By Emily Harrison MS, RD, LD
For busy dancers, eating healthy might seem overwhelming. Busy schedules, long days in the theatre or studio, and tight budgets can make meals and snacks challenging. Here are a few suggestions for making healthy options easier and more convenient.
Planning! (I know, I know…hard, but worth it)
Spend a quick 15 minutes a week before you go grocery shopping and write out what you are going to make (or reheat) for dinner each night. Then you are not stuck at the end of a long rehearsal day saying to yourself “I’m exhausted and I have no idea what to make for dinner”. A short time planning means that all the ingredients are already there in your kitchen and you know what to make. I write a little list with each day of the week and stick it to the fridge on Sunday.
Do some of the prep work ahead of time
Pick a day that isn’t as busy and spend a little time doing food preparation for the week. Wash and chop the veggies and store them in reusable containers in the fridge. Having washed, chopped veggies ready makes them easy and convenient to just pull out and do a quick sauté or steam. If I need chopped onion for stirfry on Monday and for burritos on Thursday, I go ahead and chop two of them up at the start of the week. Spending just 15 extra minutes today prepping food, will make your day less stressful tomorrow. And if you do the prep work yourself, you save money!
Some prep tips:
Rice: Make a big pot of rice and store in the fridge for up to 3 days to cut down on cooking time. Brown rice is healthy (and cheap) and works well for stir fry or for filling in wraps or burritos.
Quinoa: Another quick and easy grain that can be made in advance is quinoa. It cooks in only 20 min, absorbs flavors well, and is rich in protein.
Couscous: If you are really pressed for time, cous cous cooks in only 5 minutes. Cook with veggie broth and throw handfuls of veggies in the pot while it cooks. They will be lightly steamed and full of flavor. This is a dish in less than 10 minutes with only one pot to wash. Make double portions to freeze for quick meals later.
Frozen is fine
Don’t have time to prep fresh veggies? That’s ok, I know we are all trying to eat local produce, but hey sometimes you have to keep it simple and just microwave some frozen veggies. Studies show that frozen veggies can actually have higher nutrient content than ones that have been on a truck for days from across the country or overseas. Sometimes you can find organic frozen veggies for cheaper than fresh. Just try to aim for the general rule that all lunches have at least one vegetable and all dinners have two.
Make healthy snack options convenient
- Wash those grapes and put them in a bowl at eye level in the fridge.
- Have a full bowl of fruit out in a visible place.
- Buy a box (or 10) of whole grain museli bars for easy snacks. Keep a box in your locker at the studio.
- Buy whole grain tortillas, you can hide a truck load of veggies in those and they’re easy. Plus wraps or burritos can be eaten one handed if you are racing out the door.
- Make a big bowl of cold pasta salad with microwaved frozen veggies, cheese bites and your favourite salad dressing. Put in small, reusable to-go containers for grab and go snacks/ meals.
- Pack your dance bag the night before with a healthy 100-150 calorie snack that doesn’t need refrigeration like dried fruit and nuts, a museli bar, or a banana.
Emily Cook Harrison MS, RD, LD
Emily is a registered dietitian and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition from Georgia State University, USA. Her master’s thesis research was on elite level ballet dancers and nutrition and she has experience providing nutrition services for weight management, sports nutrition, disordered eating, disease prevention, and food allergies. Emily was a professional dancer for eleven years with the Atlanta Ballet and several other companies. She is a dance educator and the mother of two young children. She now runs the Centre for Dance Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org www.dancernutrition.com
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