carb cravings happen because you blood sugar drops quickly, combined with you not noticing it until it’s too late.

Eating more consistently and avoiding those blood sugar dips and spikes gradually helps improves insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is a common challenge in PCOS, contributing to weight gain and and hormonal imbalances. So it’s worth working on this every day.

Breakfast helps with mindfulness

Beyond its metabolic benefits, eating breakfast can can help you create happy and mindful eating habits, which are SO HELPFUL if you have PCOS. As I mentioned above, eating a deliberate, nutrient-rich brekkie helps reduce sugar and carb cravings and binge eating later in the day.

Eating breakfast is a loving nudge to yourself that you are choosing nourishment over restriction. You are choosing self-love over denying your body what it needs. This is a powerful message to send you to yourself every day. You are worthy of time and nourishment to start your day. This might sound a little cheesy, but I firmly believe that choosing to feed ourselves enough is a very powerful way of teaching ourselves that we deserve to eat, to enjoy our food, and to stop restricting ourselves.

Routine and structure

The act of prioritizing breakfast can have profound psychological benefits, reinforcing a daily routine that centers on self-care, not self-control. Breakfast can be a moment of intention, setting the stage for a day focused on making choices that align with your health goals and needs. This doesn’t have to be strict or based in restriction, rather focus on enjoying yourself and nourishing your body.

Start out by picking 2-3 breakfast combos that you enjoy and that you can get into your house easily. Don’t over think it, but choose things that are balanced and yummy at the same time. There are some ideas below.

Extra NUTRITION

Eating breakfast also provides an opportunity to incorporate foods rich in fiber and anti-inflammatory properties, such as berries, citrus fruit, apples, pears, nuts (yes, peanut butter counts!), seeds, and whole grains, which can support gut health and reduce the low-grade inflammation common with PCOS.

Why You Might Not Feel Like Eating Breakfast

If you struggle to feel hungry in the morning, that’s no surprise. There are some very real hormonal reasons why food may not sound super appetizing first thing in the morning. Hopefully if you understand why, you can learn to trust that eating anyway is the right idea, even if it feels difficult some days.

Hormonal Fluctuations and Insulin Resistance

Some folks may wake up with no appetite, which will make breakfast unappealing. Others while others may experience intense hunger that is hard to satisfy. These fluctuations can complicate the process of establishing a consistent and healthy breakfast routine.

Because of the body’s natural circadian rhythms, insulin resistance – and therefore blood sugar – may be high in the morning. This is particularly true for those with PCOS or diabetes. This can make your appetite poor and make eating less appealing. Because sleep apnea is also common with PCOS, a poor night’s sleep is also likely, which further disrupts circadian rhythm and morning appetite.

But as we discussed above, not eating breakfast will just exacerbate all of this. The key is to find foods that do sound appealing and then get yourself into a routine of eating them.

Fatigue and Energy Levels

Many people with PCOS experience fatigue in the morning, which may make waking up in time to make breakfast daunting. This is especially true if sleep disturbances are common with you. Not getting enough sleep obviously messes with energy levels and motivation. This tiredness can cause just going for coffee, skipping breakfast, and waiting until lunch to eat. But as I talked about in this article, not eating until lunch is not a great idea. Eating when you’re overly hungry often results in binge eating, impulse eating, distracted or fast eating, or eating way more than you wanted to.

Digestive Issues

Unfortunately, PCOS often comes with digestive upset, like bloating, constipation, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These issues can make eating breakfast uncomfortable or lead to anxiety around choosing foods that will feel good on your digestion. The key, again, is to find some simple foods that you know won’t upset your tummy, but that are also quick, easy, and good for your blood sugar.

This is why focusing on improving gut health is also a key component of a PCOS nutrition plan.

Body image and weight concerns

The stress of managing PCOS, especially if you are in a larger body and getting weight loss advice can be overwhelming. The pressure to choose the “right” foods to manage symptoms can lead to decision fatigue or anxiety around eating. Disordered eating is pretty common with PCOS. If you think you are supposed to be eating less in order to lsoe weight, it would seem logical that skipping breafkast would help.

But it will not.

Eating breakfast is important for establishing balanced blood sugar and a healthy relationship with food and your body.

A morning routine that includes a nutritious breakfast can also help reduce stress, an aggravator of PCOS symptoms. When your body and mind are well-nourished, they are better prepared to handle the day. Breakfast becomes more than just a meal; it becomes a non-negotiable and enjoyable moment in managing PCOS holistically.

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What Makes A Good PCOS Breakfast?

As we’ve been discussing, eating a balanced breakfast can have a significant impact, not only for your PCOS symptoms, but for feeling energized and in control of your food cravings. It can also help improve your relationship with food and your body. The main things you want to focus on are protein, carbs, fat, and fiber. Also remember, though, it doesn’t need to be perfect every day! Just make sure you eat something within an hour or two of waking up.

