Your Best Body: The Food Diaries

Dancers are mad scientists of nutrition: They know what every bite will do to their bodies and are constantly adjusting the formula. We asked four professional dancers to tell us exactly what they had to eat on a given day and why. These aren’t menus that were carefully crafted by a nutritionist. They’re the actual food that fits into each dancer’s hectic schedule, giving her the energy she needs—and the treats she’s earned.

Patricia Hachey
Company dancer, Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Performance day on tour in Lucca, Italy

9:15 am
Complimentary breakfast at Hotel Universo:
• Multivitamin and vitamin D
• One glass of orange juice
• One cup of coffee
• Granola and yogurt topped with fresh kiwi
• One hard-boiled egg with salt and pepper

3:00 pm Snack after class at the Teatro Del Giglio:
• One Kashi GoLean Chocolate Caramel Protein & Fiber Bar
• One tangerine

5:00 pm Mid-rehearsal snack:
• One big handful of raw almonds
• One pear

7:00 pm Dinner break at the theater before the show:
• Yogurt with müesli
• One hard-boiled egg
• One banana

 

10:30 pm During the second intermission:
• A shot of honey

11:45 pm Dinner at a restaurant in Lucca:
• Fresh bread drizzled with olive oil
• Insalata classico: lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, fresh Parmesan with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
• Gnocchi al pesto
• One glass of house red wine

Late night snack at the hotel:
• Two pieces of dark chocolate

Hachey is a vegetarian, so making food choices that will sustain her high activity level, particularly while on tour, is a constant challenge. She chooses hearty plant-based foods like granola and müesli to keep her feeling full for longer. She meets her protein quota with snacks like eggs, almonds and protein bars. “A vitamin supplement was recommended by my doctor because there are important vitamins usually found in fatty fishes or certain meats, which I no longer eat,” she says.

 

A dancer on tour is often a scavenger; you never know when and where you will find the kinds of foods you need. The fruit, nuts and hard-boiled eggs Hachey snacked on for most of the day were lifted from the complimentary breakfast buffet at the hotel. The Complexions dancers call their food stashes their “bodegas.” Included in Hachey’s bodega stash was a packet of honey (which she’d also swiped at breakfast). She ate it during the second intermission to give herself a shot of natural sugar to push through the rest of the show.    

Jennifer Robinson
Corps dancer, Ballet West

Two-performance day of Sleeping Beauty

9:00 am Breakfast at home:
• One cup of organic, no-sugar-added oatmeal with maple syrup
• Two clementines

1:00 pm Lunch before the first show at the theater:
• One chocolate mint Zone bar
• An 8-oz O.N.E. coconut water with a splash of pink guava

3:30 pm Mid-show snack:
• Two homemade sugar cookies (baked by dancer Aaron Orlowski’s mom)

5:30 pm Snack at home before the second show:
• One banana
• One Orgain vanilla protein shake

7:30–10 pm During second show:
• One 12-oz lemon/lime Gatorade

11:00 pm After-performance celebration at the theater:
• One glass of champagne

11:30 pm Reward dinner at home:
• One grilled cheese sandwich and a medium Coke from Crown Burger
• One cup of double-churned (half fat) vanilla ice cream with M&M Minis on top

In order to sustain herself during a day with multiple performances, Robinson eats foods that will keep her full without making her feel sick or bloated. Instead of sitting down for complete meals, she snacks lightly throughout the day. Coconut water contains natural electrolytes and is a favorite of hers to help her push through dancing in Salt Lake City’s high altitude. “I don’t like straight coconut water,” she says, “but there are options with splashes of mango, pineapple or guava that taste great.”

 

These two performances of Sleeping Beauty were the last of the company’s Valentine’s Day weekend run, so a treat was in order. “I try to make healthy but enjoyable food choices,” says Robinson, who feels that her hard work at both dancing and eating right earns her a trip through the drive-through once in a while as a reward. 

