How to Eat Healthy at a College Dining Hall
The schedule of a college dancer is no joke: Between academics, studio classes and rehearsals, getting the fuel you need to power through it all is essential. But unless you live off-campus or have a kitchen in your dorm, you may feel like you're at the mercy of your school's dining hall.
"College is often the first time that dancers are on their own, without the help of their family to make sure they are fueling their bodies adequately," says Monika Saigal, a registered dietitian nutritionist at The Juilliard School who has worked with college dancers across the country. "These changes can feel overwhelming, but the college years are also a great time to build new habits that will help dancers have long and healthy careers." So how do you make sure you're getting the nutrients you need? Here are our best tips for tackling the dining hall.
Challenge: Limited hours that don't work with your schedule
Dried fruit is a healthy snack you can stash in your dorm room. Photo via Getty Images
Whether you're prone to oversleeping past breakfast, or are always missing dinner because of late rehearsals, planning ahead is key. Saigal suggests keeping a few quick breakfast options in your dorm room and, if you anticipate missing dinner, grabbing extra food during lunch to save for later. "One of the common myths is that dancers should stop eating at 7 or 8 pm or some other arbitrary time," she says. "It's important for recovery and injury prevention to refuel after dancing, even if it's late."
Challenge: A lack of variety in the meal plan
Photo by Jasmin Screiber/Unsplash
When navigating the dining hall, dietitian Debra Wein, who has worked with dancers at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, recommends seeking out lean proteins like fish, poultry, low-fat dairy and beans; whole grains that are high in fiber; and unsaturated fats. This can be easier said than done. If it feels like your dining hall rotates through the same few meals every week, sometimes it's a matter of getting creative. "Dancers may want to buy their own seasonings and condiments to help make the usual options feel new," says Saigal. Things like guacamole, dressings, pesto, nut butters or seed mixes can help spice up a bland dish. She also suggests mixing and matching foods—try topping your salad with chicken from the grill station, for instance.
Challenge: Little time to eat between classes and rehearsals
Photo by Fábio Alves/Unsplash
If you're rushing to rehearsal and don't have much time to eat before dancing, choose options that are easier to digest, like a sandwich rather than a salad, says Saigal. Keep your dance bag stocked with on-the-go snacks, too. Saigal's favorites include protein bars, fruit with a nut-butter pack and trail mix.
Bonus tip: Stock your dorm room
Photo by Markus Spiske/Unsplash
Even if all you have is a mini-fridge and a microwave, these recommendations from Saigal are easy to keep on hand:
- oatmeal and whole-grain cereals
- milk, yogurt and cheese
- dired or fresh fruit
- minimal-prep veggies (like baby carrots, grape tomatoes or pre-cut pepper strips)
- pre-cooked brown rice or quinoa cups
- packets of tuna or salmon
- seasoned tofu
- veggie burgers
- hummus and whole-grain crackers
- nuts and nut butters
- roasted chickpeas
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.