10 Nourishing Snacks to Pack for Nutcracker Performances

November 21, 2022

For busy bunheads, hunger often goes unnoticed during Nutcracker season as the holiday hustle and busy schedules overwhelm our daily routines. These unreliable appetite cues can make it challenging for dancers to fuel adequately on intense performance days. And after-hours or on days when your physical demands are less intense, extreme hunger may follow. Having a flexible eating routine ensures that your body gets the energy and nutrition it needs, and supplementing your meals with extra snacks offers opportunities to do just that.

From breakfast time to backstage bites, enjoy these 10 delicious and nutritious snacks to support your winter performance schedule at any point in your day. They’re designed to meet a dancer’s unique needs while considering the reality of performance constraints, like time.

1. Wintry Trail Mix

Bowls of homemade popcorn and dried cranberry snack
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Build this packable option using your favorite nuts or seeds, popcorn and dried fruit. The popcorn adds complex carbohydrates to support energy, and nuts complete the snack with protein and fat, both of which promote feelings of fullness until your next meal.

2. Snowmen Stacks

banana slices and nut butter
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These require a bit more prep—no more than 10 minutes—and make a festive backstage snack! Slice bananas into rounds and stack 3 with a generous coating of nut (or seed) butter between each slice. Add chocolate chips for eyes and pretzel sticks for arms. Pretzels offer easily digestible carbohydrates for when a quick energy boost is needed mid-performance. Pro tip: To avoid browning of the bananas, prep these the night before and freeze for easy traveling to the theater. A bonus? You’ll get a boost in potassium from the bananas to help alleviate post-performance muscle cramping.

3. Cinnamon Spice Oat Bites

Close-up of homemade oatmeal balls.
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In a bowl, mix rolled oats with a generous serving of sunflower seed butter. Add ground flax and cinnamon. Next, blend a handful of pitted dates until a paste-like texture is formed. Fold the oat mixture into the date paste and form into golf-ball–sized bites. Pack 3–4 bites for backstage.

4. Cheese Board in a Box

Snack box with nuts, olives, cheese, crackers and meats
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The trick here is to combine varying flavors and textures: something sweet, salty, chewy and crunchy. Start with your preferred cheese: cheddar, mozzarella, Brie, goat or Gouda squared and sliced. Pair with whole-grain crackers, salted nuts or seeds, and dried cranberries. Olives are another optional addition and give a boost in anti-inflammatory benefits because of their omega-3 fats. 

5. Oatmeal Muffins

Oat muffins with cinnamon.
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This delicious option brings warmth on the chilliest of days. Blend 2 cups of rolled oats with 2 eggs, 1 large banana, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and a dash of cinnamon. Bake in a standard muffin pan at 375°F for 30 minutes. Freeze your muffins and simply pop two into the toaster oven or microwave before serving. Top with butter and a sprinkle of chopped nuts for a breakfast that will support your focus throughout mid-morning classes.

6. Cinnamon Apple Chips

Dried apple chips on a baking sheet
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These apple chips are easy to make and offer a crunchy addition to any snack. Slice your apples thin, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake them at 200°F for 2 1/2 hours. Save time by using an apple slicer and preparing your chips in batches to toss into various snacks for the week. Apples are especially rich in prebiotic fibers, which support a flourishing gut microbiome for digestive regulation.

7. Fruit Leather

Delicious fruit leather rolls on blue wooden table
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A pantry staple, fruit leather can be bought at the store and kept in your dance bag or theater case throughout the entire performance season. Rely on this for a mid-performance energy boost, or add it to your cheese box to help replenish muscle glycogen after a show. 

8. Spiced Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted chickpeas with rosemary
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This crunchy snack can be prepared on rest days with a few simple ingredients: canned chickpeas and canola oil, along with spices like smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder and salt. Bake for about 40 minutes at 350°F. For a crispier chickpea, roast for another 5–10 minutes. Chickpeas are naturally balanced in protein and fiber and, when roasted with oil, make for a complete snack on their own. For an even more defined flavor, store them with a few sprigs of rosemary. 

9. Roasted Chestnuts

Roasted chestnuts with holiday greenery in the background
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Roasted chestnuts are a seasonal classic. Unlike other nuts, chestnuts are extra-starchy, with a higher concentration of fibrous complex carbohydrates to support long-lasting energy and digestive regularity. Chestnuts are also rich in vitamin C, a nutrient that not only aids in immunity, but also is a leading cofactor in tissue healing and collagen production. For a fun holiday activity, roast your own at home for about 30 minutes at 350°F! Once roasted, remove from the oven and place them in the center of a damp kitchen towel, lifting the ends to form a bag. Let sit in the towel for about 15 minutes to soften.

10. Sweet Potato Mini “Pies”

Baked sweet potato slices
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This sweet potato snack is another make-ahead option that will settle your wintertime cravings. Peel and slice 2 medium sweet potatoes into rounds about 1/4-inch thick. Brush each side with a thin layer of melted butter and bake at 400°F until tender, for about 15 minutes on each side. In a separate bowl, melt some more butter. Then stir in hemp seeds and chopped pecans. Once the sweet potatoes are cooled, brush the mixture atop each round. The hemp seeds add a boost of protein to complete this delicious snack, which can be served cold or warm.