Many brides may consider going to extremes to look good on their wedding day. But how can women get in good nutritional shape in time for "I do" without starving themselves or engaging in other unhealthy habits? We chatted with New York City-based dietitian Megan Madden, MS, RD, for answers, along with tips on how to eat in the weeks and months leading up to cutting that gorgeous tiered cake.
How much time does a bride need to get her diet on the right track?
"Making healthier food choices can boost your mood and enhance immunity in a matter of weeks. [But] if you're looking to slim down or firm up, you'll realistically need 4-6 months. Hit the gym for a mix of cardio and strength training about 4 days a week and support your fitness routine with a healthy, balanced diet. Avoid overly processed, packaged foods and select lean cuts of meat or chicken, egg whites, beans, low fat dairy, whole grains, and lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Include sources of unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, mackerel, and tuna."
What are some foods to avoid?
"Eliminating entire food groups can leave you feeling deprived and trigger cravings. Crash diets and liquid cleanses can zap your energy, make you cranky, and slow down your metabolism. Focus on smaller, more sustainable diet changes. Set one new specific goal every week and build on previous accomplishments. Maybe you want to start off by reducing sugar, so you cut your juice or soda intake in half. The next week, start including two pieces of fresh fruit every day. To reduce bloating and puffiness, steer clear of alcohol and salt the week before the wedding. Avoid frozen dinners, canned soup, jarred tomato sauce, cottage cheese, deli meats, and bottled salad dressings and sauces. These items usually contain loads of sodium."
So what are some good meal options?
"For breakfast, try a spinach, tomato, and 2 egg white omelet with a slice of whole grain toast and melon on the side, or plain oatmeal prepared with low-fat milk, topped with cinnamon, sliced banana, and 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts. For lunch, mixed greens with extra veggies tossed in olive oil and lemon juice, plus a cup of lentil soup. For dinner, grilled chicken, quinoa, and roasted asparagus. Then, enjoy some plain Greek yogurt, topped with a squirt of honey and fresh berries for dessert."
What about smart snacking?
"Wedding planning is stressful enough, so ward off mood swings and irritability by choosing complex carbs. The fiber in whole grain crackers, brown rice, and the skin of a potato slows the absorption of sugar into your blood stream, sustaining your energy levels and mood."
And for the immune system?
"Boost your defenses with probiotic-packed yogurt, topped with a vitamin C-rich fruit like strawberries, pineapple, or mango. Use fresh or frozen fruit if blending a smoothie. Or, make your own trail mix with almonds, cashews, walnuts, banana chips, and dark chocolate morsels. This combo provides the powerhouse antioxidant vitamin E, immune-boosting zinc, plenty of energizing B vitamins, and even some anti-inflammatory omega-3s."