“The place that women get really sidetracked on their healing journey is meal planning. As soon as you stop meal planning, things seem to just fall apart.” – Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
I can’t stress enough that the more that you plan, the more that you get yourself prepared and organized, the more likely you are to succeed with your PCOS-friendly diet. You might initially feel uncomfortable because you’re just not used to being in the kitchen and preparing your food from scratch. But it’s going to make such a huge difference in the way that you feel and your PCOS symptoms, that you will begin to love it. And the best way to do that is to just get into the kitchen and start doing it!
In this podcast, I offer advice about meal planning including:
- How to avoid being overwhelmed by the process
- Where I get recipes and inspiration
- My own planning process & tricks
- Why I only plan dinners (& snacks)
- How weeknight traditions take a lot of the planning out of meal planning
- “Game changer” tips
Mentioned in this podcast:
- Meal Plans & Crockpot Guide
- Dr. Amy Myers, Autoimmune Solution Cookbook
- Jumpstart Program
- Healing PCOS
- Protein bar recipes
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.
Today I want to give you some real actionable tips around meal planning. Meal planning is so essential to living the PCOS Diva lifestyle. And it’s so important for your healing PCOS journey. I can tell you that after years of coaching women one-on-one and running my Jumpstart program, the place that women get really sidetracked on their healing journey is meal planning.
As soon as you stop meal planning, things seem to just fall apart. This is where most PCOS Divas make it or break it. So, I thought that it would be really helpful to go through some tips, some really actionable tips around meal planning.
I think the first thing that is important to understand is that meal planning has to be sustainable. You can make it fancy, but I prefer to keep it simple and really sustainable. And so, meal planning becomes really a personal thing.
What works for me may not work for you. The goal, I think, is to find a process that’s both enjoyable and effective. So in a little bit, I’m going to talk to you about my process for meal planning, but at first I just want to go through a couple more tips.
I think it’s important to tap into your creativity around meal planning. Really understand that making a meal is also an expression of creativity. And you want to find ways to inspire yourself so that you look forward to cooking.
I talk in my book Healing PCOS, about how I believe that women who are really suffering with PCOS symptoms often lack a creative outlet. Cooking can really be a creative outlet for you. And being a PCOS Diva, creative expression is so important. So, I really invite you to think of cooking and meal planning as a way of expressing yourself and being creative.
I mentioned that it’s important to find ways to inspire yourself. So I think that spending time looking for recipes is really time well spent. I’ve fast tracked a lot of that for you by putting together my seasonal meal plans. I have plans for winter, spring, summer, fall, and then I also have a crock pot guide on the pcosdiva.com site.
These guides were really a result of my own meal planning. I was collecting recipes and putting together basically an index of recipes that my family liked. And then I just shared them with you all in my meal plans. So spending time looking for recipes, I also have lots on pcosdiva.com, in my book, Healing PCOS. But I also like to look for recipes on Pinterest, in magazines, in cookbooks, and in the back of health books.
As I mentioned, Healing PCOS, I have, I think 85 recipes. But a lot of the books on my bookshelf from other health authors have recipes in the back of their books. One of my favorite is Dr. Amy Myers, Auto-immune Support cookbook. I get a lot of great ideas from books like that.
The other thing is that it’s important to find a place to store your recipes. I’m a little old fashioned, I have a recipe box and I still clip recipes and put them in my recipe box that I’ve filed by different categories. I also use Pinterest, and I’ve tried using Evernote. I know a lot of women use Evernote and other apps for recipes.
The other thing that I do is I’ve printed out all of my meal plans into a three-ring binder. And I’ve sorted them by week and by seasons, so it makes it really accessible to look up a recipe. So, those are the places that I store recipes, the places where I get inspiration for recipes.
The other way to get some inspiration is to get your family members involved. I can’t claim to say that I’m perfect at meal planning. And sometimes I really do get a little burns out. I recognize that we’re all really busy, and making a perfect meal plan every week is really … it’s not all that realistic.
