Food. A topic that dancers focus on pretty heavily! Today dancer/instructor Emily Kate Long shares some of her personal favorites with readers, along with some thoughts on eating. We’d love to hear from you too, so please feel free to add your own “go-to” foods in the comments section! – Catherine
by Emily Kate Long
Dancers can be an interesting breed when it comes to what we put in our bodies. As elite athletes, our brains and bodies require a lot of fuel to get through long days of rehearsal and performance. Our busy schedules, however, often limit the amount of time and thought we can but into meal planning. And we all have our vices—I know a few dancers who would subsist on chocolate and kettle chips if they could! But, as the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. Content, quantity, and timing are all things to consider when fueling up for the day or replenishing calories after a performance. Here are some inexpensive, easy, nutrition-packed dishes to power mind and body. In the words of the inimitable Julia Child, bon apetit!
If you’re not a morning person, it can be all too easy to grab your coffee and pointe shoes and run out the door. When I was in high school taking 8 a.m. ballet classes, a friend introduced me to Swiss oatmeal. Talk about an easy and nutritious breakfast. There are a lot of fancy recipes out there, but you basically take two parts yogurt to one part whole rolled oats, stir in a little dried or chopped fresh fruit, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. The yogurt “cooks” the oats and softens the dried fruit. Before serving you can add nuts, frozen berries, or honey (or a few dark chocolate chips!) for crunch and sweetness. What you get is an awesome shot of textures, flavors, complex carbs, and complete protein to start the day. It’s my first choice for a go-to power breakfast, and a batch will keep up to three or four days in the fridge.
For daytime fuel, it’s important to have energy-dense foods that aren’t bulky in your dance bag or your stomach. A lot of dancers rely on protein bars, which are great in moderation if you find ones like Barre, Kind, or Larabar, that are minimally processed. Hard-boiled eggs are another really good choice—a portable complete protein in convenient single serving. Cut-up fruit and vegetables with nut butter are also valuable fuel. As a bonus, the water content of fresh fruit and vegetables helps you stay hydrated.
I enjoy cooking as a way to unwind and get creative with culinary science experiments, but I don’t usually have time except on my day off. That’s when I cook a few meals’ worth of something and save the leftovers. Often, my base is homemade stock, a flavorful and wholesome staple I can use on its own or in recipes.
Stock is easy to make in big batches and can be super nutrient-dense, no matter what your level of skill in the kitchen. You need good-quality meat with bones, some water, and whatever vegetables you like. A whole or half chicken works well, or beef soup bones. High-quality meat can be pricey, but cuts of stew meat or soup bones are considerably more affordable, even if you’re looking for grass-fed or free-range.
As for equipment, all you need is a large pot. Throw in the bones, vegetables, and seasonings. I like to use celery, carrots, onion, and the tough stems of leafy greens, plus a ton of cracked black pepper and oregano and a little salt. Add enough water to fill the pot, bring everything to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer for at least an hour. The longer you wait, the better it tastes. Once it cools, take out the bones and you have a tasty base for soup, pasta, or whole grains that’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and important proteins. Refrigerate some for up to a week and freeze the rest for up to a few months.
Last (and maybe least, depending on your taste) I want to mention sardines as a power food for dancers. They’re inexpensive (under a dollar a serving, depending on where you live) and rich in omega-3s and protein. There’s also little concern about heavy metal toxicity from eating sardines, which can’t be said for other fatty fish like tuna and swordfish. The downside is that these little guys smell and taste pretty fishy. They’re definitely not a good choice to eat between rehearsals if you want your partner to come within ten feet of you!
These are my no-brainer superfoods. They work for me because they’re energy and nutrient-dense while still being inexpensive and convenient. I hope you give them a try. If you do, please share in the comments section, or add your own favorites.
