Your dance studio can offer the best of everything — well-organized classes and teams, exceptionally talented instructors, varied and frequent recital and competition opportunities — and still fall short of helping your dancers reach their full potential. Why? So much of what allows any dancer to perform at his or her top level is contingent on factors outside of your studio’s reach. Getting healthy sleep is one of those factors; a healthy diet is another. Even if each meal includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods that aren’t heavily processed, finding healthy snacks can be difficult. So let’s talk about healthy snacks that will help propel your dancers into the next level of performance and skill.
Avoid Pre-Packaged Snacks
You’ve probably noticed that there’s no “ideal snacks for dancers” section of your grocery store — and even if there were, it probably wouldn’t contain the nutrient-rich options which your dancer needs. In fact, even most pre-packaged snack foods labelled as “healthy” fail to live up to the advertising. (But you probably knew that already.) They’re made using some of the cheapest ingredients, ones that also prove to be addictive, ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and other added sweeteners as well as refined grains. (Check out the “Sneaky Sugars” PDF download available here.) Most of these easily accessible snacks are also heavily processed, leaving your dancer’s body to exert more effort than necessary on digesting them instead of using that energy to improve her form.
Know What a Dancer’s Body Needs
Okay, so if added sweeteners, refined grains, and processed snack items aren’t optimal for your dancer, what is? We all need healthy long-lasting sources of energy, but dancers and others will need even more. Why? They need to fuel and replace the extra energy they’re using to practice and perform! Primarily their bodies need more protein and healthy fats as well as the nutrients provided through fruits and veggies. If she’s getting “filled up” with other stuff, her body won’t feel like it needs these healthy items, but it still does. So skip the sugar and carb-heavy foods, and get nutrition from naturally available sources.
Make the Good Stuff Accessible
According to our bodies, the good stuff comes straight from nature. If other snacks are more accessible, though, they’ll often win out. So the trick is to make the good stuff like veggies and fruit easily available and accessible. I know, I know: that means one more thing on the to-do list. But honestly, once you get into the routine of rinsing and cutting produce each week, it’s really not that big of a deal. If your dancer is mature enough, she can also help with this process. For well-balanced nutrition, consider a variety of fruits and vegetables. Know how to store each type of fruit and vegetable for optimal longevity and flavor. Then make sure to keep snack-sized portions in baggies or containers, ideally in a visible and easy-to-reach part of the kitchen and/or refrigerator.
For protein-rich snack ideas, check out our next post.