Based on research done in my survey of other dancers’ diet regimes, it appears that many choose to eat out simply because it is the easiest and fastest option to fuel themselves. Not to mention, some said that they relied on takeout because they were…
In my last post, I compared dancers’ diets based on the results of a survey I sent to my Instagram followers. While it is true that I was overjoyed to have had many willing dancers participate in the survey, I was not expecting to receive…
In my last blog post, I discussed what I typically eat in a day during a rehearsal day, pre-COVID times. That being said, writing that post made me wonder what other dancers’ diet regimes were like in comparison and what better way to find out this kind of information than by making a survey!
I made this survey open to dancers of all ages, genders, and also levels (professional and pre-professional) to compare and contrast the differences and similarities in dancers’ diets. While the main goal I was hoping to achieve in this survey was to get various types of responses, I was surprised to discover some unexpected results as well.
- 0 people ate once a day
- 3 people ate twice a day
- 12 people ate three times a day
- 10 people ate four times a day
- 15 people ate five or more times a day
4 people do not eat breakfast
36 people do eat breakfast and of the people that do eat breakfast…
- 7 people ate yogurt
- 12 people ate oatmeal
- 11 people ate eggs
- 8 people drank coffee with their breakfast
- 4 people had smoothies/smoothie bowls
- 19 people had fruit with their breakfast
- 7 people had toast, a bagel, or an English muffin with breakfast
- 11 people had nuts/nut butter with their breakfast.
- 7 people eat many small meals per day
- 6 people eat a few large meals a day
- 27 people eat somewhere in between
17 people did not have food restrictions
23 people did have food restrictions and I learned that, of those surveyed…
- 9 people are vegan
- 6 people do not consume dairy
- 8 people do not eat gluten
- 5 people are pescatarian (don’t eat meat but do eat fish)
- 3 people are vegetarian
Other food restrictions people had included nixing or limiting processed sugars, onion, garlic, and soy.
After analyzing the results:
30 people did not have food allergies
10 people did have food allergies and of those allergies…
- 4 people are allergic to gluten
- 5 people are lactose intolerant (allergic to dairy)
- 4 people are allergic to nuts (almonds and peanuts especially)
Other food allergies people had include shellfish, soy, and sesame.
Question #6: Have You Made Any Changes or Adjustments to Your Diet Over the Years?
After analyzing the results:
2 people have not made any dietary changes/adjustments
38 people have made changes/adjustments to their diet and almost all of them were made because of dancing and the remaining were for health or personal reasons.
Some changes dancers made include:
- becoming fully vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or paleo (for various different reasons)
- changing parts of their diet because they started to dance more seriously
- cutting out red meat, fried foods, dairy, and/or gluten
- switching to a higher protein diet focusing on vegetables
- eating more to provide their body with fuel
- eating smaller portions/meals more often
- watching their calorie and macro intake
- focusing on eating more vegetables and fruits and having a variety of them
- focusing on complex vs. simple carbs (slow vs. fast-digesting starches)
- cutting out processed foods and switching to eating whole, unprocessed foods
- switching out dairy milk to oat milk to decrease inflammation
- stop eating things that bloat them
- paying more attention to when and how much they eat for meals
Question #7: Do You Eat Differently During a Dancing Day vs. a Non-Dancing Day?
After analyzing the results:
14 people do not eat differently
26 people do eat differently…
- 11 people eat more on dancing days
- 5 people eat less on dancing days
7 peoples’ eating habits are more flexible and less strict when they’re not dancing/on days off.
Question #8: Do You Prefer to Cook Your Meals or Eat Out/Get Take-Out?
After analyzing the results:
- 24 people prefer to cook their own meals
- 15 people rotate between home-cooked and take-out meals
- 1 person usually chooses to eat out
- 3 people stated that they eat out for social reasons or for pure fun and enjoyment
Question #9: Do You Take Any Supplements?
After analyzing the results:
9 people do not take supplements
31 people do take supplements…
- 14 people take a multivitamin
- 9 people take magnesium
- 8 people take calcium
- 6 people take a probiotic
- 7 people take vitamin D
- 6 people take vitamin B12 (essential if you don’t eat meat)
Other supplements people take include Vitamins A, B, C, and K, Turmeric, Iron, Zinc, and Potassium.