So, let’s get back to success to sustainability. It has to be something that’s sustainable for you. And sometimes putting together a meal plan is as simple for me as asking my kids and husband, “What do you want to eat this week?” And just you’re planning meals around the food that they want to eat, and then that’s their favorites.
Speaking of favorites, it’s important to keep your family favorites in your recipe and meal plan repertoire. But you want to just see if you can make them more PCOS friendly. And substitute different ingredients to make them more aligned with the PCOS Diva lifestyle. So getting your family members involved in planning the meals for the week.
My husband is actually a really great grocery shopping companion with me. It’s in a way becomes kind of like a date night for us. We’ll go and get a coffee or a tea at the coffee shop and then head over to the grocery store. And we honestly really enjoy that time together.
I also make sure that my kids are involved in a meal prep, setting the table, cleaning up the dishes. I’ve taught my kids how to help make some of our staple meals. So, don’t be afraid to be a PCOS Diva and ask for help. You are not the only one benefiting from putting a healthy, delicious meal on the table.
This can really be a paradigm shift for you with your family and your roommates. Be firm in your requests and be supportive of their efforts. Really important to get some help in this meal planning process.
The other thing is to figure out a system. Don’t spend too much time looking for the perfect system. My favorite reminder to myself is “progress, not perfection.” The system is the tool. But the point of all of this is to get a nourishing meal on the table. So that you’re not ordering pizza or eating out every night because you’re just too unorganized or too tired. You don’t have the staples that you need to get a meal on the table.
So, I want to share my really simple system. I typically plan for meals for the week ahead on Friday or Saturday. I like to go to the coffee shop and sit in an environment that’s really cozy and comfortable. I treat myself to a nice warm beverage.
I have a pad that I actually picked up at Barnes and Noble. It’s kind of a meal planning note pad. It’s super simple. It just lists out the days of the week. It has some sections to record your meals for that day. And then it has a little shopping list on the side. That’s what I use, but you could do that online. As I mentioned, you could do it in your Evernote. But find something that’s really simple and sustainable and that works for you.
So, I take a look at my calendar for the week. I look to see what’s going on in the evenings. I typically only plan dinners and I’m going to talk about that in a minute. But take a look and write down at the top of each day on your paper, or maybe you might use Google Calendar, what’s going on during the evening so you’d know what your week looks like.
Are you going to be home to cook dinner? Or do you need to put something in the crock pot because you need something that’s pretty much ready when you get home? Do you need to pack dinner to take it with you? I’ve often taken dinner with us to basketball games.
All my kids play basketball and we’ve spent a lot of time in gyms. The offerings at our … a local gym, you can only imagine what they’re serving, hot dogs and pizza. So I’ll often take food with us. So, do you need to pack food? This is going to give you an idea of how much time that you have to prepare meals.
Then I plan out my meals basically for the beginning of the week. So if I’m planning on Friday or Saturday, then I’m planning for say Monday through Wednesday or so. And then I usually shop on Sunday mornings before I go to mass and Sunday afternoon or early evening. So, I shop for meals through Wednesday.
Then on Wednesday or Thursday morning I’ll take another look at my calendar. Sometimes things have shifted for later in the week and the weekend ahead. Then I’ll plan Thursday, Friday, Saturday. And then I’ll go back out to the grocery store Thursday or Friday. I’m actually recording this podcast, it’s Friday, about noon time. And I’ve already gone to the grocery store this morning for the food for the rest of the weekend.
So, as I mentioned, I’m typically only planning for dinners. And that means that most of my breakfasts and lunches are automated. I essentially just need to have the ingredients. Usually for breakfast it’s smoothies or oatmeal in the winter time.
In my book, Healing PCOS, I have a recipe for seeded oats, and that’s pretty much what I eating in the winter time or smoothies. Then lunch is pretty much always leftovers. Or soup that I have stashed in my freezer from previous weeknight dinners.
So again, you’re just looking at dinners, become inspired and look for recipes. My meal plans, Crockpot guide, Healing PCOS book and website, there’s lots of great recipes. But be creative in the kitchen.
