eating for dancers
Rushing around, non-stop schedules, airport or gas station food, mass amounts of sugary snacks, buffets, coffee, and for many; alcohol. When it comes to eating healthy while attending a weekend dance convention—the struggle is real.
These weekends for many of us appear to be junk-food only operations with a hint of liquid courage, both for competing and social dancing… to only be filled with various amounts of regret the next morning (or afternoon for you breakfast clubbers) because we strayed far away from our diets. The question we need to ask is what can we do to fix this? What solutions might there be to help prevent it from happening during every each and dance weekend? …before an additional 20-30 lbs just slaps us in the mirror out of nowhere.
Below I have written out my list of tips that I find to be routine for myself when it comes to attending dance conventions, or traveling anywhere for that matter.
Tip #1 – Healthy eating starts where you visit
If you’re on the road and stop at a fast-food joint, your food choices will be limited to fast food. If you stop at a Chipotle or Togos, well then you have a choice to a less damaging burrito bowl or whole wheat sandwich. Even better, if you stop at a grocery store that offers whole or healthy foods—fruits, bagged carrots, nuts, hummus—or a supermarket that features a salad bar, you quickly expand your choices (and reduce junk-food temptations).
Road trip stops. There might be long stretches of road with limited options between cities, but road trips don’t have to cause a disruption in eating healthfully.
- Markets. Pick up pre-washed/pre-cut vegetables, hummus, yogurt, sandwiches, salads and fruit with peels including oranges and bananas.
- Sandwich shops. Choose whole-grain bread, extra vegetables and mustard instead of oil or mayo.
- Drive-thrus and casual restaurants. Focus on items that are grilled, steamed, broiled or baked instead of fried or sautéed. Consider salads with lean protein and a vinaigrette-based dressing, broth-based soups, oatmeal and eggs with whole-grain bread. If you’re craving comfort food, just watch your portions — stick to the basics such as a single burger patty without special sauces, kid-size sides and water instead of soda.
- All-you-can-eat buffets. Before you grab a plate, walk around the buffet and decide which foods you’ll choose; then, stick to your plan. Aim to make half your plate fruits and vegetables, one-quarter lean protein and one-quarter whole grains.
Tip #2 – Find the Fridge (or bring one)
Search for hotels that offer a mini-fridge in the room or request a fridge if you have limited options (may have fee attached). This will enable you to be able to keep health-promoting foods in your room for easy access, as well as saving $$$ by bringing your own breakfast, lunch and/or snack foods. If a fridge is not an option then think about investing in a one to stash in the back of the car when traveling or a decent sized cooler with wheels for ease of travel… ice is very inexpensive or typically free if your hotel has an ice machine!
Tip #3 – Find the Grocery Store
Just type in “grocery store” in Google maps or Yelp to see which stores and markets are close by. This way instead of gas station food, you can grab simple things like bottled water, fruit, veggies, protein bars, coffee, hard boiled eggs or even healthy pre-made meals / sandwiches / wraps.
This is a 3-1 toaster oven — Read the description if you’re not sold yet:
- Large non-stick griddle
- Coffee maker brews up to 4-cups
- Toasts up to 4-slices of bread at a time
- Removable tray and griddle for easy cleaning
- The oven bakes, toasts and reheats food
- Glass griddle lid
- Includes 30-minute timer with automatic shut off
Tip #5 Pack Non-Perishable Snacks
- Trail mix
- Freeze dried vegetables
- Nuts (pre-portioned into snack-size bags)
- Nut butters (travel packs are great for planes)
- Whole-grain pretzels or crackers
- Whole oats (rather than instant oat meal)
- Snack bars (note: when it comes to snack bars, many aren’t much better than candy. Look for bars made with whole grains, nuts and fruit with few added sugars)
- Any Rx Bar
- Health Warrior Chia Bars
- Ginnybakes Karma, Love, and Apricot Ginnybar
- KIND Cashew and Ginger Spice
- Larabar Renola Cocoa Coconut
- EPIC Bar Bacon
Tip #6 – Stock Perishable foods Upon Arrival or in Cooler
- Vegetables like carrots and broccoli tossed in olive oil or dipped in almond butter
- Hard boiled eggs (try to pre-peel or purchase this way)
- Pre-cooked roasted sweet potatoes – maybe sprinkle some cinnamon on for flavor
- Meats like shrimp, chicken or beef pre-cut into strips
- Single serving packs of guacamole
- Slices of raw milk cheeses
- Whole-grain sandwich with lean meat, vegetables and mustard
- Salad with lean protein
- Cauliflower florets
- Broccoli florets
- Baby carrots
- Snap peas
- Celery sticks
- Cherries, clementines, apples, berries
If you aren’t a fan of raw veggies, you can also pack some dippers:
- Ranch – purchase little cups to spread out at home
- Guacamole – same as the ranch—I suggest making your own as well!
- Hummus – store-bought or make your own
Tip #7 – Eat Plenty of Protein
Eating the right amount of complete protein—one containing all the essential amino acids your body needs—for your weight and activity level stabilizes blood sugar (preventing energy lags), enhances concentration, and keeps you lean and strong.
Tip #8 – Drink lots of water
This is a big one. I listed it towards the bottom of the list because I really shouldn’t be needing to remind you of your water consumption… I am pretty sure humans are the only species that need to be educated on a basic survival need. Like really people?
You should be aiming for at least 80 ounces per day, 100+ ounces on workout days, and probably well over 120 ounces of water when you add in dancing, workshops, competition anxiety, and any caffeine / alcohol consumption.
The body needs water for virtually all of its functions. Drinking plenty of water will help your body’s natural ability in ridding of toxins, keep your skin fresh, and help you eat less. Not only eating less but it will help your physiological functions, hormone levels, and cortisol levels; which in turn will help control sugar cravings.
Tip #9 – Avoid Too Many Guilty Pleasures
Again, do I need to remind you of this? You know what these are.
These foods not only accumulate to the process of weight gain, but are the cause of some pretty crappy mood swings. These foods can increase stress/anxiety, depression-like thoughts, decrease our energy levels / stamina, and just really put a damper on the next morning after 6 slices of pizza, beer, and any other sweets added in.
Foods to avoid
- simple carbohydrates or high glycemic foods, such as fruit juices, sodas, refined grain products, or sugary snacks
- anything deep-fried
- anything partially hydrogenated (this includes nondairy creamer, Jiffy-style peanut butter, margarine, and most packaged baked goods)
- excess alcohol (I saw excess because, come on now)
Your Final Tip(s)
Understand calorie flexibility and plan ahead. If you know you absolutely cannot avoid eating some desserts or drinks at a dance convention or social / business gathering later at night, simply reduce your calories throughout the earlier part of the day to help offset the calories that will be added in later.
Understanding calorie balance can help assist you in weight maintenance and/or loss, by doing so you will need to understand that your calories are comprised of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. These 3 components are what make of our ‘macro-nutrients’ (you may have heard, people talking about their “macros” before; this is what they were referring to). For each macro nutrient, your calories break down accordingly:
- Carbohydrate: 1 gram = 4 calories
- Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories
- Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories
- For the sake of dancers; alcohol: 1 gram = 7 calories
As you can see, fat is extremely calorie dense in comparison to carbs and protein, as well as alcohol. If you know you’re going to be indulging in a tasty burger with a couple cocktails later that evening, then it would be wise to trim back on your the majority of your fat calories and part of your carbohydrate calories earlier in the day. By doing so, you will simply add them back in later.