Wedding season is in full bloom, and a lot of big choices lie ahead. What will you wear? Who will be your plus one? How will you avoid going broke going to all your friends' weddings?? (Here's how.)
Most importantly, what will you eat? Before you check off that RSVP card indicating your dinner preference two months from now, consider whether meats like chicken and beef — or lighter choices, like fish or vegetarian dishes — are really the best choice, based on value, quality, cost to your hosts and how much each option is likely to fill you up.
We talked to experts to break down the pros and cons of each option. Here's how to decide what to choose.
If you know the newlyweds are balancing a budget...
Vegetables are inexpensive, but if you want a protein, be polite and order the chicken, which generally costs less.
"Chicken is always cheaper," Rose said. She did note, however, that "when you're buying chicken in bulk, the quality can really drop," so if you're concerned with eating exclusively hormone-free, antibiotic-free poultry, a wedding may not be the best place to enjoy a chicken dinner.
If you want to get tipsy...
Want to make the most of the open bar? A heavier meal of beef or chicken may not be conducive to that tipsiness you need to lead you to the dance floor.
"Research suggests eating something heavier like chicken if you're trying to sober up — and pairing it with fruit, which is high in fructose, can help speed this process up," Marcus Vlahovic, founder and CEO of Sustainabody, a weight loss-tracking app, said via email. "However, as a heavier food, chicken can create some yawns while your body spends some of its calories digesting it, especially after a busy day."
If you want to pack in the nutrients...
Planning to leave your daily multivitamins at home during the wedding? Fish should probably be in your future.
"Seafood is a delicious and nutrient-rich option that will satisfy any appetite," registered dietitian Rima Kleiner said via email. Because seafood is a lean protein, it will keep you fuller longer, and let you break it down on the dance floor without feeling hungry later on. "Seafood is packed with healthy nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, which all contribute to positive overall health," Kleiner added.
If zipping your suit or dress is getting difficult...
Afraid overeating may lead to a popped button? Veggies or fish will keep your clothes snug, but not too tight.
"When it comes to wedding celebrations, the last thing you want to feel is bloated, but luckily seafood may help with that," Kleiner said. "The omega-3s in seafood block prostaglandin production, which means they can help decrease inflammation and eliminate discomfort."
Similarly, most seafood is naturally low in calories, so "you don't have to feel guilty indulging in a glass of champagne or a slice of wedding cake," Kleiner said. Passing up chicken for champagne and cake? Fine!
If you love to dance...
Put on your dancing shoes and get ready to groove: Protein-rich foods — meats and seafood alike — will have you ready to show off your best moves.
"Both chicken and fish are primarily made from protein and fat," nutrition expert and registered dietitian Toby Amidor explained in an email. "Dancing requires more carbs and perhaps some fat if you're dancing for many hours."
So load up on those sides too. And don't worry about dancing your way to starvation before the midnight food truck. "Hefty amounts of protein ... [take] longer to digest," Amidor said.
If you're a picky eater...
When making a wedding menu, Bay Area-based caterer and personal chef Lauren Rose said she tries to create a menu that will appeal to the masses, especially knowing wedding crowds can be multigenerational. What will appeal to millennials and grandparents alike?
As a general rule, chicken is a traditional, safer dish, Rose said in a phone interview, as it's designed to appeal more to Great Uncle Henry than the avid foodstagrammer. That being said, Rose has created unique chicken dishes, like a tikka masala rubbed fried chicken, that she said was well received by everyone at the party, as they were excited for a "refreshing change" to what could otherwise be a typical, boring chicken dish.
Chances are your chicken will be prepared in a more familiar way, so if you like predictable, stick with the poultry option.
Use common sense
Is this wedding being hosted in a flyover state? You may be craving salmon when you're dressed in your wedding guest best, but unless this reception is being hosted in a coastal city, be skeptical of the freshness of the fish. Frozen fish (and who can verify if this caterer's stock is fresh frozen...) avoiders should steer toward land-based meats if you're partying in a landlocked state.
Rose suggests using resources like EWG.org and Seafood Watch to keep up to date on sustainable, safe and ethically conscious seafood, which works for her Bay Area-based business, but those marrying far from a coast may not have such a conscientious caterer.
Bonus: Is it rude to order a vegetarian meal even if you're a meat lover?
No, you're not a jerk for requesting the vegetarian option, which may actually be cheaper for the hosts. "Putting together a veggie dish is always going to be easy, because you have to buy so many meat-free products when cooking for a crowd," Rose said. "And sometimes the vegetarian dish can be more interesting than the chicken or fish option!"
And she assures that no, it's not rude to be a vegetarian for the night even if you're a known meat lover: "A lot of couples are putting an emphasis on interesting vegetarian options and some are even vegan options too."
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