The Dance Bag Diet
Many dancers’ bags double as mini 7-Elevens. They’re chock full of carefully selected snacks that fuel dancers through the day, the performance and the season. There’s not a casual cracker in there! These stashes are as individual as the dancers themselves: Every performer who’s put a protein bar to her mouth has a different snack philosophy. Five stars let us peek at their noshing habits.
Company: Miami City Ballet
Go-to snack: Pumpkin seeds. “They make me feel good after rehearsal, and are ideal for muscle fatigue.” (An excellent source of energizing protein, these seeds are loaded with anti-cramping nutrients like potassium, as well as magnesium and zinc.)
Afternoon pick-up: Almonds, walnuts or a mix of both. “Nuts really sustain me. A handful is all you need—otherwise it’s too fattening.”
Sweet treat: Fresh medjool dates. “Three dates give me a nice boost directly after class or rehearsal; one before and two after works as well.” (Dates have quick-acting sugar, fiber and calcium, as well as essential nutrients like iron, copper and magnesium.)
Favorite bar: Vega Whole Food Vibrancy bars, created by vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier, author of The Thrive Diet. “They’re expensive, but they’re made with dates and raw almonds.”
Company: American Ballet Theatre
Go-to snack: A packet of Trader Joe’s individually packaged nuts and dried fruit mix. “I like quantifying things. A small, separately packed bag of nuts, preferably roasted and salted, is ideal for me so I don’t over-eat. I like to snack during shows. It’s more of a nervous thing, I guess.”
Alternative snack: Fruit—sliced pineapple and watermelon in the summer, grapefruits and oranges in the winter, or apples and bananas any time of the year.
Favorite bars: He’ll sometimes grab a granola bar or a Clif bar, but Simkin generally avoids protein bars. “They are glorified chocolate bars. I’d much rather have a real cookie than think that I’m doing something good for my body by eating ‘healthy.’ ”
Sweet treat: Cookies. “I don’t think I will ever refrain from eating cookies. Ask me again in a couple of years: I might reduce the amount, but I don’t think I will ever lose my appetite for those simple carbs. When I feel really down, I get one from Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side. They are heavenly delicious.”
Snacking philosophy: “I know all the benefits of good nutrition, but everything is good in moderation. Just don’t obsess over it.”
Company: American Ballet Theatre
Go-to snack: Unsalted peanuts. “I’ve noticed over the years that my body responds best to nuts. I eat them throughout the day if I feel my energy drop, either before and after lunch.”
Alternate snack: Mixes with dried fruit and yogurt-covered raisins.
Favorite bar: “I don’t do protein bars.”
Former bad habits: 1. Forgoing snacks. “I wasn’t eating often enough throughout the day, and when I did eat, it was too large a meal that was too high in fat.” 2. Relying on the vending machine. “Anything that comes in a plastic bag from a machine, I have no business eating.”
Sweet treat: A cookie or Pinkberry (although she doesn’t stash that in her bag). “I make sure that almost every night I have something sweet!”
Company: The National Ballet of Canada
Go-to snack: A fresh grapefruit. “I just peel it and eat it. It’s sweet and smells great.”
Alternate snack: Raw almonds. “They have the good fat we need. A handful works—not more than 12 a day.”
Favorite bar: A maple nut or peanut butter Clif bar. “They look like real food rather than those overly processed bars. I sometimes just need a bite, so I can nibble on it throughout the day.”
Afternoon pick-up: Organic yogurt with granola.
Instant booster: A packet of Emergen-C for the minerals and potassium.
Former bad habit: Going to the studio unprepared. “Now I have snacks on hand so I don’t need to go for empty calories. I think ahead.”
Sweet treat: A killer good chocolate chip cookie.
Company: New York City Ballet
Go-to snack: A really ripe banana. He finds ripe ones tastier because of their sugar content.
Alternate snack: Almonds and pumpkin seeds. “They both travel well in Ziploc bags. I get a quick little boost, and mentally, it’s good just to nibble on something. It’s comforting.”
Favorite bar: LUNA bars, especially the chocolate peanut butter flavor. “I know, they are made for women, but I don’t care! They fill me up without weighing me down. I get a great burst of energy.”
Former bad habit: Twizzlers. “When I first started in the corps, I was more of a junk food guy. But they did more harm than good, and wouldn’t give me the sustaining energy
I needed for partnering.”
Sweet treat: A milk chocolate bar with almonds. “The sugar is a quick pick-me-up.”
Pre-show prep: A swig of water with a few drops of peppermint oil. “It’s a great breath freshener, and it clears the sinuses. It’s like drinking a box of Altoids.”
Nancy Wozny writes and snacks from Houston, TX.