The PCOS Dietitian’s Three Killer Tips to Grocery Shop Like a Champ


I hope you are having an all-star start to your week. Coming off the weekend is alway tough. However, there is no day better than Monday to get back on track. It is time to shake off the Monday blues and bring your focus back to healthy eating. Your first stop – the grocery shop. Today I am here to provide you with my three absolute BEST tips to grocery shopping like the champ you are. Put down that grocery store hater-ade and grab yourself a cart. Things are about to get fun!



grocery shopping tips

Grab a cart and get your shop on 🙂



I ♄ to grocery shop


Grocery shopping is pretty much one of my favorite past times. I guess you could even call it a hobby of some sort! Anyone who knows me – knows I love grocery stores. No matter where in the world I might be I am constantly on the look out for grocery stores so I can check out the latest and greatest food finds.


However, with that being said shopping aimlessly is never a good thing. BAD things happen in grocery stores for Amy Plano when she does not have a plan. And I can only imagine the same goes for many of you! Please tell me I am not alone?


So today I am going to rattle off some of my top ticks for staying on track with your diet at the grocery store. I know none of these are new concepts to you. However, if you are like me, I can ALWAYS benefit from gentle reminders on how to improve my behavior.



Game plan it on Friday



I have a rule for myself on Friday afternoons. I cannot leave until I have written down at least two things I am cooking for dinner for the up and coming week. For the other meals I fill in the blanks with leftovers or go-to meals. Easy ones like baked chicken thighs or flank steak on the grill rounding out with some Trader Joe’s frozen veggies. However, I must have two concrete (not made up in my head as I have a tendency to do!) meals that I commit to making before I walk out the door. No ifs, ands or buts about it. That way when I go to the grocery store I am exciting about what I am buying.




I generally just pull up my Pinterest board called “Dinner” (yes – super original) and see what looks interesting and is hopefully in season. Here is the link for my dinner board in case you need some inspiration. Once I have identified the recipes I jot down the ingredients I will need in my spiral plain Jane notebook. This when I go home I know what I need and can compare it against what foods I already have.




A typical entry might look like this:



Monday: Baked chicken thighs, Trader Joe’s frozen sweet potatoes & broccoli

Tuesday: Egg Roll in a Bowl

Wednesday: Sushi

Thursday: Crock Pot Chicken Chili

Friday: Low Carb Chicken Quesadillas with cabbage lime slaw

Saturday: Out

Sunday: Flank Steak, Baked Potatoes and Salad



It is important to note these dinner recipes do not need to be fancy! Nor does your weekly ‘meal plan’ need to be elaborate. People get wrapped up in the semantics. They say to themselves I don’t know what to make that is healthy. Come on. You know what is healthy and what is not. You do not need me to tell you day-day what you should eat. These meals should be something everyone enjoys and resembles something relatively healthy. Depending upon your family the term relatively healthy likely means different things. But don’t sweat the small things.




Just write it down – the very act of writing things down help sets you up to succeed. Plan to succeed right from the start.



food journal

I know you have heard this quote a zillion times – but the message never gets old.




By planning ahead on Friday you will save yourself a ton of stress, time and money at the grocery store. It really puts YOU in the driver seat rather than leaving your meals to chance. So many of my patients do awesome all day with healthy eating. But then dinner rolls around and nothing is planned – so they reach for what is most convenient but not always healthy. They then beat themselves up. By coming up with a plan before the fact this can easily be avoided.



Because you and I both know when we go to the grocery store with no meals planned – food goes to waste and we come home with food but no meals = no bueno 🙁  It’s like having a closet full of awesome clothes – but no perfect “outfits”. We aint’ got time for that!




Make a list and stick with it



DO NOT step foot in any grocery store without a list. Okay – I admit I am the worst at this. However, we all need to raise the bar and follow through with grocery list making. Maybe I should start a self-help group for this? Honestly.  I don’t care if you need to scribble the list down on a receipt you find in your purse. You MUST have a shopping list BEFORE you step foot in that grocery store.


grocery store

Just write it down – the very act of writing things down sets you up to succeed




Shopping with a list is so critical. Not only does it save money because you are only buying exactly what you need – it also saves you from buying less than stellar foods that were not on your list. By making a list and sticking to it you can get in and out of the grocery store without cruising down every aisle wondering, “Do I need these delicious bourbon pickles from Traders?” – nope not on the list. Move on sista’!




