For brides looking to drop pounds for the big day, cutting dairy may seem like a quick fix. "Dairy contains two nutrients that many brides think will make them gain weight — sugar and fat," says Registered Dietitian Danielle Colley, Director at Nutritionix. But it's also full of calcium and satiating protein. Before you ditch the dairy, ask yourself:
1. Is it really causing my bloating?
Dairy does not cause a natural bloating reaction, according to Colley, but lactose intolerance does. The body can't break down lactose properly and the result is gas, bloating and other reactions like diarrhea and/or abdominal pain. Unsure? Have your doctor do a lactose-digesting test, Colley says. Keep in mind that there are different levels of tolerance. For example, most people with lactose sensitivity can handle up to one cup of milk a day.
2. Do I eat full fat dairy?
If so, switching to low fat or nonfat is a better option than saying sayonara to dairy all together. Using one cup of whole milk in your morning Cheerios? Just switching to nonfat saves you 65 calories, Colley says. Ditching your two percent fruity yogurt for a nonfat plain yogurt and adding sliced fruit is a great way to cut sugar too.
3. Can I taste it?
Be honest, can you really taste the cheese on that stacked sandwich? "If you aren't getting any contribution to the flavor, you don't need the calories," says Colley. Savoring an ounce of Parmesan while updating RSVPs? That's OK.
4. Is dairy contributing enough calories to my diet that it is worth cutting it out?
Keep a food diary and identify places you could cut back. One serving of dairy means one cup of milk or yogurt or 1.5 ounces of cheese. Aim for the recommended amount of 3 servings of low fat or nonfat per day.
5. Can I sustain this elimination?
"If you remove any food or food group that is a large part of your diet and do not replace it with something else, you will create a reduction in calorie intake and therefore could lose weight," Colley says. The problem is the best-case scenario doesn't always work out. "Completely eliminating a food that you love is very difficult and unnecessary," Colley says. Don't set yourself up for a wedding-stress fueled binge.
Instead try moderation and little tricks: If ice cream is your vice, don't keep it in the house. You'll have to make a trip to satisfy the craving.
6. How will I replace the dairy foods in my diet?
The reason many dietitians won't recommend dropping dairy all together is because it's packed with protein and nutrients. "The protein in diary will help you feel fuller, longer," Colley explains. "It is also a vitamin and mineral powerhouse; loaded with calcium, magnesium and vitamins D, B6 and B12." Eat lots of lean protein — like chicken, turkey and pork — as well as seafood, beans, greens leafy vegetables, whole grains and nuts to replace those nutrients and keep an eye on added sugars.