Ariana Lallone
Departing principal dancer, Pacific Northwest Ballet

Performance day of Cinderella

8:45 am Breakfast at home:
• One small glass of cherry cider
• One cup of coffee with cream
• One bowl of cereal with a banana

12:30 pm Snack after class:
• One KIND protein bar

3:00 pm Lunch at home:
• One grilled cheese sandwich with tomato and a handful of potato chips
• One glass of seltzer with juice
• One chocolate chip cookie

6:00 pm
Pre-performance:
• One decaf green tea with lemon

7:30 pm During performance:
• One banana

10:30 pm Dinner at a restaurant:
• Steak salad with wild greens, basil, tomato and stilton vinaigrette 
• Bread with white bean spread
• Seltzer with lemon

Daily vitamins at home:
• Mutivitamin, calcium and omega-3

Lallone admits that knowing what is right to eat for her body has been a long, ever-changing process throughout her career. Bananas and protein bars have become staples because of their portability and nutritional benefits. As a plus, the potassium in bananas keeps her muscles from cramping.

 

But Lallone’s most critical food choice is that she eats organic whenever possible. “The quality of the food is just as important as what you’re eating,” she says. Since revamping her diet in 2005 to include mostly organic foods, Lallone has felt an increase in stamina and more energy.
Eating organic doesn’t mean she’s only nibbling on rabbit food. Lallone’s routine pre-performance meal for years has been a grilled cheese with tomato, potato chips and a chocolate chip cookie. “I eat a lot more when I’m performing because it’s a longer day,” she says. The grilled cheese provides her with carbs and protein needed to sustain her, but doesn’t have any spice or flavor that could upset her stomach.


Kathleen Breen Combes
Principal, Boston Ballet
Rehearsal day

8:30 am Breakfast at home:
• One toasted wheat bagel with butter
• One glass of water

9:00 am On the way to class:
• One cup of coffee

11:15 am In the studio after class:
• One banana
• Water

1:30 pm Mid-rehearsal snack:
• One organic chocolate chip granola bar

2:45 pm Lunch at the studio:
• Caesar salad
• Diet Snapple lemon iced tea
• Baby carrots
• Popcorn

5:30 pm Mid-rehearsal snack:
• Homemade trail mix

6:30 pm End of the rehearsal day:
• Coconut water

 

8:30 pm Dinner at home:
• Chicken breast marinated with lemon and rosemary
• One baked potato with mixed peppers, tomatoes and onions
• One Coke

10:30 pm Late-night snack:
• One Ghirardelli milk chocolate and caramel square
• Chamomile tea

 

“I’m a miserable person, not to mention a terrible ballerina, when I’m hungry,” says Combes, who always keeps a handful of snacks in her dance bag. Among them is a Tupperware container of her homemade trail mix, which she prepares with mixed nuts, dried fruit, pretzels and a few M&M’s. Combes tries to eat to sustain her energy, snacking throughout the day so she doesn’t fill up too much before a difficult rehearsal. But that doesn’t mean she goes without treating herself. “I love chocolate,” she says, “and I do feel like I deserve something sweet at the end of a long day.”

 

 

Twist the Bloat Away
When you’re running from class to class or rehearsal to performance, setting aside time to digest after squeezing in a meal isn’t always a high priority. The result? Bloating. Help your body out with a little yoga, specifically, a twisting pose. “In a twist, the internal organs related to digestion actually receive a little squeeze, encouraging them to do their work,” says TaraMarie Perri, founder of Mind Body Dancer, a yoga program for dancers. She recommends trying the revolved triangle pose (if your body is already warm):

  1. 1.    Stand with the right leg forward and the left leg back. Make sure the front leg’s knee and toes face forward and the back leg is slightly turned out.
  2. 2.    Inhale, reaching the left arm up and the right hand on the right hip. 
  3. 3.    On the exhale, tip forward with a long spine, keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground. Take the left hand to the floor on the outside of the right foot. Extend your right hand to the ceiling, twisting the spine. Take about three to five breaths.
  4. 4.    Come out of the pose on an exhale, and switch sides.

 

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