What a Dance Dietitian Always Keeps in the Kitchen
by Kristin Koskinen, RDN, LD, CD
I’m often asked about what dancer-friendly foods I keep on hand. Because dancers often have limited time to prepare and eat healthy foods, it’s good to have options you can stock in the pantry or fridge to grab over the course of the week. In this post, I’ll cover some of my favorite protein sources. Not only are they readily available wherever you live, but they’re also great values that fit any budget.
Legumes are economical food choices that consistently provide fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates. One cup of cooked black beans provides offers 15 grams of protein, 40 grams of carbs, and 15 grams of the 25-50 grams of fiber recommended (depending on who’s doing the recommending). They are a rich source of potassium, magnesium, and folate. You will also get other vitamins and minerals, including about 20% of the RDA for iron (1). Because iron from plant sources is better absorbed with eaten with Vitamin C, you may want to add some oranges to your shopping-on-the-cheap list. Dried beans are exceptionally economical and offer flexibility in preparation. I make mine in a slow cooker for an easy weeknight meal that cooks while I go about my day. The canned variety offers convenience and are still very affordable.
How to Use Them:
Black beans can be used as a stand-alone side dish or mixed with onions, chopped cilantro, and tomatoes for a salad. As a main, consider serving them as a chili, or hot over quinoa or rice and topped with cheese and pico de gallo.
Dance Bag Friendly: Wrap some beans in a tortilla with lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa for a burrito-to-go.
Need a recipe? I have one for you on my website.
Eggs, even the inexpensive ones, are a great nutritional value. To be clear, when I say, “eggs” I mean whole eggs. Not just the whites and certainly not the liquid crap that comes in a box. I mean real eggs with shells and yolks and whites. Their culinary versatility makes them an absolute staple. They contain Omega-3 fatty acids, are exceptional sources of complete protein as well as healthy fats, selenium, Vitamin D, and choline, just to name a few. Buy pastured eggs whenever possible. Chickens allowed to hunt, peck, and enjoy a natural diet of bugs and grubs, along with seeds and grains produce more nutritious eggs.
Choline is an essential nutrient necessary to produce the phospholipids that ensure cells maintain their structural integrity. Recently, choline has been given a lot of attention because of its roll in brain and nervous system functions, including mood and memory.
Eggs are an excellent source of the branched-chain amino acid, leucine, which is known in the sports nutrition world for its role in muscle protein synthesis. Research indicates that eating whole eggs as a recovery food following resistance training supports muscle growth and repair and are a clear winner when compared to just eating the whites. I recommend eggs as a post-strength-training snack for my clients to support muscle growth.
Nair KS, Schwartz RG, Welle S. Leucine as a regulator of whole body and skeletal muscle protein metabolism in humans. Am J Physiol. (1992)
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Whole eggs better for muscle building and repair than egg whites. “ScienceDaily.ScienceDaily, 20 December 2017
How to Use Them:
Eggs are incredibly versatile. From omelets to over-easy, there are lots of options. I keep hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator as a grab-and-go item. I love using leftover bits of vegetables and potatoes to make a frittata, which can be enjoyed at any time of day and travels easily for meals away from home.
Dance Bag Friendly: Hard boiled-eggs or frittata can be taken to the studio, just be sure to keep them in an insulated bag with an ice pack to keep them cold.
Canned Tuna or Sardines
Omega-3 fatty acids support brain health, cardiovascular health, and are known to be anti-inflammatory. Not all food sources of Omega-3s are equally bioavailable or usable by the body, which can present challenges for vegans. Canned sardines are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, but they don’t agree with everyone’s palate. I keep both sardines, for the more adventurous in my home, and canned tuna, also a good source of the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, in the pantry. Pay attention to sourcing and sustainably caught fish. I like Wild Planet wild tuna. Either fish can be eaten on its own as a meal or a snack or can be added to other foods. For those who want to eat more sardines, but haven’t acquired a taste for them, try adding small amounts to already familiar foods, such as tuna.
How to Use Them:
I add tuna to green salads, pasta salads, or serve with whole-grain crackers as a snack. It’s a stand-alone food that doesn’t need to be diluted by mayonnaise, even though that’s how many of us are accustomed to seeing canned tuna served.
Dance Bag Friendly: It’s easy to keep a tin of either in your dance bag, especially if you have a pull-top lid. You can eat sardines or tuna right out of the tin or serve with cucumber slices and crackers for an easy lunch or snack.
Want to learn more about how to use food to support your dancing? Follow me on Instagram where you’ll find a link to my Make-and-Take Snack Guide for Dancers (link in bio) or head to my website: www.eatwellpros.com and sign up for my newsletter.
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