Question #10: What is your current perspective on nutrition and health in regard to being a dancer?
I received so many great responses for this last question and as much as I wish I could share every single respondent I don’t think anyone has the patience to read through each one (even though I did).
But for those that do, feel free to read some of the highlights ;^)
- “Healthy balanced diets with food freedom.”
- “What you eat will help to sustain you throughout your day and keep you healthy and uninjured, as well as maintaining muscular strength.”
- “Overall health is extremely beneficial to all aspects of life, especially as high performing athletes.”
- “Not every dancer or person is going to feel the same or look the same from being on the same diet… it takes a lot of trial and error and patience.”
- “Too much restriction will make you feel too down, a good balance is key.”
- “…Diet Culture is extremely dangerous and the ‘perfect ballerina’ body is dangerous to many folks whose bodies are unable to fit the standard. I believe a strong body is most beautiful and think each person should be attentive to their personal body needs.”
- “Everyone’s body is different and needs different things. Our bodies change drastically from our teen years, early 20’s and later, that all needs to be taken into account.”
- “Food should nourish your body and mind in a way that is enjoyable and also fuels your performance, but should not be fixated on or obsessed over.”
- “Nutrition is key! Fuels your performance and makes you feel good mentally and physically.”
- “…For some people dance enhances and improves their nutrition and health because of the awareness developed.”
- “I’ve managed to find a routine that works for my body and gives me energy while not being too much. It was definitely difficult to find that balance though…”
- “I believe proper nutrition is absolutely essential for reaching my full potential as a dancer. I also really wish that dancers were better educated on how diverse people’s nutritional needs can be.”
- “Dancing requires so much energy that I need to nourish my body properly to continue performing at my best. When I under-fuel or fuel improperly, my dancing suffers, so it is something I have to be conscious of… sometimes I have to also eat to nourish my spirit, and that is important to remember.”
- “…making sure dancers get all the most important nutrients so they can train their hardest and make the most of each rehearsal/performance.”
- “I think that being healthy should be the goal – not being super thin… I’ve become a much better dancer and a happier person since eating an appropriate amount and giving my body what it needs… mental and physical health is also so important!”
- “I think eating healthy is super important for ballet so that my body can get plenty of nutrients. I make sure to eat enough so that I have plenty of energy throughout the day.”
- “…dancers need diets that properly fuel and satisfy them… there is no one ‘dancer diet, everyone is different and that’s okay.”
- “I want to feel my best, so I need to eat my best.”
- “Eat enough so you have the energy to get through the day but when you can eat healthy foods that will give you good fuel!”
- “Crucial, but it shouldn’t always be on your mind – dancing is the priority!”
- “Finding what works for your body and what helps you dance at your peak is the most important thing.”
- “…it’s very personal to the person and that everyone is on their own journey to find what’s right for them.”
- “…listening to your body and seeing what works for you/gives you ample energy is the most important for dancers.”
- “…proper nutrition and adequate intake are necessary for a happy and healthy dancer.”
- “I’ve restricted before and I know now how it leads to injuries, stress fractures, etc. It is so important to eat balanced meals to have proper energy and support the stress we put on our bodies.”
- “Finding a diet that works for YOU! Not being pressured to eliminate foods if it works great for you! What works for one person may not work for someone else!”
- “I am finally coming out of a bad relationship with food and learning I need to fuel my body with all kinds of food to stay healthy and strong…My current perspective on health/nutrition for dancers is that we need to be educated properly about how to fuel our bodies correctly. For me, that’s making sure I’m not restricting myself of the calories and nutrients I need and giving my body healthy nutritious foods.”
Therefore, what I hope dancers can take away from this post is that they are not alone and that pretty much every dancer has struggled with their eating habits at least once in their life. It was also interesting for me to see how many of my own habits and thoughts about eating were similar to so many other dancers as well. This just comes to show that we all are continuing to learn more about ourselves to help us find what foods, diets, and eating styles work best for our own bodies.
