No matter your shape, size, schedule or wedding style, every bride deserves to look and feel absolutely incredible, from the inside out. Ever wonder what you should eat to reduce bloating before dress shopping or a fitting? What about the best foods to promote glowing skin and silky, bridal-ready hair? We went to two nutritionists—Amy Gannon, program manager and chief coach of eCoaching at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, and Robyn Youkilis, author of Go With Your Gut—for expert advice on what to eat, and what to avoid, before five important events leading up to “I do.”
Wedding Dress Shopping
You want to embody the best, most natural version of yourself on your wedding day. To achieve that goal, you should start your wedding dresssearch feeling that way too.
Steer Clear of Sodium
A great way to reduce bloating is to monitor your sodium intake. Any prepared or processed foods contain a ton of sodium. Gannon says 75 percent of sodium intake in the US comes from packaged and restaurant food—whoa. Definitely watch out for this and be extra careful when unwrapping a snack or ordering at a restaurant. Shoot for the most simply prepared, least processed foods, and try to cook for yourself as often as you can.
When it comes to fiber in your diet, Gannon suggests taking the Goldilocks approach: too much and you’ll end up bloated and uncomfortable; but too little and you’ll feel blocked up and bloated (it’s not pretty, but it’s true). So before trying on dresses, heed Gannon’s note: “Instead of a heaping bowl of bran cereal, which could be too much fiber at once, opt for low-fat Greek yogurt with berries for the right mix of lean protein and fiber.”
Probiotics stimulate the growth of good bacteria in your gut for healthy digestion. Fermented foods (Youkilis loves sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and yogurt) are full of quality probiotics to help curb cravings, keep your digestive system on track, and guard you from feeling bloated and sluggish after meals.
Don’t knock this super simple tip before you try it. Youkilis claims this one change in your eating habits can completely transform your relationship with food. The fact is, your stomach can’t chew on it’s own (that’s why we have teeth!). So any food that isn’t thoroughly chewed can’t actually be digested, which causes bloating, weight gain and inflammation. “Chew your food until it’s liquid to feel full for longer and keep your stomach flatter. You’ll be skipping around from all the energy without a single diet change!” Youkilis says.
Wedding Dress Fittings
The Goal: To maintain your weight and shape from your previous fittings (and avoid having to undergo severe dress alterations).
Slow and Steady
If you want to slim down and stay trim, you have to go about it in a healthy, balanced, gradual and sustainable way, Gannon says. That means no crazy crash diets that severely limit or cut out entire food groups. Even if one of those drastic diets does work at first, it could only cause rapid weight loss that you can’t maintain (in fact, many people gain weight after the initial, rapid drop due to eventual binge eating and the inability to sustain such a severely restricted diet). For a bride-to-be, a fiasco like this could mean thousands of dollars in dress alterations if you lose, or regain, a lot of weight between fittings.
The Whole Picture
So, if you’re really serious about shedding some weight before your date, you should approach it as a more holistic lifestyle change. Don’t panic—it sounds scary and drastic, but it’s really about the combination of many small, subtle changes in order to achieve a larger goal. First, start early—gradual is best. “Focus on balanced meals with lean proteins, healthy fats and quality carbohydrates,” Gannon says. “[Look to] whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, chicken, fish, avocados, oatmeal, quinoa and plain, low-fat dairy.”
Five Foods Rule
To help maintain weight between fittings, follow Youkilis’s handy Rule of Five: Eat a maximum of five different foods at each given meal. This method helps you avoid the troublesome trap of complicating and overcrowding your meals with too many things. You don’t need a salad with dozens of body-friendly toppings—that’s too much clutter, even if all the ingredients are good for you on their own. Chill out and focus on eating a balanced meal or snack with no more than five major ingredients (oil and spices don’t count).
One great way to curb junk food cravings and stay lean is Youkilis’s Two-Minute Rule, which is just as simple as it sounds. Want that leftover doughnut from the office party? Wait—set a timer (on your phone, for example) for two minutes. Consider what you’re really craving. Maybe you’d be satisfied with a cup of hot green tea or a few gulps of water. If when the two minutes is up, you still can’t stop thinking about that treat, go ahead and have some. “It’s likely though, in those two minutes, the craving will disappear, or you’ll be able to decide on a better-for-you alternative,” Youkilis says.