So, a couple more tips. Something that I do that makes it really easy to get a nutritious meal on the table is to establish weeknight traditions. Really, in our household Tuesday is Taco Tuesday. Or something on the lines of a southwestern style taco, burrito, tostada, taco salad, and I vary the protein in that. Sometimes I’m using chicken.
Sometimes I make carnitas in my crock pot, or a steak or a ground beef or ground Turkey or fish tacos. But I already know that it’s a Southwestern theme. And I just need to plan on the protein that I’m going to use because I always buy the produce that goes along with that. So usually it’s avocados. I’ll make guacamole. And I have lots of chopped veggies that go along with that Southwestern themed meal.
The other thing that I like about that is it’s a great way to get lots of fresh produce into your dinner that night. So I’m always planning a Southwestern type meal on Tuesday.
Then I always have a stir fry during the week. And stir fries are a very quick way to get nutrient-rich veggies on your table. And then again you can alter the protein that you’re eating. And there’s some really great sauces out on the market that are gluten-free and pretty clean that I will just pick up. So, I’m not always making my own stir fry sauce from scratch.
The other thing that in the wintertime I’m always planning for is a soup. I often use leftover meat from a previous meal, which we’ll talk about in a minute. Planning, scheduling, planned leftovers or planned-overs as I call it. But just back to the the weeknight traditions.
So, Monday is often a meatless Monday. Tuesday is taco Tuesday. Wednesday could be an Italian type night. Thursday is stir fry night. Friday fish fry, or not fish fry, but a fish dish on a Friday. So then you really know what type of recipes to look for. And it takes a lot of the planning out of meal planning.
So, I mentioned planning planned overs, so what could be better than cooking once and eating twice? Look at your meal plan and see where you can cook and then create a second meal from the previous night’s leftovers. I often do a roast on Sunday. So it might be a roast Turkey breast or roast chicken or roast beef. And then I use the leftovers or bones from that meal to create a soup or a stew later in the week.
I often will freeze the leftovers from that soup or stew, and that becomes kind of like my emergency meal. Those nights where you feel really exhausted and you don’t want to cook and you’re very tempted to order pizza out for your family or for yourself. You can go into your freezer, pull out that frozen soup or stew, and often all you need to do is just add some more broth or stock to it and then you’re good to go with a side salad. And you have a very quick and easy meal on the table.
The other thing is talking to that point of sustainability. Meals can be very simple meals. If you’ve done my Jumpstart Program or if you’ve read my Healing PCOS book, then you’re familiar with the PCOS Diva Dinner plate. You can use that guide and basically the dinner plate, if you imagine a dinner plate where half of your plate are vegetables, like leafy greens and have a salad. Or I consider it water-based vegetables, your non starchy vegetables would take up half of the plate.
A quarter of your plate becomes a gluten free grain or a starchy vegetable. Then the other quarter of your plate or maybe a little bit more, becomes your clean protein. And then on top of your plate is a very healthy dollop or drizzle of fat. So, that’s the PCOS Diva dinner plate. So you can use that dinner plate concept to create very simple customized meals.
Every meal doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet experience. Keep it simple with a protein, a quick starchy veggie, like a baked sweet potato, and a salad. Or just a quick sauté of veggies with some olive oil or butter, and you have a quick and easy dinner on your table.
I really enjoy seasoning salts, different types of herb blends and seasoning salts. It makes it very quick and easy to flavor your vegetables. You can make sheet pan meals where you just chop up your vegetables and put some protein, sprinkle your seasoning, drizzle some avocado oil, and then just throw it in the oven. And that again, makes a very simple meal based upon that PCOS Diva dinner plate approach.
So, I also want to mention some game changers. Whole Foods has recently come out in a lot of different markets with grocery delivery. I know my local grocery store, Hannaford here in New Hampshire, they don’t have grocery delivery, but they do a grocery shopping service where you go and pick it up. You order everything online, and it’s there for you when you go pick it up.
