11 Healthy Snacks for PCOS to Satisfy Sweet or Salty Cravings
These PCOS snacks provide a dose of vitamins and minerals - and won't spike your blood sugar.
Snack foods have a well-earned reputation for harming our health.
Packaged snacks are high in fat, preservatives, and sweeteners. And most offer little to no nutritional value. Many of these snacks will raise your blood sugar quickly and leave you feeling even hungrier.
Instead, replace these snacks with PCOS-friendly snacks. The best snacks for PCOS are healthy, satisfying foods packed with vitamins and nutrients. These snack foods help to regulate blood sugar levels and prevent cravings.
Below, we list PCOS-friendly snacks that will keep your energy up and your hunger at bay.
What are some good snacks for PCOS?
PCOS-friendly snacks are low in sugar and carbs and high in minerals and vitamins, and these snacks include nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
But before we jump into the list of PCOS snacks, let’s have a look at the conversation about whether or not snacking is beneficial.
Thanks to researchers, we have a relatively good idea about the impact of polycystic ovary syndrome on snacking habits.
- A paper published in the 2022 Women and Health journal attempted to investigate the snacking habits of women with PCOS and those without. Researchers concluded: “Women with PCOS more frequently snacked, but the number of their meals was also lower.”
- Another study published in the Journal of Contemporary Medicine found that women with PCOS consumed three or more snacks compared with those that didn’t have PCOS.
But should we be snacking at all?
Nadia Brito Pateguana, a naturopathic doctor, doesn’t think so. Writing in the PCOS Plan, Pateguana points out that snacking is a modern invention and an unnecessary one at that.
“...humans have survived for thousands of years without snacking, and there is simply no medical requirement to put muffins in our mouths every few hours to be healthy.”
Brito Pateguana, who also has PCOS, explains that all foods trigger an insulin response. Eating constantly releases more insulin. Therefore, she recommends intermittent fasting for PCOS to manage insulin levels.
Some health experts, though, believe snacking does have a place in a balanced diet.
“Eating protein with meals and snacks can actually add fullness and help stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day,” writes Angela Grassi in The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, snacking can be good or bad, depending on several factors.
“Snacks have been associated with both weight gain and maintaining weight, as well as with a lower or higher diet quality. [1,2] Although snacks can be a regular and important part of a healthy diet, they can also lead to health problems.
“What differentiates the two scenarios is one’s snacking behavior: what you snack on, why you snack, frequency of snacking, and how snacks fit into your overall eating plan.”
I’ve tried intermittent fasting to reach my weight loss goals, and during that time I ate three meals per day. I’d have tea throughout the day, particularly green tea and mint tea. I dropped the weight but started snacking again.
Don't get me wrong here: I’ve indulged in unhealthy snacks, but I always regret it. As a result, I try to dodge the bad snacks altogether: leaving them on the store shelf.
11 PCOS friendly snacks
Studies suggest that people who eat these snacks tend to have lower risks of heart disease and diabetes. Not only that but some of the foods on this list are linked with hormone balancing and reduced inflammation.
Nuts are a good source of plant-based protein, according to the PCOS Nutrition Center.
Joy Bauer, a registered dietician nutritionist, tells Everyday Health about the health benefits of nuts:
“A small handful can pack your diet with filling protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and important vitamins and minerals.”
When choosing the best nuts, the Mayo Clinic recommends:
“...walnuts contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and pecans also appear to be quite heart healthy.”
You can also make your own trail mix by combining your favourite nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. This is a perfect snack to take on the go because you can customise it to your tastes. Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats, while the dried fruit adds a hint of sweetness to satisfy cravings. Be sure to pick unsweetened, unsalted nuts.
2. Nut butter
Nut butters provide a source of fiber and “heart-healthy fats”, explains registered dietician Lindsay Malone in this article.
When choosing a nut butter, select one that’s low in added sugar, recommends Claire Berryman, assistant professor at Florida State University, int his BBC article.
"The most important point when trying to distinguish if one nut butter is better than the other is what's added to it. If it separates, you're good, because oils are added to make the nut butter all one texture. If you can buy nut butter in its natural form, its nutrient profile will be similar to whole nuts."
While peanut butter is well-known, almond butter and macadamia nut butter are good options, too.
Smoothies make for the perfect PCOS snack, and the natural sweetness from the fruit can satisfy your sweet tooth without all the added sugar.
Even better: you can pack tons of vitamins and nutrients into one smoothie.
The best PCOS smoothies contain healthy fats like chia seeds and are free from too much sugar. Crucially, this means skipping the fruit juice. Choose a healthier liquid base, like milk, a milk alternative, or water.
Remember to add a scoop of protein powder to keep blood sugar levels in check and leave you feeling fuller for longer. You can find easy PCOS smoothies here.
