Health & Body
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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.

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Advice for Dancers

After living on junk food during a long break, I finally set up a plan for healthy eating and aerobic exercise. I was feeling positive as I approached my target weight, but then I hit a hectic period of rehearsals and stopped losing. Now what?

—Jordan, Stamford, CT

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What Dancers Eat
How would you rate your relationship with food? Photo by Peter Secan/Unsplash

Trendy media outlets boast that "fit" is the new "skinny." Instagram bloggers encourage us to #eatclean. As our feeds populate with matcha-filled mornings and the deep hues of acai bowls, awareness of "healthy eating" seems to be at an all-time high.

Yet my experience as a registered dietitian in the dance industry shows me otherwise.

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Advice for Dancers

I'm naturally thin and have been living on fast food such as burgers, fries and pizza. Now I'm trying to eat better to prepare for auditions. I know the basics, like choosing good carbs, protein and fat, but it's hard to make smart choices when I'm grocery shopping. Any ideas?

—S.H., New York, NY

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Although New York City Ballet dancer Emilie Gerrity is eating her breakfast alone, she's proactive about making healthy choices. Could her fluffy roommate be holding her accountable? Photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe.

It's 9 pm, and you're just getting home from rehearsal. Exhausted, you grab a meal from the freezer. You know it's not the healthiest choice, but hey, it's quick. In just three minutes, dinner will be served.

It's an easy trap to fall into, especially if you live alone. That's the focus of a recent paper published in the journal Nutrition Reviews. Researchers in Australia analyzed 41 existing studies to examine any links between one's nutrition and living solo. The findings pointed to more than one negative correlation: Those who live by themselves tend to eat a less diverse selection of foods overall, and they had a lower consumption of certain types of foods, such as fruits, vegetables and fish.

What's behind the dented diets? Researchers pinpointed several reasons. When you eat by yourself, you may be more likely to prepare something simple (therefore passing up key nutrients you need as a dancer) and you're also less likely to consider portion control. The rising cost of groceries, especially in urban dance hubs, often prompts shoppers to opt for cheaper, less nutrient-dense foods over expensive, but healthier, items like fish and fresh produce.

Even if you don't live alone, you may still fall prey to this trap when eating by yourself. So what's a dancer to do? For starters, check out "The Cost of Fuel," which outlines practical shopping tips for dancers on a budget—everything from where to shop to what to buy, and how to save and when to splurge. If you do have roommates or live with family, try to make shared mealtime a priority as often as you can. In this case, a little peer pressure can't hurt, since you're more likely to make healthier choices when others are around. If you're on your own, invite a friend over to try out some new recipes. Bon appetite!


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