For busy dancers on the go, it's easy to grab a premade salad on the way to class or scroll through delivery options as rehearsal comes to a close. But bringing homemade meals and snacks to the studio or theater has real payoffs. And making it happen doesn't have to be as difficult as you might think.
Why Do It?
Reason 1: It's ready when you want it
Bringing your own food can be a lot more dependable, points out Kelly Hogan, a registered dietitian in New York City. "If hunger strikes, you have something on hand and don't have to go searching for a meal or snack, which may take a while and result in crazy hunger."
Reason 2: It's more reliable
Making your food keeps you in control. Eating out can be tricky if you have a sensitive stomach or dietary restrictions. Homemade meals ensure you're eating what you know agrees with your body when you're dancing.
Reason 3: It's cheaper
A quinoa bowl at a grab-and-go café in New York City will run you at least $10. Make an entire batch at home and you can get an entire week's worth of lunches for not much more.
Reason 4: It's healthier
At home, you can make your dishes as nutritious as you want, says Hogan. "Restaurants often add in lots more salt, butter and oils to make their foods taste so good, but it's usually more than is necessary."
Reason 5: It's the right size
Restaurant portions are usually massive. You're more likely to eat mindlessly just because there's more food in front of you, or let it go to waste if you can't finish it.
Don't underestimate the nutritional power of a good PB&J
How to Actually Make It Happen
"The name of the game is planning," says Hogan. "Take a look at the week ahead and plan out what you think you'll need. Prep accordingly, both with your meal prep and your grocery lists."
Cook in batches: Get into the habit of making recipes that will last you a few days. "Try dedicating a few hours on the weekend to making a big dish," she says. And remember that not everything has to be fresh: The frozen foods selection at Trader Joe's has loads of healthy, quick options, like vegetable and grain mixes.
Roast your veggies: Chop a bunch of your favorite vegetables, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, drizzle them with olive oil, top with salt and pepper, and roast them all together on a big sheet pan. Throughout the week, you can add them to quinoa, bean-based pasta (a good source of protein) or eggs.
Splurge on a lunch bag: Relive the childlike joy of picking out your favorite lunch box. Having a bag or box you genuinely want to carry will make you more likely to pack meals and snacks to-go.
Roasted veggies are easy to make and mix in with other foods to boost a meal's nutritional punch.
Fast (But Homemade) Food Ideas
Overwhelmed? Here are a few of Hogan's favorite DIY foods that pack a nutritional punch, won't cost a fortune, and are easy to make and transport.
- A nut butter and jelly sandwich (for extra nutrients, swap the jelly for banana or berries)
- Mini Babybel or string cheese paired with fruit
- A portable peanut butter packet with crackers
- Greek yogurt with fruit and granola
- Eggs and veggies, in scrambled or omelet form
- Overnight oats
- Farro or quinoa bowls topped with vegetables and your favorite dressing
- Soups or stews
- Chicken (a store-bought cooked rotisserie chicken is a great option) paired with quick-cooking rice and veggies