Your Hormones Need Dinner

Sometimes a patient tells me she had only a salad for dinner. Or, even more puzzling: A green smoothie.

I could never do that. I’m tired at the end of the day. I’m hungry. I need a substantial dinner such as roast chicken with potatoes, vegetables, and butter.  I honestly cannot imagine sitting down with just a cold green salad.

I don’t think I’m different from other women. Women get hungry. Women need food.

Hunger is healthy

I’m disturbed by how our culture portrays dieting and low appetite as desirable traits in a woman. When a man has a hearty appetite, it’s a sign of virility and strength. Yet, when a woman has a hearty appetite, it’s a character flaw. We hear things like: “She eats like a bird,” and that’s supposed to be a good thing. I reject that. Hunger is normal, natural, and healthy—even for a woman!

Dinner should be nourishing

A roast chicken dinner is just one idea. You could also have fish and rice, lamb and sweet potato, or any number of yummy combinations.  The important thing is that you eat all three macronutrients: Protein, fat, and starch.  You need them for satiety, and you need them for other jobs.  For example, protein support muscles and signals circadian rhythm. Fat delivers fat-soluble nutrients. Finally, starch feeds healthy intestinal bacteria, activates thyroid hormone, and promotes relaxation, sleep, and ovulation.

But wait: Didn’t you read somewhere that you shouldn’t eat potatoes? I invite you to forget that. Seriously. The carbs that are bad for health are sugar because it causes insulin resistance and (for some people) wheat because it causes inflammation. Other starches such as rice, potatoes, and sweet potatoes are gentle carbs that are good for hormones.

Healthy dinner for healthy hormones.

Your hormones need dinner

Why dinner? Two reasons. 1) Because it will calm and soothe you at the end of the day. 2) Because that is probably when you are most hungry. If you don’t fill up with dinner, you may end up snacking later in the evening, and then feel ashamed of your “binge” or  “lack of willpower.” It’s not a binge or a lack of willpower. You were simply hungry because you didn’t get enough to eat with dinner.

Eat in

Restaurant meals can contain too much sugar and vegetable oil and are not as healthy as home-cooked meals. As much as you can, please try to cook at home.  It doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Pop a whole chicken into the oven with potatoes. Or steam a pot of rice and have that with fried fish or canned fish. And, of course, it’s easy to quickly steam some greens to have on the side!

If you live with someone, ask them to take their turn at cooking. If you live alone, make time to pre-prepare meals, and then freeze them.

Trust your hunger

Think of your hunger as something good. Something healthy. Explore your hunger by fully enjoying your meals, and by eating more if and when you feel like it.  And by not feeling guilty about it!

As long as you stick to healthy, whole foods, you will be fine.

Quit sugar

High-dose fructose (dates, agave, honey) causes insulin resistance, so please avoid desserts. You can, however, have less sweet dessert-type foods such as whole fruit or dark chocolate (two squares of 85% cocoa chocolate contain only 1.3 grams fructose).

56 thoughts on “Your Hormones Need Dinner”

  1. I really love this article & think it should be shouted from the roof tops for perimenapausal women.

    I started a very low carb diet & IF at 48 years old to try and lose a few extra pounds. I ended up binging at night, developed thyroid nodules & constipation. I stubbornly stuck at it because it had worked perfectly for me in my late 30´s.

    I realised that the “stress” caused by low carb & the fasting was causing all these issues, that my body was already going through enough with perimenapause. I wish there was more research on the HPA axis, stress and a very low carb diet for women in perimenapause.

    I adopted an easy fasting schedule of 14 hours (to keep any insulin resistance at bay) & eat carbs with every meal, just not as many as before.If I fancy cake or chocolate I have it after my meal so I´m not snacking. Hey presto, the night time binging has stopped. Ok, around my period I still get fussy for sugar, but this is a work in progress. I cut down my HIIT routine & started lifting dumbbells & yoga instead. I feel so much better & generally full of energy.

    Thanks for this article. You are the only hormone doctor I listen to & I can´t wait for your new book.

  2. Hi lara,
    When you say you can have 2 squares of dark chocolate, what size squares do you mean? I eat the Lindt 85% dark chocolate and the squares are a lot bigger than a standard chocolate bars. 2 squares is around 20g, is that too much?

  3. Dr. Briden, I had extremely rapid weight gain when I added carbs in my diet (up 100 pounds in 3 years from a normal weight). I can’t seem to handle eating them, but I feel awful without them now. I do not eat refined sugar or flour. I have chronic fatigue and I take Armour thyriod, and keep my TSH at about 3.1 or 3.2 (any lower and I can’t sleep).

    The following are not just “in range,” but ideal: fasting insulin, fasting blood sugar, AIC, and postprandial blood sugar testing. The one thing that is always terrible (low carb or normal carb) is my Glycomark testing…indicates a lot of spikes, even though my postprandial testing with a home kit is normal- I keep balanced meals and that testing always reflects it.

    I’m 50 years old, no change in cycles other than periods shortening to about 3.5 days, normal thermal shift with strong temps and 14 days in the luteal phase.

