Hopefully we’ve convinced you that protein is extremely important for a dancer’s diet! While healthy meals should mean that your dancer doesn’t need to snack often, there will be those times when she needs some extra energy. Instead of carb-heavy or sugary snacks, protein-rich ones can provide long-lasting energy without the spikes and drops in blood sugar levels that lead to inconsistency in the studio.
Consider Animal Protein Snacks
Most processed meats, like lunch meats and beef sticks, include added sugar as well as nitrates and nitrites, making them far from the ideal choice as a healthy snack. Instead, you can cook up meat on your own and store it in snack-sized baggies or containers in the fridge. (If you make a big batch, you’ll probably want to store some in the freezer so they keep.) Some meats taste better cold than others, and of course we all have our preferences, but these are a few animal proteins you might want to try:
• Paleo meatballs
• Chicken or Turkey Sticks made from baked turkey steaks or chicken breasts and sliced into “sticks”
• Hard-cooked eggs
• Muffin tin eggs made from baking scrambled eggs (with added veggies of your choice) in — you guessed it — a mini muffin tin
Add Some Nut Butters
While nuts aren’t an ideal primary source of protein, they do include healthy fats (more on that later) and offer an easy grab-and-go snack option. Peanut butter probably comes to your mind first, but like all legumes, peanuts can cause inflammation that’s far from ideal for your dancer. (Some brands also contain added sugar.) So try other options, like cashew or almond butter (or even an alternative like sunflower seed butter). These healthier options often require refrigeration and cost more than peanut butter, so you need to plan ahead in order to avoid waste. Simply portion out nut butters into lidded condiment cups (such as these), and they’ll be easy to grab along with fruit or veggies.
Make Some Protein-Rich Snacks
Nuts and nut butters include protein as well as healthy fats. If your dancer isn’t eating a lot of sugar, carbs, and processed foods, these healthy fats won’t make her fat — instead, they’ll actually keep her body healthy and lean! (Yes, we know we’ve all been fed that myth about fat making us fat, but it’s just that: a myth.) With a few snack-sized baggies, you can incorporate the best of healthy snack foods, such as dried fruits, coconut, nuts, and nut butters. (As ever, be aware that some dried fruits and shredded coconut can include added sugars, which is something you want to avoid.)
• DIY trail mix: combine your favorites in a snack-sized zip-top bag, and you’re good to go! Think about including nuts like cashews, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and pecans. And freeze-dried fruits are less likely than other dried fruits to contain added sugar.
• Cashew Energy Balls
• Chocolate Energy Balls
• Pumpkin Pie Energy Balls