How to manage metabolic syndrome with a healthy 7-day meal plan recommended by a dietitian

  • Metabolic syndrome can be managed or even reversed through a healthy diet and regular exercise.
  • The best foods to eat on a metabolic syndrome diet are vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains.
  • People with metabolic syndrome should avoid foods high in sugar, simple carbohydrates, and sodium.

Up to one-third of adults in the US have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that increase the chance of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

However, you can reduce the progression of metabolic syndrome – and even reverse it – by following a healthy diet and getting physical activity on most days.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of five risk factors. To be diagnosed with the condition, you must have three or more of the following:

Several factors may cause the condition, including:

However, some lifestyle changes, including exercise and diet, can reverse these risk factors.

“The goal is to make sure these changes are something you can do for the rest of your life and not just short term,” says Jerlyn Jones, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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Foods to eat if you have metabolic syndrome

The foods that we eat are directly responsible for insulin sensitivity and for elevated triglycerides, says Corinne Bush, CNS, director of nutrition science and education for the American Nutrition Association.

Here are some foods you should eat more to manage metabolic syndrome.

Fiber-rich foods

A 2008 study found dietary fiber reduces metabolic risk factors. Foods with lots of dietary fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains.

Whole grains are better than refined grains because “your body absorbs them more slowly, so they do not cause a rapid spike in insulin, which can trigger hunger and cravings,” Jones says.

Some of the best fiber-rich snacks include:

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Omega-3 fatty acids

According to a small 2008 study, omega-3 fatty acids lowered blood pressure and cholesterol of people with metabolic syndrome.

Sources of omega-3s are mostly fatty fish or some plant-based oils. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA, DHA, and ALA. The body is able to produce EPA and DHA through the consumption of ALA.

Foods high in these nutrients include:

How to manage metabolic syndrome with a healthy 7-day meal plan recommended by a dietitian
Yuqing Liu/Insider
How to manage metabolic syndrome with a healthy 7-day meal plan recommended by a dietitian
Yuqing Liu/Insider

According to Bush, most people don’t consume enough omega-3 so she recommends eating these foods or taking a high-quality fish oil supplement.

Potassium

A 2016 review concluded adequate daily potassium intake can reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and obesity. “The more potassium you eat, the more sodium you lose through your urine,” which helps to lower blood pressure, Jones says.

Sources of potassium include:

Foods to avoid if you have metabolic syndrome

Some foods can worsen the risk factors underlying metabolic syndrome. Here are some to avoid or limit.

Sugary foods

A large 2019 study of middle-aged Korean men found consuming 20% of calories from total sugar intake was significantly associated with metabolic syndrome. Another 2020 review found sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

Some examples of sugary foods to avoid include:

  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Sweetened beverages, like soft drinks, sweetened teas, and sports drinks

Sodium

A 2013 study found high sodium intake in adults aged 18 to 85 was associated with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.

Some high-sodium foods to limit include:

  • Potato chips and other salty snacks
  • Pizza
  • Cold cuts and cured meats

Simple carbohydrates

A 2019 review of obese patients with insulin resistance noted that intake of simple carbohydrates lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.

Simple carbohydrates have less fiber and more sugar than complex carbohydrates, Jones says. Most of your carbohydrates should come from complex carbohydrates, like whole-wheat bread and other whole-grain foods.

Some sources of simple carbohydrates to cut back on include:

7-day sample meal plan for metabolic syndrome

Everyone’s nutritional needs and eating preferences are different, so one size does not fit all. The timing of when you eat can come into play, too, Bush says. So it’s best to work with a registered dietitian. Here is a sample meal plan from Jones:

Day 1

How to manage metabolic syndrome with a healthy 7-day meal plan recommended by a dietitian
Frittata with broccoli, peas, and avocado.Westend61/Getty Images

Breakfast: Omelet with broccoli
Lunch: Cucumber and canned wild salmon wrap

Dinner: Whole wheat pasta with peas, cannellini beans, cherry tomatoes, and parmesan cheese

Day 2

How to manage metabolic syndrome with a healthy 7-day meal plan recommended by a dietitian
Lentil soup with whole-what bread.Brian Hagiwara/Getty images

Breakfast: Oatmeal with flaxseeds, blueberries, and almond milk

Lunch: Lentil soup with whole wheat bread

Dinner: Polenta with cheese, pepper, and green beans

Day 3

How to manage metabolic syndrome with a healthy 7-day meal plan recommended by a dietitian
Quinoa bowl with grilled chicken and vegetables.wmaster890/Getty Images

Breakfast: Scrambled tofu burrito

Lunch: Red beans and rice with chopped green peppers and a spinach salad

Dinner: Quinoa bowl with grilled chicken and green vegetables

Day 4

How to manage metabolic syndrome with a healthy 7-day meal plan recommended by a dietitian
Salad with grilled chicken and tomatoes.kajakiki/Getty Images

Breakfast: Toasted oat cereal with low-fat milk, raspberries, and hard-boiled egg

Lunch: Salad with chicken, tomato, carrots, and cucumbers

Dinner: Grilled salmon, sweet potato, and brussels sprouts

Day 5

How to manage metabolic syndrome with a healthy 7-day meal plan recommended by a dietitian
Whole-wheat banana pancakes.happy_lark/Getty images

Breakfast: Whole wheat pancakes, turkey sausage, and banana
Lunch: Canned wild salmon, brown rice, and edamame

Dinner: Black bean burrito with cheese, peppers, and plantains

Day 6

How to manage metabolic syndrome with a healthy 7-day meal plan recommended by a dietitian
Grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich.LauriPatterson/Getty Images

Breakfast: Tomato and egg on an English muffin

Lunch: Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread

Dinner: Tuna casserole with green beans

Day 7

How to manage metabolic syndrome with a healthy 7-day meal plan recommended by a dietitian
Oatmeal with bananas, almonds, and raspberries.Arx0nt/Getty Images

Breakfast: Oatmeal with vanilla, almonds, and banana

Lunch: Lean roast beef, tomato, and lettuce sandwich

Dinner: Chili with beans and vegetables

Insider’s takeaway

A diet rich in fiber, healthy fats, and vegetables, can reduce several risk factors that contribute to metabolic syndrome. Along with adequate exercise, a heart-healthy, whole foods diet can help improve or even reverse metabolic syndrome. However, it’s best to work with a registered dietitian to find the right plan for you.