    What could be the cause of such weight gain if there is no insulin resistance?

    • when you added back carbs, what did it mainly consist of? rice, potatoes? wheat? dates and honey?
      Was there anything else going on? antibiotics? hormonal birth control? thyroid issues? transition to menopause? (because it’s pretty common to gain weight with menopause. It happens because we lose the insulin-sensitizing effects of estrogen.)

      • Beans, potatoes (red skin or purple sweet potatoes), brown rice, whole wheat products, oats, veggie squashes (acorn, butternut, etc.)…no dates or honey. Some raisins in oatmeal, but not much.

        Before this, I had been progressively lower and lower carb to keep weight off for about 10 years. Then, I had a VERY bad year – a doctor had suggested low carb vegan (not kidding) and I got nutritional deficiencies and was dropping weight even though I had been normal weight. The deficiencies caused horrendous allergies which caused sinus infections = antibiotics. I swear that caused appendicitis = surgery. It was a ROUGH year.

        I got an excellent doctor and started to restore all the nutrients, heal allergies, work on my gut etc., but try as I might, I could no longer tolerate low carb. I just kept (keep!) blowing up like a balloon.

        • Gosh, yes, that does sound rough. Yes, your metabolism would have gone through some big challenges with the nutritional deficiencies plus low-carb plus antibiotics plus perimenopause. And your thyroid is ok as far as you know?

  4. Hi Lara
    My name is Wendy, I’m 42 years old lady with PSCO and Insulin resistant (my insulin level is 29), I have a regular and very light period, I have two children. My weight used to be 86Kg about 1 year ago, I tried too many typed of diet but none of them worked until I found a diet called cohen’s diet ( Rapid Fat and Weight Loss Diet), I lost about 13 Kg in about 8 months and my insulin went down to 11 ,then stopped losing for 3 months and now I regained 5Kg although I’m following the diet but 85% not 100%. I’m a person who don’t eat sweets, juice,cakes, rice,potato and my Coriolis intake is 1200-1400 a day, but still not losing weight.
    I really need your help as I’m so stressed and frustrated because I really want to have a decent weight, my height is 156 cm and I really want to reach 60-65 Kg.
    Please lara

          • So what should I do now? Please Can you help me? I want to loose weight and I don’t want to gain weight again. I’m not a big eater, I monitor my calories intake everyday and I’m managing 950-1300 per day with moderate exercise. I went through your website and I’ll buy the supplements you mentioned. can you give me some advise to help me correct my life style and loose weight again.


          • Do you know if you have insulin resistance? Has your doctor ever testing you for “fasting insulin”?

          • Yes, I have insulin resistance, I’ve been diagnosed with insulin resistance 15 years ago. My insulin used to be 27-29 since then until I started the diet the level went down to 13. I used in the past metformin but it didn’t help.
            And through all these years I tried a lot of diet but I couldn’t achieve more than 5kg out if each one.

  5. Very intersteing post… Maybe you can eat “too healthy” .. thinking about intermittent fasting ..Could that be the reason for not getting a regular cycle…? Daughter has been 45 days late again…trying to be a detective now not an easy thing.

  6. Hello. I just don’t know what to eat anymore! I am 49 and have late stage neurological Lyme disease which I have been treating for over 10 years now. I also had Epstein Barr, and all of which has really taken its toll on my liver, hormones, adrenals, thyroid, brain and my whole gut digestive system. I did a 23 and Me test with a functional med doc recently and have all these conflicting gene snps too and I’m clearly not methylating properly. So I have the MFTHR genes that say you should have methyl folate, but have other genes that are opposite. I also had estrogen off the charts and recently removed an endometrial mass caused by estrogen. I don’t really like meat, sweet potatoes, legumes, or other foods I am supposed too eat. I have found I can do without a lot of dairy. I try to do gluten free but I have found I have gained weight because I don’t think the replacements are doing well for my system. I don’t do well with sulfuric foods or nightshades. I am on thyroid meds that have helped my pituitary because we finally realized brain communication was the problem. i have never been hungry in the mornings, probably because I have always needed and seriously crave a salty crunchy (my favorite is potato chips) snack at night to relax. Now I have been taking Adderall which is the only way my brain functions and it causes me to not have an appetite until I start to have blood sugar crash around 3-4 in afternoon. I know I am not consuming enough calories and am probably storing fat. I need a really good doctor, but so far have only found ones that piecemeal everything or only have knowledge in hormones but not Lyme to or have knowledge with methylation, but not hormones in or Lyme or Lyme but not the others. I really would like to get my gut healthy and hormones regulated. It seems like the blood tests are hit and miss. I have such a fuzzy face that I think that even though my doctor finally put me back on progesterone day 14 to 28 or my period that maybe I would benefit from taking it more often? And I need help with my diet! Anyway, do you do distance consults within the US?

  7. My Sex Hormone binding globulin level came back at 58. How concerned should I be? I was diagnosed with PCOS about 10 years ago. My periods used to be way off, but with diet, they are regular now and have been for about 4 or 5 years.