If you’re looking for another sweet PCOS snack, try some fresh fruit like berries or apples. These fruits are rich in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins that can help reduce inflammation, regulate hormones, and improve overall health.
Keep in mind that some fruits, like watermelon, will spike your blood sugar levels more than others.
To regulate insulin levels, author Mia Collins, the author of A Complete PCOS Diet Plan Book with 4 Week Meal Plan, recommends: “When eating fruit as a snack, consider eating a handful of nuts or a slice of cheese with it to slow digestion and better manage the release of insulin.”
Check out a list of anti-inflammatory fruits here.
Biltong, a dried cured meat, is high in protein and low in carbs. Originating in Southern Africa, biltong contains just salt and spices.
Different meats are used including beef, ostrich, chicken or wild game. Biltong is perfect for on-the-go snacking. It’s portable and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
You can get creative with biltong by adding it to salads or wraps, topping off your favourite dishes, or just eating it as a snack.
Biltong is easy to make at home. All you need is salt, spices, and your favourite type of meat. Simply marinate the meat in the salt and spices, then hang it to dry in an airy place. Once it's dried, you can slice it into thin strips,
6. Grated carrot
Carrots are rich in fiber and antioxidants, making them a great choice for people looking for healthy PCOS snacks. Importantly, carrots are a hormone-balancing food. Eating a raw grated carrot salad can be especially beneficial if you have oestrogen dominance, a condition where oestrogen levels are elevated.
Ray Peat, a biologist, first recommended eating a carrot salad to deal with high levels of oestrogen. A raw carrot salad is made of grated carrots, coconut oil or olive oil, salt, and apple cider vinegar.
Oestrogen dominance in PCOS is connected to irregular ovulation, writes registered nurse Nicole Galan in Very Well Health:
“Lack of ovulation results in continuous high levels of estrogen and insufficient progesterone. Unopposed by progesterone, constant estrogen exposure may cause the endometrium to become excessively thickened, which can lead to heavy and/or irregular bleeding or anovulatory uterine bleeding (periods without ovulation).”
The fiber in the raw carrots curbs oestrogen dominance in two ways, notes Natasha Evans, a registered nutritionist, in the Very Well Health article. “Fibre in raw carrots binds excess oestrogen and improves stool regularity, so prevents excess oestrogen being reabsorbed.”
7. Dark chocolate
If you’re in the mood for a sweet PCOS snack, dark chocolate might be just what you need.
This research paper found dark chocolate could reduce the symptoms of PCOS among rats:
“Treating the animals with DC could alleviate the PCOS symptoms and reduced the toxic effects of letrozole in the ovary. This effect may mediate through antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties.”
I’ll usually have two blocks of dark chocolate after lunch. Because I’ve heard it can keep you up at night, I’ avoid it after supper.
8. Greek yoghurt
Another great snack option for people with PCOS is yoghurt. Choose a low-fat Greek yoghurt that’s high in calcium and protein, and add some nuts or seeds to it for extra nutrition. The combination of protein and healthy fat will keep you feeling full and satisfied.
According to Healthline, Greek yogurt contains “about half” the sugar and carbs as regular yoghurt and double the protein.
Serve with raspberries or chop up a few strawberries and add them to the yoghurt.
9. Sourdough bread and avocado
Pile sourdough bread with smashed avo drizzled in lemon juice, olive oil, and chilli flakes.
"Avocados pack a high dosage of essential fatty acids, which can help regulate hormones,” Avner Hershlag, a medical doctor based in the United States, tells Bustle.
Plus, avocado helps to manage blood sugar and lower inflammation.
Here’s a simple smashed avocado toast recipe. This was one of the only snacks I could keep down during my first trimester - along with fast-food fries and pan-fried noodles.
Popcorn is a source of fibre and antioxidants, making it an ideal snack for PCOS.
According to Heart.org, air-popped popcorn is the healthiest type of popcorn:
“When it's air-popped and lightly seasoned, popcorn is an efficiently healthy snack. That's because it is a whole grain, and high-fiber whole grains have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other health problems.”
A paper published in the Antioxidants journal suggests popcorn is rich in antioxidants: “One popular snack, popcorn, is known for being a healthy, whole grain alternative to other snacks such as potato chips. These results indicate that a considerable amount of the bound polyphenols are bioaccessible. Due to the high levels of bioaccessible polyphenols, popcorn may be a significant source of dietary polyphenol antioxidants.”
11. Seed crackers and low-fat cheese
Seeds crackers can be a good PCOS snack because they’re filled with healthy seeds, like chia and pumpkin seeds.
Pair with a low-fat dairy cheese, like parmesan or feta. The cheese provides a good source of calcium and the seeds provide healthy fats, which can help regulate blood sugar levels.
Start adding these PCOS snacks to your diet
Reach for one of these healthy snacks for PCOS the next time you’re feeling an energy dip or a hunger pang. Taking this approach to snacking may help you better manage your PCOS symptoms.