That can become such a game changing experience for so many people. Especially if you get organized around your meal planning, you can order your groceries, and it takes all of that time spent walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store. And it saves you time to really get in the kitchen and cook. So, take advantage of those grocery delivery services.
Also, cooking subscriptions or meal plan subscriptions can be really helpful. I like Sun Basket or Hello Fresh. I’ve tried most of them, and I feel like those two are the most PCOS Diva friendly.
Another game changer can be prep days. Preparation as I mentioned is really the key to success. Prep days make life easier. They increase the chances that the veggies and fruit that you just bought actually get into your meals and your snacks. And I like to try to plan a little extra time around unloading groceries. Again I get my family involved to do some meal prep right then and there.
My kids can pack their snacks for the week. They can help chop up veggies to use later on in stir fries and in meals. I can’t stress enough that the more that you plan, the more that you get yourself prepared and organized, the more that you set yourself up for success.
I like to plan my snacks ahead of time too. I have a box in my fridge with lots of PCOS friendly snacks that are washed, cut, ready to grab. I often will make a batch of my protein bars. I have the recipe for that on pcosdiva.com. If you just search for protein bars, a couple of recipes will come up. That’s a really great way to start off your week with snacks, and all prepped and ready to go.
The other thing that I want to mention is that meal planning and preparing food from scratch is something that needs … It’s a … what’s the word that I want to say? It’s really a something that needs to be learned over time. It’s like a muscle, it will get easier and stronger over time, but you have to keep flexing that muscle.
You might feel kind of uncomfortable because you’re just not used to being in the kitchen and preparing your food from scratch. But it’s going to make such a huge difference in the way that you feel and your PCOS symptoms. If you can get lots of nutrient rich foods into your week. And the best way to do that is to just get into the kitchen. And as I say in my Jumpstart Program, start sizzling in the kitchen.
Think of cooking as a meditation. You want to make that process enjoyable. So when I’m in the kitchen, I’ll often put on a candle. I’ll put some music that I enjoy on Pandora. I’ve really tried to make it a process that incorporates all of my senses. And it’s a time for me, for me, and I really enjoy the process. So make it as enjoyable as possible.
Finally, make the most out of a disaster. Sometimes, especially if you’re just getting comfortable in the kitchen, things don’t always turn out as planned. Sauces burn to the bottom of the pan. Veggies come out soggy, but that’s okay. You just have to learn to roll with it. Laugh at yourself, laugh at your disasters. Even the most seasoned chefs have them.
You will get good at salvaging what you can. And when worse comes to worse, raid your pantry for some fast food, like a quick frittata. Be gentle with yourself. Actually I have one more tip. If you’ve spent all of this time and energy planning, make sure you save your plans.
As I mentioned earlier in this podcast, that’s how my meal plans that I offer on pcosdiva.com came to light, because I was saving all of my meal plans over the years. Ask yourself what worked and what didn’t work, and jot down some notes. If you don’t enjoy this whole process of meal planning, all you really need to do is just come up with about 21 of your favorite recipes based upon the PCOS Diva dinner plate. And then just rotate through them.
I encourage you to ease into meal planning. Add one new recipe a week. I know I recently got a message from a PCOS Diva who has all of my meal plans, but she feels really paralyzed. She doesn’t know where to begin. And I suggested just adding one new recipe every week until you get into the hang of meal planning.
Also, one final tip is to rate your menus and file. So, my family rates my new recipes. The ones that get about four stars and above on a five star scale, make it into the rotation. And we keep that recipe in the rotation. So make sure you save your plans and rate your recipes.
I hope that some of these tips were helpful for you as you continue your meal planning journey. And know that it’s so worthwhile. And it really will make a huge difference in your health and how you feel with PCOS. When you fall off track, I often think it’s really helpful to have a back on track strategy when you fall off track.
I encourage you to include putting together a meal plan, going to the grocery store and shopping. And making a little time to get in the kitchen and sizzle in the kitchen in order to get back on track. So, I hope you enjoyed this episode. And I look forward to being with you again very soon. Bye bye.