  8. Hi Lara,
    Love this post! Im doing like your recommending, but i am wondering if meat could be extremely disturbing. In my country every animal is given a lot of diffrent synthetic hormones, like growth hormones, testosterone and estrogen. Plus, their food is almost only GMO soy. I imagine that this meat could be very hormone disrupting?
    -Emma 🙂

  9. Lara,

    Don’t probiotics release lactic acid? Isn’t lactic acid inflammatory? Like, lactic acidosis? Why would you want to use probiotics?

  10. Hello,
    I’ve read in so many places that breakfast is ESSENTIAL for balancing insulin levels for the rest of the day, and if you don’t have it, insulin levels go crazy for the remainder of the day? What are your thoughts Lara?
    Many thanks,

  11. I agree. I can’t go without dinner or any meal unless I am out somewhere running around crazy all day but I come home and eat. I don’t like it how men are traditionally given bigger servings of meals – I want just as much! I am talking healthy food here. And totally agree about sugar and only eat low fructose when possible.

  12. How do you suggest increasing calories without gaining weight? I was eating 1000 calories a day and dealing with pcos. I got my period back after almost 2 years but have also gained 20 lbs after trying to increase my calorie intake because I was so tired on only 1000. I exercise 4-5 times a week and eat a really clean healthy diet

    • No one can sustain 1000 calories per day, and a low calorie approach very often does lead to rebound weight gain (like you experienced). If you’re trying to correct insulin resistance, then a more effective strategy is to maintain full calories (hence a full dinner), but strictly avoid concentrated fructose (desserts), and also try some intermittent fasting (as I discuss in the post).

  13. Lara, do you know of any herbs that raise human growth hormone? I have adult deficiency. What about to raise Estrogen? All 3 of mine are severely low.

  14. Lara, do you know of any Naturopath’s in Indiana that you would recommend? I can only find two who have bad reviews.

  15. Lara,

    Can tooth decay be reversed? I have gotten more cavities than normal my whole life but have luckily managed to keep my front teeth cavity free until now…it isn’t too bad of a cavity yet, is there any way that teeth can heal? Is it true phytic acid in grains, legumes, nuts etc ruins our teeth?

    In your opinion, is a Vegan diet a bad idea? Would I be better off eating meat and taking fish oil? Is Cod Liver oil a good supplement?

    I recently went to a Functional Medicine Doctor who told me my Vitamin D is so low it’s almost undedectable, Estrogen and Progesterone were both low, HGH low, DHEA very high, Testosterone normal, Prolactin normal. Do you feel any of this is effecting my teeth?

    I need some lifestyle advice. Please help. I need to save my teeth!

  16. Hi Lara, timely blog entry.
    I’m trying to up my fats. As you have mentioned good fats make happy hormones. What foods to you recommend to do this?
    Also I had dropped the milk in my coffee to. Soya milk but that seems so overly processed that outcries more harm than good. Which would be the lesser of two evils? Almond milk makes it bitter and sour.
    Thank you

  17. Love this Lara iv always found I’m hungriest at tea time….not lunch, and always felt this was wrong because you get told to eat a big lunch and small tea….after eating little carbs I realise I feel strung out at night and sleep poorly. I’m sure it doesn’t do much for my hormones!! So interesting Lara, Iv never seen a post about the importance of tea for women.

  18. I soooo agree! I do think most people should eat breakfast, too, though. A lot of people who wake up and aren’t hungry (ironically) under ate the previous evening. After the blood sugar drop your body compensates like crazy and your blood sugar is generally higher in the AM when you haven’t eaten much/at all in the PM.

    I see people trained to eat such small portions that are just impossible to maintain themselves on, then feel terrible about binges of pure junk. Of course it’s because they are under-eating and need more calories!

    • Hi Hannah, thanks for your input. Love hearing from you here on my blog. 🙂
      Yes, I see a lot of patients who are under-eating, and then feeling bad because they feel hungry all the time. It’s so sad and unnecessary. Women need about 2000 calories per day, which is a lot more we think.

  19. Thank you Lara! Where can I learn more about how fasting helps insulin resistance? And does coffee with half and half not count as fasting? (I tried coconut milk, but not a fan) Thanks!!!!

  20. I was following paleo diet and avoiding all the carbs ,even rice and potatoes.So basically i was just eating protein and fat.I was new to this nutrition world so I believed in everything, since one day I had a fainting while I was sitting down. This was scared. Since then I realized that I needed more carbs in my diet and started to eat some rice and potatoes again, specially sweet potatoes that I love. I feel much better. Thanks for this post Doctor Lara!

  21. How do you know how many carbs to have when trying to lose weight? I have adrenal fatigue and pcos, do you have any recommendations as to how many grams of carbs should be eaten at each meal?

    • Hi Gabriella, If you have adrenal fatigue, then you probably need at least 150 grams per day. You can spread it through the day as you like, but the important thing is that you should eat enough at dinner to feel full, and to not crave sugar later.
      Of the 150 grams carbohydrate, no more than 20 grams should be fructose. That’s really what matters for weight loss.


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