- Other dancers out there might enjoy it.
- I don't really see this as a "dancer only" thing. It's good information for anyone.
- I don't have a third reason, but someone once told me I always should.
This is really basic and not very original. Many will be able to tell what books I like to read based on this. And yet, I am still amazed by how many people still make nutrition so complicated. So enjoy this. If nothing else, enjoy the brownie recipe at the end. Yum!
Eating right is actually pretty simple, but unfortunately we’ve done a good job at making it confusing and as complicated as possible. Most dancers know that they need a combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (macronutrients) combined with vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) to keep our bodies healthy, strong, and able to dance for hours a day.
Today’s market is selling all sorts of supplements, power bars, and other “food-like-substances”—each one riding on the latest research on what our body does and does not need. Luckily, our Heavenly Father has made things pretty simple by providing a variety of real food that gives us the energy and vitality we need. Here are a few simple rules to follow when deciding what to eat:
- Eat real food. Real food doesn’t usually come in a wrapper with a barcode on it. If you must go with something in a wrapper, check out the ingredients. Can you pronounce them? If not, avoid it. Our bodies were not designed to absorb many of the man-made synthetic materials and flavors that are found in processed food.
- Eat mostly plants. Veggies, fruits, and grains will not only provide you with complex carbohydrates that your body needs to fuel itself—these foods will also keep you fuller longer, reduce your salt, sugar, and fat cravings, and provide your body with a variety of needed vitamins and minerals.
- Get a variety! It is easy to get in a food rut and not even know it. Most foods that come from wrappers are chemically the same thing: lots of refined flours, sugars, artificial fats, and processed (usually genetically engineered) corn. Your diet should be colorful and full of different textures.
- Don’t go crazy. Some dancers focus so much on what they eat that they develop issues around food. Remember these things:
- Fat is not bad. Our body needs fat (real fat, no trans fat or partially-hydrogenated oils, please) in order to absorb many of the vitamins necessary for life. Fats such as olive or coconut oil, butter (no margarine!), or the kinds that come from nuts and avocados are great. Enjoy them in moderation—do not avoid them. They are good. (Same things with carbohydrates—assuming they are unrefined.)
- Counting calories is not necessary. The more you practice tuning in and listening to your body the less you need to worry about calories. If you are following the first three rules you most likely will not overeat. If you are used to the Standard American Diet (SAD) that is made up of processed foods, refined sugars, and a lot of salty and unnatural fats, you may need to pay a little more attention at the beginning while your body is adjusting. Remember, hundreds of years ago people didn’t know what calories were. They ate when they were hungry and stopped when they were full.
- Don’t skip meals. Ever. Whether you like 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day, or eat 3 balanced meals, it is important to keep your body fueled. This will help your body maintain a proper balance so you have the energy required. It also keeps you from overeating later on.
- Avoid extremes. Juice cleanses, cabbage-only, or any other diet that keeps you from eating a variety of real food is usually dangerous. Moderation and quality are the key.
- Know when to relax and enjoy. It is okay to indulge every now and then, so enjoy the times you do. Rather than feeling guilty for eating that cookie, remember that as long as you are eating well at least 80% of the time, you are on track.
Finally, here are just a few snack ideas for those of you “on the go.” Many of these you can just throw into your bag and snack along the way. Enjoy!
- Apple Slices
- Nuts and Dried Fruit
- Hummus and Organic Tortilla/Pita Chips
- A Salad (Forget the croutons and throw in some nuts or sun flower seeds for extra protein. Also, check out your salad dressing—it may be full of High Fructose Corn Syrup and other chemicals. Check online for a variety of home-made recipes that are better for you!)
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Half a Peanut Butter Sandwich
- Brown Rice and Black Beans
- Quinoa Salad
- Bell Peppers, sliced
- Snap Peas
- Hard Boiled Egg (These are great to make ahead and snack on throughout the week)
- Black Bean Brownies (Much less sugar than normal brownies or granola bars, plus they are packed with protein, fiber, and lots of other good stuff).
Recipe: Black Bean Brownies
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 - 3 Tbs of peanut butter
3 Tbs coconut or olive oil
4 Tbs cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup rolled oat
Preheat oven to 350°
1. Pour drained beans into a blender or food processor, blend until smooth.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, except the oats, and continue blending until evenly mixed.
3. Stir in the oats.
4. Pour mixture into a greased 8 x 8 pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
5. Cool and Enjoy!
This article is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesdays. Check here for great recipes and tips.