Mealtime Strategies for Your Busiest Dance Days

September 12, 2023

For dancers, eating consistent, balanced, and varied meals is not just important for overall health, it’s a recipe for injury prevention. But long rehearsal days and packed performance schedules can make it challenging to find the time and energy to prepare nutritious meals.

While cooking from scratch is often touted as the ideal approach to healthy eating, it’s not always feasible for dancers during busy rehearsal and performance periods. Elaborate home-cooked meals are also not the be-all and end-all of nutritious eating. Particularly when time is scarce, turning to nutritious snacks and relying on packaged and frozen foods can be part of a healthy eating plan, offering convenience without sacrificing nutrition.

Start With a Snack

When exhausted, your body and brain are (literally) hungry for a boost in glucose—a source of energy derived from foods rich in carbohydrates. Rather than waiting for your next meal to replenish energy stores, opt for a nutrient-packed snack. Those that are easily digestible provide the most reliable and quickest boost in energy. Fresh or dried fruit, a handful of pretzels or crackers, fruit smoothies, or granola bars offer carb-rich and energizing options.

Get Comfortable With Convenience

Relying on frozen meals or meal kits can be a great solution when you don’t have the time or energy to cook. Look for those made with whole grains and a variety of produce to help boost the overall nutrient density of your meal. A mix of ingredients rich in proteins and carbohydrates will also promote muscle recovery and energy replenishment, respectively. For example, precooked proteins like chicken strips and tofu bites can be paired with instant-rice or grain mixtures. Amplify the dish with a serving of cooked frozen veggies to boost your meal’s vitamin and mineral content and provide a dose of fiber for fullness. Stocking a handful of staples like olive oil, canned beans, nuts, and seeds offers a source of easy additions to incorporate into a variety of easy-to-prepare dishes.

Focus on the Long Term

The stress of feeling less in control over what is accessible for meals and snacks can leave dancers struggling with their relationship with food. This is especially true during performance seasons, which tend to be more physically demanding. It’s important to remember, however, that patterns over time matter more than temporary occurrences.
Ultimately, nourishing your body with what is accessible is the priority. Incorporating convenient and nutrient-boosting­ mealtime additions will not only support your performance efforts but also help to conserve your energy and focus on dancing.

The Nutrition Facts Label

Dancers often consider the nutrition facts of their meals and snacks with a goal of supporting a stronger performance. Contrary to popular suggestions to avoid processed foods, dancers can implement a few strategies for choosing nutrient-dense options while sifting through the packaged food aisle.

  1. Look at the big picture: Rather than focusing on specific numbers or percentages, peek at the ingredients and aim for a variety of whole foods, like fruits, veggies, nuts, and whole grains. These will ensure a spectrum of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber.
  2. Don’t get hung up on serving sizes. Remember that these are general guidelines, and your individual needs may vary depending on personal hunger and satiety cues.
  3. Skip the stress about additives. These are often added in minuscule amounts to ensure food quality and safety. Plus, the stress over these ingredients is likely to be unhealthier than the supposed implications of the ingredients themselves.