The Type A person in me likes to arrange my list on how the store is set up.  The list often starts with vegetables, then fruit, next protein and ultimately the dairy aisle. That way I don’t need to back track. Also the crazy dietitian in me likes to play a game when I grocery shop. I like to see if I can only manage to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. As it is really in the aisles that most people get into trouble with processed foods. Sometimes I am successful – sometimes not. However, I do make a point to spend more time out of the aisles if possible. But sometimes those Ghost Pepper Potato Chips do call my name in aisle 3.



Never ever shop hungry


I know this one is really a no brainer – but nothing good ever comes of going to the grocery store hungry. I don’t care what you eat – whether it be a meal or a snack – but dear friend please have something! If not everything looks good. You end up buying things that you would have never have even contemplated putting in your cart. If you go astray – always try to J.E.R.F. If you do that – then the damage might not be too bad.


grocery shopping tips



And guess what? If it ends up in your cart – it ends up in your house. And if it is in your house — you will likely eat it 🙂


So why not avoid this nonsense all together? Keep healthy snacks in your car. Some suggestions include single serving packs of almonds, RX bars, single serving packet of trail mix, small bags of popcorn, and my personal favorite beef jerky.



Well my friends that is hopefully motivation on this Monday to get your butt in gear.  Happy grocery shopping and hope to see you at Traders, Shop Rite, Whole Foods, Aldi’s or Costco or any other grocery store in between.



Need help navigating the jungle that we call the grocery store? Did you know the dietitians at The Plano Program conduct both one-one and group grocery shopping tours? Well we sure do!  Email us us at to sign up.

Hugs & High Fives,

  food journal



Alcohol and PCOS

Alcohol and PCOS

Alcohol and PCOS

It’s Saturday night and your friends ask you to go out for a cocktail. But, you can’t stop thinking
how the heck does alcohol and work with my PCOS? What drinks should I stay away from? Are there things I CAN drink that might be better for my PCOS? Or do I just need to sit there like a lump-on-a-log having no fun at all? Fret not cysta’, I have all your answers and then some in my latest blog post on alcohol and PCOS.

While I am certainly not encouraging you to party those cute little pants off, I want you to understand that having PCOS does not mean you have to give up the occasional drink. Here are a few simple tips for drinking alcohol without completely derailing your PCOS weight loss plan.

Eat before

Don’t drink on an empty stomach! Alcohol is absorbed much more rapidly when your stomach is empty. This means you will feel the effects of alcohol faster. Do yourself a favor and eat something with a modest amount of fat and protein before heading out to the bars. The protein and fat are digested slowly and act as a buffer for the alcohol.

This images shows 2 % Greek Plain yogurt with 1/2 cup of berries and a sprinkling of granola and you have yourself an awesome "pre-game" snack!

Combine a container of 2 % Greek Plain yogurt with 1/2 cup of berries and a sprinkling of granola and you have yourself an awesome “pre-game” snack!

Good choices include a container of 2 % Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup of fruit and a tablespoon of granola. a serving of whole-wheat crackers and low-fat cheese or some yummy guacamole and raw veggies.

Squash temptations

Also by consuming a meal or snack before heading out, you may be more likely to stay away from the greasy, carby bar food that may be calling your name. We all know alcohol lowers our inhibitions. Almost as soon as alcohol enters the blood stream it can hijack lower one’s personal inhibitions. Yeah, it will make a person feel more relaxed and outgoing — but it also drops our inhibitions and prompts us eat many things we would not ordinarily eat if we were sober. Did somebody say nachos? pizza? Chinese food? How we LOVE you so after a couple of cocktails! ♄♄♄ But,  if we are full and satisfied by our meal, we will not even want those tempting foods.

