Keeping nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables handy might seem easier than adding in protein-rich ones. But protein is so very important for a dancer’s body! And once you come up with a few great options for keeping protein-rich snacks accessible, it can easily become second nature — honest!
Realize the Importance of Protein
Protein is really important for a healthy body. Referred to as “the building block of the body,” it’s extremely important for a dancer, whose body is also an instrument of artistic expression. Without a dancer’s body in optimal condition, able to cooperate with the choreography, a dancer clearly won’t be able to perform at the top of her potential. Proteins help by developing and repairing body tissues such as muscles, organs, skin, hair, and eyes. Protein is especially important for your youngest dancers, because children’s bodies are still in development, requiring more protein per pound than their parents.
Protein is also important on a daily basis because what’s not used for necessary functions such as body tissue maintenance is used for energy. (On a side note, it can be converted to fat if a person’s body is getting energy from carbs instead, giving us one more reason to stay away from processed snack foods!) A third function of protein helps your dancers with endurance, keeping their focus and energy all day for special competitions and rehearsal after a long day of school. Because proteins help control hormones that regulate blood sugar, they provide for stable energy levels, unlike the wide swings from high to low produced by sugary snacks.
Consider Types of Protein-Rich Snack Foods
Okay, so protein is protein, and there’s no special protein that’s truly better as a snack, rather than as part of a meal. In fact, with a balanced diet that includes enough protein and healthy fat, your dancer shouldn’t need to do a ton of snacking. But when she does, some proteins are easier to make accessible than others for a quick bite. (You don’t want to have to bake a chicken breast or grill part of a steak after all!) Most of the protein in a healthy diet should come from animals: meat and eggs. (Most protein drinks and powders include sugar, and it’s healthier to eat your calories than drink them anyway.) Nuts and dairy can also include protein, but dairy can produce sluggishness or digestive issues such as bloating, so you want to choose those sources less often.
We’ll give you some suggestions for animal protein snacks as well as protein-rich snacks from other sources in our next post. In that post, we’ll also talk about the importance of including healthy fats in your dancer’s diet — without losing that lean dancer’s body, of course!