by Danielle Downey
Whether you are a dancer or just sucked up into the endless fast pace of today’s lifestyle, fueling your body with healthy on-the-go snacks is a key task to master in order to perform your best on stage or in life.
Eating large meals between rehearsals or before a show is not exactly conducive to our lifestyle as dancers. No dancer wants to do grand allegro or 32 fouettes after chowing down on a large feast, but on the other hand, choosing not to eat is surely not a better option. Thankfully between the spectrum of starving yourself and the ‘yuck factor’ of feeling too full, there is the ingenious happy medium of snacking!
It seems that the strongest, most beautiful dancers that grace the stages are on a lifelong journey to master the ‘technique’ of healthy on-the-go snacking. So whether you already spend countless hours in the studio rehearsing or you are young student aspiring a professional career, it is beneficial for all of us to do a frequent check of our eating (specifically snacking) habits to ensure we are fueling our body with the maximum amount of nutrients and energy to feel and dance our best.
The great thing about snacking is that no matter what your taste buds or dietary needs require, the options are essentially endless! When reevaluating your snacking habits or looking for new ideas, thinking simple is surprisingly a smart and easy tactic. What is your favorite salad or healthy meal? If you break it down into it’s simplest components you will usually be left with a handful of healthy snacking options. By eating these simple foods individually throughout the day you are still receiving all of the nutrients from your favorite healthy meal while never having your waistband feel too tight.
As a dancer I am constantly tweaking my snacking habits. By trial and error and inspiration from other dancers around me, I am on a mission to find the perfect combination of on-the-go snacks to dance and feel better than ever! At the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre we receive a five minute break every hour. Changing my pointe shoes or leotard, using the restroom, checking my phone or just resting my legs are on the short list of things accomplished on those five minute breaks, but most importantly, I always reach for a quick on-the-go snack to keep my energy up for the next hour of rehearsal. My locker has become a makeshift pantry and I take advantage of the company refrigerator to store perishable items. I strive for natural foods high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Here are a list of my favorite healthy on-the-go snacks:
BANANAS- I have replaced the adage about apples with ‘A banana a day keeps the doctor away’. Nothing against apples, but I definitely grab a banana every day because of their high levels of calcium which are key to preventing muscle cramps. Bananas also supply 35% of your daily B-6 requirement which is used to help grow new cells. The fiber found in bananas also helps you feel full longer.
GREEK YOGURT- Greek yogurt has a much higher protein content than regular yogurt, and depending on the brand you prefer you can easily give your body 10-18 grams of it. I have also found that the thicker consistency of Greek yogurt helps me feel full longer.
BARRE. A REAL FOOD BAR.- Developed by a fellow Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer, Barre is a delicious nutrition bar on the market developed with dancers in mind. Julia wanted something to fuel her without weighing her down, something sustaining yet easy to digest, and something containing only the finest all-natural ingredients. When she brought the first product (straight from her food processor) as her healthy on-the-go snack, I tried some and fell in love. When I said I would buy some off of her, the idea for Barre was born!
DARK CHOCOLATE- Snack? Dessert? Call it what you wish, but dark chocolate has been making headlines for its health benefits. It contains more antioxidants than some fruits and vegetables, which can help reduce blood pressure. Chocolate lovers rejoice, but obviously, moderation is the key. I keep a large bar in my locker and break off a small piece whenever I need a small pick-me-up.
NUTS- Nuts are such an easy on-the-go snack, no utensils or refrigeration necessary. The omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts offer many health benefits but one that is really key for dancers is management of inflammation. Nuts are also a great source of arginine, an amino acid which boosts immune function and promotes wound healing.
KASHI GOLEAN CEREAL- I had to add this in because it is a personal favorite of mine in the studio. Keeping a zip lock bag of this right by my barre spot or in my dressing room at the theatre makes for super convenient on-the-go snacking. The 7 whole grains found in this cereal are a great source of complex carbohydrates. It also contains 13 grains of protein!
QUINOA- Coined as a ‘superfood’, quinoa has a long list of health benefits. Containing all nine amino acids, it is one of the most protein-rich foods you can eat. Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as other grains, which is key to helping you feel full on those long days of rehearsal. It contains iron which helps keeps the red blood cells healthy and increases brain function. Quinoa also contains lysine which helps with the growth and repair of body tissue. In addition to its ‘good for you’ qualities, it has endless possibilities in the kitchen (salads, desserts, breads, and much, much more!).
So no matter where you are on your journey to master the art of healthy on-the-go snacking–we can all benefit from doing a monthly reevaluation and refreshment. Get inspired by what is fresh now in the market, what other dancers you look up to are doing, or just tune into what your body needs or craves. Remember that our bodies are like automobiles which carry us where we want to go in life; we should refuel them often and with only the best!
Contributor Danielle Downey has a been a member of the Barre Team since it’s conception. She traveled to Las Vegas for Barre’s first convention, she did some early graphic design work for the look and brand of Barre, and is now marketing Barre through social media outlets. She has seen Barre go from it’s very earliest stages (straight from the food processor in Julia’s kitchen to the studio in a zip-lock bag) to a real food bar recognized by dancers, athletes, and regular ole’ folk all across the country.
Danielle also dances in the Corps de Ballet with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Prior to joining the company, she trained in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Graduate Program. She received her early training with the Lake Erie Ballet and spent summers training with Boston Ballet and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.