Something you like, something you have access to, and something that has at least 2-3 of these components.

High-Quality Protein

Protein in your breakfast helps stabilize blood sugar levels, reduces carb cravings, and keeps you feeling full longer. Ideas include:

  • eggs
  • yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • nuts or seeds
  • beans
  • lean meats (I say “lean meats” because many breakfast meats like bacon are mostly fat and little protein)

Complex Carbohydrates (for the fiber)

Yes, you need carbs with breakfast! And it’s okay if they aren’t always “complex”, but it’s also smart to find ways to incorporate these as often as possible. Complex carbohydrates are have more fiber, which slows down digestion and the absorption of sugar into the blood. This helps manage insulin levels. Complex carbs provide sustained energy.

  • whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice cereal, chia, and whole grain bread)
  • beans
  • fruits
  • starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash)

They also contain lots of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health. But remember, regular toast with peanut butter is also just fine. Progress, not perfection.

Healthy Fats & Omega-3 fatty acids

Fat enhances satiety, supports brain health, and contributes to hormonal balance, not to mention helps you body actually make hormones. These fats are not only nutritious but also help in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.Breafkasty sources include:

  • full fat dairy
  • avocados
  • nuts, seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds
  • olive oil
  • eggs
  • fish (lox anyone?)

Those three are the basics that you want to make sure you have in your breakfast. If you want to go a step further and add in some gentle nutrition to really support your body’s anti-inflammatory response, here are some ideas.

Anti-inflammatory Foods

Since inflammation can exacerbate PCOS symptoms, incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into breakfast can be beneficial. Spices like turmeric and cinnamon, along with omega-3-rich foods like flaxseeds and walnuts, can help reduce inflammation and support overall health. Add fish into your diet as often as possible. If you don’t eat fish, amp up your walnut and flax seed intake.

Low-Glycemic Index Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables that have a low glycemic index (GI) are extra special for managing blood sugar levels. Berries, cherries, and green leafy vegetables can add fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your breakfast without causing a significant spike in blood sugar. They also offer antioxidants that can help with the inflammation common with PCOS.

Fiber

Fiber plays a key role in digestive health, blood sugar regulation, and cholesterol management. A breakfast high in fiber can help manage PCOS symptoms by improving insulin sensitivity and promoting a healthy gut microbiome. Foods like berries, apples (with skin), pears, and vegetables, as well as whole grains like oatmeal, are excellent sources of fiber to include in your morning meal.

quick and easy pcos breakfast ideas

One of my very favorite breakfasts is a good bowl of oatmeal. PCOS does not mean you need to cut carbs! Oatmeal can be a totally healthy breakfast option. Here are some other ideas:

  • Overnight oats with cinnamon, turmeric, walnuts, coconut oil, and berries
  • 2 slices of whole grain toast – one with peanut butter, one with an egg or avocado
  • Yogurt, granola, fruit
  • A Kind Bar and a banana
  • A Kind Bar and a greek yogurt (I like Kind Bars)
  • 2 eggs and a bowl of fruit
  • Peanut butter banana sandwich 🙂
  • Leftover side dish from last night with a fried egg on top
  • Leftover anything with a fried egg on top
  • Beans in broth with olive oil and salsa
  • Breakfast taco of egg, beans, cheese, and salsa

There are so many ways to eat breakfast. What sounds good to you?

Work With A Dietitian Specializing in PCOS

PCOS is complex! It’s wise to remember that you are a unique snowflake and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and health. Working with a non-diet dietitian who specializes in PCOS can so be helpful when trying to incorporate dietary strategies tailored to your individual symptoms and preferences.

A weight-neutral provider can also remind you that losing weight will not solve your problems, there is no magic here. Your best bet is finding sustainable, balanced eating and exercise routine that you enjoy and that fit into your life.

I’d love to support you if you are struggling to find a balanced way of eating and caring for your health with PCOS. Book a discovery call `and we can talk about working together.

About Emily

Emily Van Eck, MS, RDN specializes in Intuitive Eating, eating disorders, body image, women’s reproductive health, and healing from years of weight-bias and disordered eating. She helps women+ find balance, consistency, and peace with their eating habits so they can feel confident to get outta their heads and into their bodies. Emily is a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor with a master’s degree in nutrition science. Read more about her practice, values, and experience here.

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Emily Van Eck sitting on the couch smiling

Hey there, I´m Emily

A non-diet and weight-inclusive dietitian, intuitive eating coach, and body image healer. Here on the blog, I focuses on exploring intuitive eating, gentle nutrition, the complex arena of body image and feminism, anti-oppression, and all the ways these things intersect. I want us all to be free to own our appetites, and our desires, and eat really, really well. 

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