Be mindful of your meds

If you have PCOS there is a good chance you are on Metformin. Metformin and alcohol don’t mix well at all. This is especially the case if you often drink a lot of alcohol or you binge drink (drink a lot in short periods). These effects include an extremely low blood sugar level, called hypoglycemia, and a condition called lactic acidosis.

While lactic acidosis is rare, it can be serious. It’s caused by a buildup of lactic acid in your blood. When you take metformin, your body produces more lactic acid than it usually does. When you drink alcohol, your body can’t get rid of lactic acid as quickly. Drinking too much alcohol, especially with metformin, can cause a buildup of lactic acid. This buildup can cause serious damage to your kidneys, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.

This is an image which states Be very mindful of the harmful effects of combining metformin & alcohol

Be very mindful of the harmful effects of combining metformin & alcohol

Symptoms of lactic acidosis include:

♩ weakness

♩ tiredness

♩ dizziness

♩ light-headedness

♩ unusual muscle pain, such as sudden and severe pain in muscles that don’t usually cramp

♩ trouble breathing

♩ stomach discomfort, such as a fluttering feeling, nausea, cramping, or sharp pains

♩ feeling cold

Therefore, if you anticipate a big night of drinking hold off on taking your metformin for at least 48 hours. Lactic acidosis is a serious emergency and not something to mess around with. If you take metformin and have been drinking and you notice these symptoms, call your doctor right away or go to the nearest hospital’s emergency room.

Set a limit and stick to it

Alcoholic beverages contain a significant amount of calories with minimal nutritional value. Having one or two drinks won’t ruin your weight loss attempts but consuming any more on a regular basis can. Therefore, prior to going out, come up with a ‘game plan.’

Make sure to establish a drink limit before you even set foot out of the house. Stick to your guns and don't consume more alcohol then you set out to do.  Alcohol and PCOS don't always mix.

Make sure to establish a drink limit before you even set foot out of the house. Stick to your guns and you will ‘thank yourself’ the next morning

Decide on how many drinks you are going to have AND what they will be. Share your plan with one of your friends who will be out with and have them hold you accountable.

Make better choices

Stay away from the specialty cocktails or blended drinks. While these look delicious, most are very high in calories and sugar. Some specialty drinks contain over 500 calories and 50 + grams of carbohydrates PER DRINK. Whoa Mama!

Instead make better choices. Choose a light beer, glass of wine, or hard alcohol (gin/vodka/rum/tequila) on the rocks, with diet soda, or soda water and lime to save on calories and carbohydrates. All hard alcohol has no carbohydrates. It is the mixers (juices, syrups, regular soda) that contain all the carbohydrates. If you need more flavor than using the soda water and lime, ask for just a splash of juice and you will still significantly save on calories and carbohydrates.

Frozen drinks pack a serious carb punch - coming in at around 65 grams of carbohydrates - pina colada are one of the worst choices when it comes to Alcohol and PCOS with PCOS

Frozen drinks pack a serious carb punch – coming in at around 65 grams of carbohydrates – pina coladas are one of the worst choices when it comes to alcohol and women with PCOS.

Just because it is a clear liquid – don’t let the tonic water fool you. Tonic water has the same amount of calories and carbohydrates as regular soda. Boo! You’re better off sticking to soda water or diet soda.

So now that you know what you cannot drink – let’s get down to business with what you CAN drink!

PCOS Friendly Cocktails

I bet you did not even think there was such a thing! Well, girl friend the PCOS dietitian would not leave you hanging, right?

Low-Carb Mojito

The traditional mojito uses simple syrup for sweetening, but if you use a diet lemon-lime soda like Diet Sierra Mist or Diet Sprite, you can get all of the sweetness without all the carbs.

Make it! Mix one shot (1.5 ounces) of rum with fresh lime juice and diet lemon lime soda. Pour over to muddled mint leaves with crushed ice.

Estimated calories: 110

Estimated carbohydrates: 1.5 grams

Carb-Free Gin & Tonic

Oh I know we are already into Fall – but cannot we savor our summertime favorite — the gin and tonics just a little while longer? They’re crisp and cool, but like I mentioned above tonic water is loaded with carbs, with 21 grams per cup! Swap out regular club soda or flavored seltzer for your tonic, and you’ll get the flavor without hurting your waist line.