Engagement Photo Shoot
The Goal: To energize and promote both clear skin and a healthy, natural, camera-ready glow.
Keep nutrient-rich foods—full of antioxidants, phytochemicals and healthy fats—in your meal wheelhouse to support healthy, clear skin. Fresh fruits and veggies are always an awesome go-to, as they’re full of these nutrients and water (which we’ll get to in a minute). Gannon recommends choosing produce like oranges, bell peppers, broccoli and cantaloupe that have tons of vitamin C (important for collagen production for healthy skin and tissues). Foods like salmon, sardines, walnuts and flaxseeds offer omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory and can benefit skin too.
“Our bodies need fat to help us feel full and metabolize the nutrients we receive from food we eat,” Youkilis says. “Bonus: Healthy fats are wonderful for your hair, skin and nails, so you’ll have a natural, camera-ready glow.” Now, by no means is this the go-ahead for you to nosh on french fries at every meal—choose good (unsaturated) fats from quality sources, and don’t overdo it. Look to natural, healthy fat sources like olives, avocado, fatty fish (think: salmon, tuna and mackerel), coconut and whole eggs.
“Hydrated skin is glowing skin and water does it all,” says Youkilis, who advises filtered water for optimal hydration. Start your day with a tall glass of water, then continue to drink throughout the day (you’ll want about eight eight-ounce glasses per day). If you’re bored of plain old water, feel free to zest things up. Add anything from fresh citrus juice and slices to mint leaves and cucumbers—you’re the mixologist. Staying properly hydrated is one of the simplest, most effective ways to achieve inner cleanliness and outer radiance.
The Goal Before: To eat and hydrate well so you can bounce back from late-night festivities.
The Goal After: To detox post-party if the food and drinks are super indulgent.
First things first: Start the next day with a big glass of water to rehydrate and get things flowing. “I would also recommend a squeeze of lemon to stimulate your digestive system to help flush out anything left over from the night before,” Youkilis says.
If you’re doing brunch the next day, opt for fare that feels rich and satisfying, but that’s still packed with the good stuff (aka skip the double bacon, egg and cheese—sorry!). “An omelet topped with sliced avocado, whole-grain pancakes with diced fruit, or veggie hash with sweet potatoes and eggs can be satisfying and help you bounce back after a night out,” Gannon says. How could you say no to a post-party menu like that?
Green and Clean
We know—the first thing you crave after a night of tequila shooters probably isn’t a bowl of spinach and kale. But just hear Youkilis out: “Greens naturally detoxify your liver, blood and respiratory system and are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K. They also contain tons of fiber and beautiful chlorophyll. Add healthy fats like avocado or olive oil to maximize nutrient absorption.” So, if you’re up for it, add these power greens where you can: in an omelette, a green smoothie or a big, satisfying salad for lunch or dinner.
The Goal: To be bloat free so your dress looks and feels perfect; to reduce stress and promote a calm, blissful state (there’s no time for a last-minute bridezilla).
Gannon says a common issue for brides is inadvertently skipping meals due to jitters and a hectic schedule. “Don’t let nerves and stress keep you from getting enough nutrients and water throughout the week [before your wedding]. Carry a bottle of water with you and pack extra snacks to be prepared,” Gannon says. Another great way to keep stress at bay is with regular exercise (which, of course, also helps maintain a lean figure).
The day before and the day of your wedding, go with what you know. Avoid trying something new or exotic that might have a weird effect on your system. If you’re at your rehearsal dinner, you’ll have a say in the menu, so plan the meal with your next-day body in mind. Include lean, grilled protein, brown rice and veggies that will give you an optimal balance of nutrients and usually sits well in your stomach. Gannon recommends the same approach on the day of, saying to stick with your go-to breakfast, whether it’s toast with peanut butter, eggs or a smoothie.
Just as important as what you put into your belly is what you do for your psyche. Carve out some “me time,” whether it’s an hour-long workout, a five-minute meditation session or simply enjoying a cup of tea in your favorite chair. Here are some more meditative activities Youkilis loves that’ll help you feel calm and connected on one of the busiest, most exciting days of your life:
- Journaling (in the morning or at night)
- Taking three to five deep breaths
- Drinking a cup of tea or water with lemon and ginger without distraction
- Dancing to your favorite song
- Playing with pets
- Taking a bath
- Lying or sitting in silence for five minutes