Feeling the pain of the pre-wedding schedule? Nutritionist Valerie Shakerley outlines five simple steps to take you from wedding-weary to aisle-ready
Let’s face it: planning a wedding can be exhausting. Not only does it require the skill set of a CEO and a bucketload of energy, these days you need to throw a penchant for DIY into the mix too. Long hours of pouring over spreadsheets, negotiating family dramas and making paper pom-poms – alongside the usual demands of work/children/running a household – is no mean feat – and it’s tempting to reach for a sugary pick-me-up when your energy levels are waning.
As scrumptious as the odd sweet treat might be, it’s just not going to provide the energy kick-start your body needs. What’s more, delving too frequently into your chocolate stash isn’t going to do your waistline any favours – if you’re already worried about fitting into your wedding dress, this is an added pressure you really don’t need.
So bin the biscuits and sidestep the caffeine! I’ve devised a simple five-step – and very tasty – plan to maximise your energy levels, minimise stress and maintain the best possible weight throughout this demanding – but oh-so exciting – time.
1. Eliminate Simple Sugars
Keeping your blood sugar balanced is probably the most important factor in maintaining both a consistent energy level and weight. The level of glucose in your blood largely determines your appetite – so when the level drops, you feel hungry. When the levels are too high, however, the excess is converted into fat. A peak rise in blood sugar is followed by a sharp decrease, resulting in poor concentration, fatigue and irritability.
Get off the sugar rollercoaster by avoiding, or even better, eliminating processed foods including biscuits, cakes and fruit juices, and be aware of the sugar content in low-fat processed foods such as yoghurts and cereals.
When you’re feeling peckish, instead of hitting the biscuit tin, eat a sugar-balancing snack such as a few nuts or seeds with a piece of fruit, a rice cake with almond butter, pears or apples with almond butter, sliced goat’s cheese with wholegrain crackers or avocado with an oatcake. Forgo the coffee in favour of a cup of green tea, which is chock full of L-theanine, an amino acid, which makes you feel focused and calm.
The higher the content of fibres, proteins and unsaturated fats in your snack (such as nuts, seeds and avocadoes), the slower the glucose will be absorbed, which will stabilise the level of blood glucose, moderating your appetite and sustaining your energy levels for longer. Remember to always carry a snack with you just in case hunger hits and leaves you open to the temptation of buying a quick treat.
2. Eat Colourful Vegetables Everyday
Increasing your consumption of vegetables is another way of keeping your weight and energy levels balanced. Not only are vegetables rich in water-soluble fibres, which are really important to optimise your digestive health, they are packed with antioxidants, which are very protective, especially during stressful times.
Think of your plate as a mood board, which should be as bright and colourful as possible: think deep green (broccoli, kale, spinach, rocket), orange (carrot, sweet potato, butternut squash, pumpkin), yellow (pepper, courgette), red (pepper, tomato) and purple (sprouting broccoli, red cabbage, beetroot). Organically grown vegetables have higher nutrient levels as well as higher levels of antioxidants and protective polyphenols.
THE LOOK-GOOD LUNCH
Ditch the same old sandwich and try this super-healthy and oh-so-easy lunch idea. Take a glass jar and fill the bottom with a dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, honey or garlic), then add heavier protein-rich content such as a boiled egg, sardines, avocadoes or pulses. Add grated apple, carrot or beetroot and, finally, cover the top with some salad leaves. You can prepare your jars in advance and leave them in the fridge for three to four days. Ideal for taking to work, simply empty the content onto a plate and enjoy.
3. Add Quality Protein to Every Meal
Proteins are the vital building blocks of all living cells, so eating the right quantity of the best possible quality is very important.
A perfect option for breakfast, eggs are wonderfully nutritious thanks to their high bioavailability of all essential amino acids. There’s a tantalising variety of fresh fish caught on our doorstep, which is delicious baked in the oven with white wine, rosemary, dill or oregano, and olive oil. Go for organic and preferably grass fed meat; eat lamb and/or beef once to twice a week and alternate with turkey or chicken.
Nuts, seeds and pulses such as lentils offer a great variety of vegetarian proteins; these are delicious in salads, while nuts and seeds sprinkled onto a bowl of oat porridge also makes for a nutritious breakfast.
4. Don’t Forget Your Healthy Fats
Fat isn’t a bad word. Fats are crucial for the health of our cells and tissues, endocrine system and brain function and, to keep your weight down and energy levels balanced, fats of the good variety are important. While we do need saturated fat, getting the balance right between these and the good, unsaturated fats is the key.
Sadly lacking from our modern diets, omega-3 fats play an essential role in regulating blood sugar levels – directly contributing to balancing weight in the process – and they’re excellent for the skin to boot. Increase your intake through oily fish (sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herrings), flax seeds and walnuts and eat your way to a radiant aisle-ready complexion.
5. Drink Lots of Water
Finally, to make sure that you eliminate toxins and keep yourself hydrated, drink water – and lots of it! It helps to keep a record of your water intake: aim for six to eight glasses of purified, filtered water a day. You can also hydrate with herbal teas; think chamomile to relax, ginger and peppermint to facilitate digestion and liquorice to boost your liver health.
I love to share my advice from a nutritionist perspective, but I want you to remember that you are perfect as you are and should not feel any pressure to be a certain size by your wedding day!