Health & Body
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You wander through the grocery aisles, sizing up the newest trends on the shelves. Although you're eager to try a new energy bar, you question a strange ingredient and decide to leave it behind. Your afternoons are consumed with research as you sort through endless stories about "detox" miracles.

What started as an innocent attempt to eat healthier has turned into a time-consuming ritual with little room for error, and an underlying fear surrounding your food choices.

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What Dancers Eat
How do you optimize your nutrition in the studio? Photo by Getty Images.

Finding the right balance of meals and snacks to get through a dancer's day can take a lot of trial and error. To give you ideas, Dance Magazine asked three professional dancers to share the meals that kept them moving throughout one rehearsal day this season. Registered dietitian Emily Cook Harrison, who runs Nutrition for Great Performances, weighed in with her advice on how they could optimize their fuel even further.

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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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Health & Body
Recovery doesn't always follow your ideal timeline. Photo by Jairo Alzate/Unsplash

You've rested and rehabilitated. But what if an injury still bothers you? Health-care professionals share eight reasons dancers might heal more slowly than expected.

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Health & Body
It doesn't have to be diagnosable by the DSM-5 to be dangerous to your health. Photo by Dominik Martin/Unsplash

When the cat food started smelling good, I knew I had a problem.

I'd always considered eating disorders to be extreme. Someone who never eats. Someone who weighs less than 100 pounds. Someone who gets hospitalized.

My behavior didn't fit the mental health definition of an eating disorder. I ignored it because I didn't know how to articulate it. It took me several years after the cat food smelled good to have the language to describe what was going on.

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What Dancers Eat
Don't just trust what others say you should—or shouldn't—be eating. Photo by Toa Haftiba/Unsplash

When it comes to what you should be eating, rumors often catch on like wildfire. Dietitian Rachel Fine, who works with dancers in New York City, shares the most misguided nutrition strategies she's recently encountered.

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Health & Body
Eating healthy fats and a bounty of fruits and vegetables is smart. But what about cutting carbs? Photo by Brooke Lark/Unsplash

Although the ketogenic diet has been around since the 1920s as an epilepsy treatment for children, it's experiencing a new wave of popularity. Thanks in part to social media, where "healthy" keto-friendly recipe videos are going viral, the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet is gaining ground. But is it safe for dancers?

We checked in with Rachel Fine, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of To The Pointe Nutrition, to see what eating keto means for dancers.

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What Dancers Eat
Pizza can be an excellent recovery meal after a hard day of class and rehearsal. Photo by Thinkstock

Raise your hand if you've ever walked out of the studio with just one thought on your mind: a big, juicy cheeseburger. But raise your other hand if instead of getting that burger, you opted for a hearty salad or stir-fry.

While dancers need to fuel their bodies with nutrient-dense meals and snacks, plenty of foods get an unfair bad rap. "The diet culture in this country vilifies various food groups as being bad while championing others as good," says Kelly Hogan, MS, RD, CDN, clinical nutrition and wellness manager at the Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "But black-and-white thinking like that has no place when it comes to food."

Some foods have less nutrition than others, admits Hogan, but if you're eating what you crave and honoring your hunger and fullness cues, she says you'll probably get the variety of nutrients your body needs. Here are seven foods that can have a place on your plate—guilt-free.

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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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Health & Body
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When dancers get injured, they often think they should eat less. The thought process goes something like, Since I'm not able to move as much as I usually do, I'm not burning enough calories to justify the portions I'm used to.

But the truth is, scaling back your meals could actually be detrimental to your healing process.

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Health & Body
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As much as dancers might love touring, the road can be a tough place to get the nutrition you need. "A lot of things are out of your control on tour—you won't be able to eat the way you do at home," says Heidi Skolnik, a certified dietitian nutritionist who has worked with dancers at the School of American Ballet. But preparing for common challenges can help you keep up some semblance of your normal routine.

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Health & Body
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In the '90s, low-fat diets were as popular as boy bands. But by the early 2000s, the high-fat, high-protein Atkins and South Beach diets had people stocking up on steak and eggs. Now, avocado toast is arguably trendier than *NSYNC ever was, and fat is no longer thought of as a naughty f-word.

But there's still some skepticism around how necessary fats are in a well-rounded diet, particularly among dancers. Before you reach for that grass-fed double bacon cheeseburger, make sure you know the difference between rumors and reality.

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Advice for Dancers
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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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Health & Body
Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in 1959. Photo courtesy DM Archives

Dance Magazine has been writing about fitness and nutrition for dancers since before the phrase dance medicine existed. For our 90th anniversary, we took a look through our archives to find out how we've advised readers through the years. It turns out, some of our health coverage stands the test of time better than others.

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Health & Body
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Your gut is a hot topic in nutrition right now. Experts say a healthy microbiome (the makeup of bacteria in our bodies) is associated with everything from a reduced risk of infection to a more efficient metabolism.

But can we actually make our inner bacterial population healthier?

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