One of the main reasons why I got into nutrition is because I love how there is not a right or wrong answer on what is the “best diet” or what foods are the “healthiest.” I learned that this is because people have different body…
Back in 2018, I did an interview, via Facebook Live, with my friend Jess Spinner discussing nutrition, health, wellness, ballet, and more. Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Health Coach and founder of The Whole Dancer Blog. She supports dancers in reaching their…
While it’s true that taking care of your health is important for all individuals to avoid catching illnesses, developing health issues, and live a long happy life, I believe that dancers, in particular, should pay close attention to their health and nutrition since they use their bodies very physically.
Over the years I have gained knowledge about nutrition and health from multiple different sources through books, articles, podcasts, documentaries, and also from other senior dancers/colleagues. (Disclaimer) although, that being said, I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or registered dietitian so please consult one of those before making any changes to your diet and lifestyle.
In this series of nutrition-related-blog posts, I will be sharing tips and tricks that I’ve learned and worked for me (so adjust to your liking accordingly and take everything with a grain of salt). I say this because it took a LOT of trial and error to figure out what foods and type of “diet” suits me and my daily lifestyle, and even still I’m constantly changing and tweaking things as I grow older and also my workload increases.
So, without further ado, the first subject manner I wanted to cover in this blog post series is how to develop a healthy relationship with food since I know many dancers struggle with this, myself included. One major topic I think should be addressed is how you can find balance in your daily diet and also learn to distinguish between eating for “fuel” versus eating for “pleasure”.
Eating for fuel essentially entails that you simply consume foods that will provide you with energy for whatever activity you are doing. Some examples of foods that provide fuel (but may not be as exciting for the taste buds) include lean proteins (like chicken, turkey, eggs, and fish) and complex carbohydrates (like whole grains, gluten-free oats, and sweet potatoes) alongside leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, arugula, etc.).
In contrast, eating for pleasure entails that you eat certain foods that bring you joy even if it may not be the “healthiest choice.” Some examples of “guilty pleasure” foods include desserts (like ice cream, cakes, cookies, donuts, crepes, and pastries), “junk foods” (like chips, candy, soda, pizza, and other fried foods), and comfort foods (like mac and cheese, pasta, hearty stews, burgers, pancakes, and waffles).
With these thoughts in mind, there are certain times when it is best to utilize each “style” of eating. For instance, eating a big bowl of ice cream or a huge helping of fried foods would probably not be a good idea right before a dancing in a performance. But this does not mean that you can never eat nor enjoy these kinds of foods. Just know that there is a time and place for both.
This brings me to my favorite phrase said by Oscar Wilde which is “everything in moderation, including moderation.” Essentially, this saying means that you should eat them (yes including “junk foods,” sweets, carbs, or whatever it may be), just in moderation by having a small portion/serving then move on. This way you can still maintain your health, fitness, and weight-management goals without feeling deprived of your favorite foods.
Another thing a dancer can do to help develop a healthy relationship with food is to listen to their hunger cues and eat when they are hungry. When you spend your whole day staring at yourself in a mirror and critiquing how your body looks, it is no wonder why so many dancers choose to starve themselves since most of their day is spent in a leotard and tights (and no one likes that terribly bloated feel and look). The problem with this is by the time the dancer gets home from dance practice or a long day of rehearsals, they are much more likely to eat a larger amount of food in a shorter period because they were ignoring their hunger cues.
Furthermore, one last idea to consider on the topic of building a good relationship with food and developing healthy eating habits is allowing yourself to have the flexibility and not beat yourself up if you “cheat” on your diet. As mentioned earlier, it is important to make sure that you leave room to enjoy the foods you love, especially when you are in the company of loved ones and for special occasions like holidays, birthdays, parties, and special events. I used to struggle a lot with going out to eat at restaurants because I hated not knowing how the food was cooked or what ingredients were used. “How much salt/sugar did they add to this?” “Why is the food cooked in so much oil?” “There are HOW many calories in this whole meal?” These are just some examples of thoughts I used to have while eating out, thus preventing me from enjoying my meal and time spent with family or friends.
Therefore, what I hope you take from this post is that developing a healthy relationship with food takes time, effort, and patience to achieve balance and find a happy medium in eating. Also, knowing it is okay to make mistakes along the way when trying to create a “diet” or “eating lifestyle” that works for you. While it is no lie that ballet is a very aesthetic art form, without proper fuel (eating adequately), the dancer would not be able to perform their craft to their best abilities.