Make it! Mix one shot (1.5 ounces) of gin with club soda water or seltzer water, a squeeze of lemon or lime. Serve over ice.

Estimated calories: 150

Estimated carbohydrates: <1 gram

Diet Jack & Coke

Obviously, a regular cola would destroy your skimpy daily carbohydrate allowance. But diet soda lends itself to many carb-free cocktails. This spin on the traditional Jack & Coke simply uses Diet Coke instead.

Make it! Mix one shot (1.5 ounces) of whiskey with Diet Coke. Serve over ice.

Estimated calories: 100

Estimated carbohydrates: 0 grams

Cuba Libre

Not to beat a dead horse, but it is no surprise when you are watching your carbs, you can make any simple favorite low-carb friendly using diet-soda. Despite its sweet flavor, rum contains zero carbs!

Make it! Mix your favorite unflavored rum with diet coke and serve over ice. For an added twist, throw in a piece of lime.

Estimated calories: 100

Estimated carbohydrates (with a twist of lime): <1 gram

Low-Carb Sea Breeze

A Sea Breeze is a fruity, girly drink, but it doesn’t have to be loaded with sugar. Traditionally, it’s made with grapefruit juice, but using Diet Squirt or Fresca instead eliminates the extra carbs.

Make it! Mix one shot (1.5 ounces) of vodka with 2 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice and 4 ounces of Diet Squirt or Fresca. Pour over ice.

Estimated calories: 110

Estimated carbohydrates: 6 grams


If you like your wine cold and refreshing, Pinot Grigio is a good option without too many carbohydrates. There are about 123 calories and 3 grams of carbs in 5 ounces.

Sauvignon Blanc also earns a place on your low-carb wine list clocking in at about 120 calories and three grams of carbohydrate per 5 ounce glass.

If red wine is more your style, Pinot Noir is another fantastic lower-carb option. There are about 122 calories and 3.4 grams of carbohydrate per 5 ounce glass.


Michelob Ultra

It is no surprise that beer doesn’t typically make it on low-carb lists. Most are loaded with calories and carbohydrates. Some light beers, however, are PCOS friendly. Michelob Ultra tops the list as your lowest carb beer option. On one 12-oz bottle there are 95 calories and 2.6 grams of carbohydrate.

Beck’s Premier Light

If you need a little more flavor with your bubbles, Beck’s light beer might do the trick! It’s another certainly is a  lower-carb options. For one 12-oz bottle you will be guzzling down only 63 calories and 3.8 grams of carbohydrates.

Watching your carb intake doesn’t have to be torture! If you want to enjoy a drink now and then, choosing the right ones will make sure you don’t upset your PCOS related goals.

Now, take this advice and go enjoy that drink with your friends! Alcohol can fit into a PCOS friendly diet with moderation and making smarter choices, which you my friend are now a pro at.

Support for women with PCOS

Amy Plano PCOS Dietitian

PCOS and College: Tips to stay on track with your diet

PCOS and College: Tips to stay on track with your diet

PCOS and College

Do you have PCOS and are heading off to college? Is your head about ready to explode with all the information available on the web regarding nutrition, diet and PCOS? If so, you have come to right spot!

Holy cow,  I cannot believe it is that time of year again. Can you? As a seasoned college professor you would think I would be used to this time by now. But every year the end of summer sneaks up on me.  Insert sad face emoji. If you have PCOS and are heading off to college you may be experiencing a bit of anxiety regarding how to stick to your diet. Staying on track in college with your diet can be challenging – but certainly not impossible if you have PCOS.

College can be an exciting time! It is the first time you are on your own flexing those “independence muscles.” However, it can also be a very stressful time, full of uncertainty. And as if having PCOS was not bad enough – now you need to navigate an entirely different food domain. But fret not my friend – you are in luck. We have my Yale Dietetic Intern Jacquelyn Budlowski here, to give you some pointers on how to keep on track with your diet and exercise.


