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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Eating well with polycystic ovary syndrome

There is no special diet for PCOS. But eating well and being active can help to manage some of your symptoms and reduce your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes

If you're overweight, losing just 5 to 10% of your weight can improve irregular periods and infertility, and other problems caused by PCOS, such as insulin resistance. For advice about losing weight see How to lose weight. The following tips will also help you to lose weight.

Tips for eating well and being active

Meal containing half vegetables, quarter carbohydrates and quarter proteinEat a variety of foods each day

Choose lots of different foods from the tables below. The tables show four food groups. You need food from all four of the groups, so try to have something from at least three of them at every meal.

Have sensible portions and follow the healthy plate model

Use the servings sizes in the tables below and follow the healthy plate model in the picture for your main meal.

Choose unprocessed, wholegrain breads and cereals

Choose wholegrain breads and cereals, brown rice and wholemeal pasta. They're rich in nutrients, high in fibre and help to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Look for products that say "wholegrain" on the package or contain 5 g or more of fibre per 100 g of food.

Avoid sugar and sugary foods

Avoid added sugar (sometimes called fructose, glucose or sucrose) or honey in food and drinks. Keep cakes, biscuits, sweet pastries, chocolate, lollies, ice cream and puddings for occasional treats.

Choose healthy fats and low-fat cooking methods

Use margarine and healthy oils such as canola, peanut, olive, rice bran, sunflower, soybean. Instead of frying or roasting, use low-fat cooking methods such as baking, grilling, microwaving, boiling, and steaming.

Do not skip meals

Eat three meals a day at regular times. If you're hungry between meals, have healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, low-fat milk, lite or plain unsweetened yoghurt, reduced-fat crackers with cottage cheese or avocado and tomato, and a small handful (30 g) of unsalted raw nuts.

Be active every day

Do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days. Be active in as many ways as possible – move more and sit less.

You may want to consult a dietitian to help you develop an eating plan that suits your lifestyle, manage your symptoms and help you to lose weight if you need to.

Food tables

Breads and cereals

Choose at least six servings every day. A serving is one medium slice of bread, ½ to 1 cup of breakfast cereal, or 1 cup of cooked rice or pasta.

Foods to include

Foods to limit

Wholemeal, wholegrain or rye bread, wholemeal pita bread

Wholemeal and wholegrain cereals such as All Bran, Bran Flakes, Bran and Sultanas, muesli – plain or toasted, porridge oats, Weet-Bix

Wholegrain crackers such as Ryvita, Vita-Weat

Brown or wild rice, wholemeal pasta

White bread, white pita bread or panini, plain naan bread or chapati

Refined breakfast cereals such as Cornflakes and Rice Bubbles

High-sugar breakfast cereals

Plain crackers such as water crackers or plain rice crackers

White rice, pasta, noodles

Vegetables and fruit

Choose at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit every day. A serving is size of the palm of your hand. Try to have many different colours of vegetables and fruit, as they all have different antioxidants and vitamins.

Foods to include

Foods to limit

Vegetables: fresh, frozen or canned


Fruit: fresh, frozen, cooked or canned without added sugar

Vegetables: fried such as chips, wedges, pompoms and hash-browns; or in creamy, buttery or cheese sauces

Fruit: canned in syrup or cooked with added sugar; dried fruit and fruit juice

Milk and milk products

Choose two to three servings every day. A serving is 1 cup (250 ml) of milk, 1 pottle (150 g) of yoghurt or 2 slices (40 g) of cheese.

Foods to include

Foods to limit

Low-fat milk and milk products such as green or yellow-top milk, lite or plain unsweetened yoghurt, lower fat cheese such as Edam, and cottage cheese

Full-fat milk and milk products such as dark-blue-top milk, Greek yoghurt, sweetened yoghurt, cream cheese, reduced or sour cream, cream, ice cream

Lean meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds

Choose at least one serving every day. A serving is a piece of meat, chicken or fish the size and thickness of the palm of your hand, 1 egg, ¾ cup cooked dried beans, ⅓ cup nuts or seeds, or ¾ cup tofu.

Foods to include

Foods to limit

Lean meat, skinless chicken, fish (especially oily fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna), eggs

Legumes (cooked dried beans and peas such as baked beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans and lentils) and tofu

Nuts and seeds – raw or roasted without oil and salt

White meat fat, chicken skin or fat, pork crackling

Fatty meats such as corned beef, luncheon, mutton flaps, pork strips, salami, sausages, shoulder or neck cuts, streaky bacon

Crumbed or battered and deep-fried meat, chicken or fish

Nuts and seeds roasted with oil and salt

Other foods and drinks


Foods to include

Foods to limit


Fresh fruit and lite or plain unsweetened yoghurt

High-sugar desserts such as sweet pies and pastries, ice cream, chocolate, cakes and biscuits


Small amounts of margarine and oils.

Try lite mayonnaise, cottage cheese, or avocado as an alternative spread to margarine

Butter, butter blends, lard, dripping, vegetable shortening, Kremelta, Chefade, palm oil or palm kernel oil, coconut oil, coconut cream or milk


Water (tap, mineral or soda water), low-fat milk, tea, coffee, diet soft drinks

Fruit juice, sugar sweetened drinks such as cordial, energy and soft drinks and flavoured milk, alcohol

Written by the Christchurch Branch of Dietitians New Zealand. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.

Page reference: 24680

Review key: HIPCO-15994