All through life we are constantly faced with many obstacles preventing us from getting to our next step in life. In my case, an obstacle like starting Saint Mary’s LEAP program (a college program for dancers) and being overwhelmed with a dance-heavy season at San…
If you are a fan of anything with pumpkin or pumpkin spiced then you’ll truly fall in love with this recipe! These Pumpkin Pie Fat Balls get their name because they are full of healthy fats, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, from nuts, seeds, and coconut and because they taste just like pumpkin pie! Well, almost.
I know what you’re thinking . . . not another banana bread recipe!
Well, if you read my last post about my Pinnertest food intolerance test results, you would know that I’m quite intolerant to egg yolks. So, even though I’m not a vegan (as of now) I wanted to try and experiment baking vegan and paleo goods without eggs! Not to mention, the weather is changing so now I have no excuse not to bake as many goodies as my heart desires! Plus, it makes the whole house smell heavenly. I mean who wouldn’t want to cuddle up by the fireplace with a nice cup of tea and a slice of warm banana bread for brunch on a weekend morning?
So, with my super over-ripened spotty bananas and fantasies of banana bread on my mind, I searched the web for the best vegan banana bread recipes and found Sweet Simple Vegan’s Vegan and Oil-Free Banana Bread! I did make some changes and some additions to the recipe. The original recipe calls for gluten-free oat flour but I used Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour instead, which uses Almond Flour, Arrowroot Starch, Organic Coconut Flour, and Tapioca Flour. I nixed adding dates because bananas are already so sweet on their own that there was no need. Plus, instead of using any kind of nut milk, I added a bottle of Golden Chai Spice Almond Milk from Pop and Bottle just for fun (also because I’m a hardcore turmeric-golden-milk fan).
You may be wondering, how in the world can you bake banana bread without eggs?
Well, say hello to my little friend called “Flegg” (insert Tony Montana holding a banana-shaped bowl). A “flegg” is made by mixing ground flaxseed meal with water and is now one of my new favorite vegan baking/cooking substitutes requiring eggs. All you have to do is mix the flaxseed meal and water in a bowl and let that baby sit in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes, or until it has a gel-like consistency. If you don’t have flaxseed meal, simply blend flaxseeds in a food processor until it forms a fine powder. (If you don’t have flaxseeds OR flaxseed meal, chia seeds are a great alternative!) I’ve been using fleggs for quite some time now and find that it works really well! Also, the extra bananas in this recipe provide the moisture needed in place of eggs.
So, whether you’re vegan, intolerant to eggs, and/or in love with golden milk like me – this banana bread recipe is just for you!
- 2 tbsp ground flax seed powder or chia seeds
- 6 tbsp water
- 2 cups paleo baking flour (almond flour, coconut flour, arrowroot starch, and tapioca flour)
- 3 large ripe & spotty bananas, mashed
- 1 extra banana to top, if desired
- ½ cup golden almond milk from Pop and Bottle (can use regular nut or coconut milk instead)
- 1 ½-2 tsp organic vanilla extract (I used 2)
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 Tbs tigernut prebiotic smoothie mix (optional)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp ashwaghanda (optional)
- 1/4 tsp rholdiola (optional)
- splash of ginger juice (optional)
- a dash of black pepper (for turmeric absorption)
Preheat oven to 350 F and line a 9×5″ bread pan with parchment paper.
Mix flax seed meal (or chia seeds) with the water, stir well and leave it aside till gooey, about 15-20 minutes.
In a big bowl add the paleo baking flour with baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, turmeric, pepper, and adaptogens and mix well.
Add the mashed banana and flaxseed mixture and stir till it’s combined. Add the banana and flaxseed mixture to the dry mixture; stir until combined. Add in optional ingredients.
Scoop/pour mixture into prepared loaf pan. If desired, take the fourth banana, slice it in half lengthwise, and press into the top of the bread, cut side facing up.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick runs clean.
Let the bread cool down completely as it will be moist and hard to cut into when it’s still hot.
Slice, Serve, and Go BANANAS (again)!
Food intolerances are different than food allergies. How my Pinnertest food intolerance test helped me identify foods I probably shouldn’t eat.