PCOS and College: Ten nutrition tips for staying on track with your diet


Write it down to stay on track with your diet 

food journal

Start a food journal or use an app to track your intake and make sure you stay within your recommended calorie and carbohydrate alotment. Think of it as one of your daily homework assignments! We LOVE the myfitnesspal app as it super user friendly and allows you to track not only your calories – but also your carbohydrate, fat and protein intake. Studies show people who write down what they eat are more successfully at losing weight and keeping it off.

Get your little butt moving

Most college campuses have free gym memberships included with tuition. Many also offer group exercise classes. This can be a fun way to work out and beat the ho-hum of the treadmill. Some colleges even offer recreational sports as a fitness option. This can be a fun way to meet new people, fit in your exercise in and even try a new sport you may have been dying to try. Aim to exercise for at least 120 minutes per week.

Limit your alcohol intake

If you drink alcohol, keep in mind it supplies calories (and often carbs) but no nutritional value. A light beer, a glass of wine, or an ounce of liquor each has about 100 – 140 calories each. The carbohydrate content depends on what the alcohol is mixed with. Plus when your body is metabolizing alcohol – fat breakdown comes to a screeching halt. This can prompt weight gain and reduce your overall metabolism. Plus, alcohol increases your appetite and decreases your mindfulness leading to poor food choices. Did I just hear someone say “Let’s order Chinese ?!?”

Be mindful of “seconds”

It can be tempting to go up for a second plate knowing you have unlimited access to food with your dining card. However, ask yourself if you are really hungry before going up for a second helping. It is possible that you are just overwhelmed by the abundance of food and not really hungry. A good habit is to walk around the cafeteria and check out all the options before deciding what to eat. That way you can make the best balanced choice while getting what you really want in the first place.

Stock up on healthy PCOS friendly snacks

Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room. This way if you are up late studying, you will not be tempted to grab something from the campus store such as candy, chips, or ice cream. Good snack options include cheese sticks, low sugar Greek yogurt, hummus/veggies and even something like a Quest Bar in the event you cannot a balanced meal in.

Don’t Abandon Your Summer Goals

Continue to choose nutrient dense, high fiber options when consuming carbohydrates. Focus your meals mainly around high protein foods and healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados (if they have them!) Cafeteria salad bars are a great way to bump up your fiber and pack in your protein. Choose plenty of green leafy veggies and lean sources of protein at the salad bar such as chicken, tuna, chick-peas, hard-boiled eggs and cottage cheese. Your cafeteria may even have a grill station where you could pick up a turkey burger and throw that on top of a salad – yum!

if it is important to you

Speak Up Cysta!

Most campus contract food service companies have a list of nutrition values for most of the foods they provide. Ask for the nutrition information or see if you can find it on their website. That way you do not have to guess, “Is this a good choice?” Then, you will be armed with knowledge to select the most PCOS friendly options available to you. No excuses girl friend!

Get your Zzzzz’s

Not getting enough sleep can put a serious damper on weight loss efforts. Sleep deprivation can affect the hormones that control your hunger as well as increase an individual’s level of insulin resistance. This makes it much harder to lose weight. Also we often don’t always make such great food choices when we are hangry, right? Therefore, try your best to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 4.30.57 PM

Find your inner Yogi

Balancing classes, exams, friends and extracurricular activities can be overwhelming! It is no surprise that stress can hinder your weight loss goals. Find different ways to relieve stress aside from eating. Many college campuses offer free yoga and/or meditation classes. Even if your school does not offer this opportunity you can find numerous free resources such as podcasts and youtube videos online to help decrease stress. It is amazing what you can get for free when you look!

Life is tough my darling but so are you


Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Most schools have health centers that have wellness and nutritional trained professionals who are there you help you make the right choices when it comes to eating and exercise. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment and bring them your schedule. Be honest with them. Let them know you have PCOS and that you are struggling with your eating. They should be able to help you lay out a personalized plan of action to keep you on track. Always remember – you are so much stronger than you think!

So, I know we must have missed a couple hints for you college cysters 🙂  But we would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear your tips for staying on track when you have PCOS and are at college. What are some things that you have tried that have worked? Any epic fails? Please share with us in the comments below.

Support for women with PCOS

Amy Plano PCOS Dietitian