Assistant Editor Emily Kate Long began her dance education in South Bend, Indiana, with Kimmary Williams and Jacob Rice, and graduated in 2007 from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s Schenley Program. She has spent summers studying at Ballet Chicago, Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, Miami City Ballet, and Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive/Vail Valley Dance Intensive, where she served as Program Assistant. Ms Long attended Milwaukee Ballet School’s Summer Intensive on scholarship before being invited to join Milwaukee Ballet II in 2007.
Ms Long has been a member of Ballet Quad Cities since 2009. She has danced featured roles in Deanna Carter’s Ash to Glass and Dracula, participated in the company’s 2010 tour to New York City, and most recently performed principal roles in Courtney Lyon’s Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and Cinderella. She is also on the faculty of Ballet Quad Cities School of Dance, where she teaches ballet, pointe, and repertoire classes.
by Catherine L. Tully
Dancing means sweating, and sweating means thirst. Us dancers tend to be a thirsty bunch, but ingesting extra calories from what we drink is something most of us would like to avoid. And while there’s nothing wrong with the occasional milkshake or cranberry juice, reaching for low or no-calorie drinks is usually a pretty good idea.
I’ve compiled a short list of my favorites here for you to check out, but please do feel free to share yours in the comments section below!
My go-to favorite is LaCroix sparkling water. I love the orange flavor, but there are many other varieties you can try, including lime, coconut, berry and lemon. This tasty drink isn’t sweet, but has some flavor (and it’s natural!). Drink from the can or over ice for a delicious drink option that has zero calories.
It’s also yummy when mixed with fruit juices, but that does add some calories to the mix.
Cucumber water is another favorite of mine. Simple to make and refreshing to drink, this no-calorie winner is one of the best picks for a cool drink on a hot day. Its silky texture is unique and you can add lemon or other fruit to the water to mix the taste up a bit.
Here’s a primer on how to make it (not like it’s that hard). Simply store it in your fridge and pour when you want some. Easy! It’s also extremely inexpensive since cucumbers cost next to nothing at the grocery store.
Herbal teas offer another no-calorie option for those looking for a flavorful beverage. I’ve recently gotten into Teavana tea, since they offer really cool combinations, such as the strawberry lemonade flavor pictured here. You can brew them hot in the winter and make iced tea in the summer. Win/win!
Of course, standard bag varieties are also a great choice. Another one I drink often is Bengal Spice, which has a little bit of a kick to it. The “spice” comes from a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves. Nice!
What are your favorite drinks? Let us know!
by Catherine L. Tully
If you’re the type that likes to curl up on the couch and snack away the hours while watching movies, you probably already know that the calories can really stack up. Resting on your days off is good, but mindless snacking in front of the tube can be a dangerous thing.
The next time you decide to go on a movie binge, choose popcorn as your snack–but make it air-popped and watch what you add to it. With a little bit of advance planning you can minimize the impact to your diet and your waistline.
Air popped popcorn is a great choice as long as you don’t pile on the butter or salt. The best news of all is that popcorn is actually considered a whole grain, and when air popped, has only 31 calories per cup. It also makes a great on the go snack–simply toss it in a baggie and pack it in your dance bag.
Here are a few more facts* about this snack food that may help you become a fan:
- 3 cups of popcorn = 1 serving from the grain group
- Air popped popcorn doesn’t contain additives or preservatives
- Popcorn contains fiber which aids in digestion
Investing in an air popper is not a big expense. You can usually find one for around $20 – I found this via Google search at Target. Do your homework on it though, I haven’t used this one myself.
Those used to eating microwave popcorn may not take to the air popped variety too well at first. After all, there is not a lot of flavor in comparison. Still, there are a number of ways to add taste to it without dumping a lot of calories on top.
Here are some of my favorite choices:
- Use a little bit of spray butter and toss to coat. (I do this sparingly since I’m not entirely on board with the whole spray butter thing. And I opt for the ones that are made with olive oil.) Or, simply opt for olive oil, but go easy as it is fairly high-calorie.
