“People tend to just panic before their wedding because there’s such a focus on the aesthetic and how you’re going to look in photos,” Maria Mekhael of the Diet Therapist tells me. “But it’s more important to focus on firstly, having an amazing time, but also on how you feel. The last thing you want is to be standing there feeling so hungry and stressed and tired that you can’t even enjoy yourself.”
As a trained Nutritional therapist, Maria has an encyclopedic knowledge of food that she brings to a whole range of clients – brides-to-be included. As a bride-to-be myself, I went to Maria to find out what foods I should be adding to my diet in the lead up to my wedding day that will help me to look my best. Here’s what I learnt from Maria:
Consider improving your diet 6 weeks before your wedding
As a fan of the slow and steady approach (last minute juice cleanses are a no-no), Maria says if you’re wanting to focus on your getting your skin radiant and making sure you don’t get ill and have enough energy for your wedding day, you should start thinking about improving your diet around 6 weeks beforehand.
Fatty fish, nuts and seeds for glowing skin
When it comes to having beautiful skin on your wedding day, according to Maria, fats are your friends. “Essential fats in particular will help to keep your skin cells plump and hydrated.”
But before you reach for those crisps, it’s omega fats, especially omega 3s, that you want to be focussing on. These can be found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines, as well as plant sources like chia, walnuts and flaxseeds.
Broccoli or strawberries to boost collagen
We hear a lot about collagen when it comes to beauty products, but one of the best ways to add it to your skin is by eating Vitamin C.
“Vitamin C is really important to synthesize collagen,” says Maria. “So instead of drinking the sachets of collagen that are available now, it’s better to help your body synthesize it naturally by eating things like broccoli, peppers and cauliflower. Strawberries, watercress and citrus such as oranges are also high in Vitamin C.”
Leafy greens or pumpkin seeds to avoid stress
Stress is always inevitable when planning a wedding, but I was shocked to learn from Maria that stress can be just as dangerous as sugar. Luckily, there are foods that can help to help calm stress and anxiety.
“Magnesium is nature’s tranquiliser,” advises Maria. “So, occasionally I might recommend a magnesium supplement. Otherwise pumpkin seeds, coco and leafy green veg are rich in magnesium.”
To help add these to your diet Maria recommends bringing pumpkin seeds into the office to snack on or sprinkle over your cereal or salad. Another option is to add a portion of leafy greens to your lunch and dinner, or to a breakfast smoothie. Interestingly, magnesium is easily absorbed through the skin so soaking in a bath with magnesium bath salts, or trying a topical spray or body cream can help too.
Yoghurt or kombucha to aid bloating
If you suffer from ongoing bloating, it might be something worth speaking to your doctor or dietitian about. But generally speaking, Maria recommends adding fermented foods that have good bacteria to your diet to improve your gut health.
“The obvious ones are full fat Greek yoghurt and kefir which is a fermented yoghurt drink, and then also fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kim chi and kombucha.
Miso soup, olives and good quality sourdough are also probiotics. If you’re dairy-free, there are lots of alternatives these days, from coconut kefir, to plant-based yoghurts fortified with vegan-friendly active live cultures.
Brown bread and brown rice for more energy
We’ve all heard of the bride who has sworn an enemy in carbs but, turns out, cutting out carbohydrates can do more harm than good.
“It’s very common for brides to eat a super-low carb diet in the run-up to their wedding, and many combine this with frequent sessions of high intensity exercise in an effort to shed pounds. Too much HIT, together with a diet too low in carbohydrates can contribute to a hormone imbalance in some women, and may lower testosterone levels whilst increasing production of the stress hormone cortisol.” says Maria. “So you end up adding to your overall stress load and feeling awful.”
Instead of avoiding carbs completely, Maria recommends simply swapping white bread, white rice and white pasta for brown bread, brown rice and spelt pasta, which will help you to feel fuller for longer and help sustain your energy.
Skip the detox teas and drink water instead
“It’s tempting because everyone wants a fast fix, so you think ‘oh I’ll just drink this tea’ so I can fit into my dress,” says Maria. “But they are so dangerous.”
While many of them differ in ingredients, it’s very common for detox teas to include laxative-based ingredients or diuretics. So while you will feel like you’ve lost weight you've really just lost water and muscle mass, instead of fat.
Avoid broccoli and fizzy drinks on your wedding day
While it’s not about depriving yourself of certain foods, if you’re wanting to avoid bloating on your wedding day, Maria recommends avoiding cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and kale), beans and lentils - as these can ferment in your stomach causing gas and are common triggers for those who are susceptible to bloating. Foods that contain sugar alcohols (many common sweeteners) such as diet fizzy drinks and chewing gum can also contribute to bloating.
Instead, for your wedding morning breakfast, Maria recommends starting the day with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with a side of spinach - or greek yoghurt with a little pineapple and papaya (these fruit naturally contain digestive enzymes that will help calm a nervous stomach).
“You want to focus on a nutrient-dense meal that keeps your blood sugar stable - particularly as you may also be producing a lot of adrenaline which can play havoc with your blood sugar!" says Maria. "So, the protein in these will keep you full without that bloated feeling, but also help stop your blood glucose - and energy levels - crashing a few hours later, so you can focus on the big day."