- Add some herbs to the mix such as oregano, basil, marjoram and red pepper flakes.
- Sprinkle black or white pepper over the top for a little bit of bite.
- Try a little taco seasoning on top for plenty of taste. (This does add salt though, so use sparingly.)
- Mix up some sugar and cinnamon for a sweet kick. This will add a few calories, but it can be worth it!
Here are a few more recipes you might want to try:
Do you have a healthy favorite topping for popcorn? We’d love to hear from you!
*Info taken from Popcorn.org.
During the summer it is more important than ever to stay hydrated. Whether you’re dancing at an intensive, spending the day at the beach, or walking in the park you’re bound to lose water. Replacing this lost fluid is crucial in order to maintain optimum physical performance and health.
The concept of hydration is simple, but the execution can require a bit of effort. Let’s face it: Water is boring. Though it’s refreshing after a long workout or a few hours in the sun, it can be hard to remember to drink H2O when you’re not thirsty. One trick to help you get your fluids is to add some pizazz to your drinks. Here are some healthy and tasty beverage options to fill the gap in your water intake without adding too many extra calories to your diet.
Before you try bottled drinks off the shelf, try adding flavor to your existing glass of water.
Lemon Water: Lemon juice not only adds flavor, but also is great for your digestive system, immune system, skin, and tissue and bone health. It is recommended that you consume at least half a lemon per day to reap its full benefits. You can also create a zero- calorie lemonade by combining water, lemon juice, and stevia. Add a bit of cayenne pepper for some healthful heat!
Infusions: By adding berries, cucumber, herbs and spices to your water you can create great flavors without the extra calories. Fill a big pitcher with water, add fruits and herbs of your choice, and let it sit for a few hours. Here’s one tasty infusion recipe.
Though they have a higher sugar content, juices (especially homemade) are a good addition to your daily drinks. Juices provide extra vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables and are good for digestion. Avoid to many processed juices, as they tend to lose nutritional value and often have excessive amounts of sugar. Try making your own and get creative! Here are a few recipes to get you started.2
by Julia Erikson
Dance is an exacting science. Technique requires great discipline and continual vigilance to maintain. But we all know the recipe for success also requires a departure from the rigors of exactitude into a freer, more creative personal place. One has to feel the music and express their individuality to truly gain any modicum of success as a dancer—in essence you must study hard, then throw away the notes and go it on your own. This is when the beauty and glory of dance emerge, when it really is a vehicle for self-expression.
Recipes and food parallel the duality of dance in certain ways. The best balanced recipes in culinary history stand the test of time much like a finely choreographed ballet. While we needn’t stray too far from a proven concept, with something like a fruit salad, why not bend the rules a bit and find the balance of flavors that works for you? I say let the personality of the fruit, along with your personal taste, play the starring roles. Use the freedom presented to listen to your palate and hone your confidence in the kitchen; there is no right or wrong ratio of flavors out there.
In this vain I present to you several fruit salad templates meant to guide you, and your taste buds, toward your own personal sweet spot—flavor-wise. Yes, I recognize we are only talking about fruit salad here, but it is the perfect jumping off point for cultivating your creativity in the kitchen, something that is good for your soul and for your self-expression as an artist. And who knows, you may just get carried away and create something you want to share with the world!
Also, one more thought: Historically I’ve avoided the ubiquitous fruit salad on a party buffet table, mainly because it often seems to resemble some combination of soggy, boring, or overrun with not my fave fruit. So I’ve chosen to share a few of my favorite fruit-centric salad combinations, though most of them actually happen to include a savory component. I love this, as I think contrast actually highlights the sweetness of summer’s bounty. But you take the lead and feel free to omit/substitute/improvise!
For all of the recipes below, use your best judgment in terms of quantities—these are only flavor combinations that I love. Trust your palate and go for it! And let me know what you come up with by commenting about the results of your improv sessions!
Berry herb salad0