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Sometimes, dancers just need a snack that's super-portable, mess-free, and nonperishable. That's where energy bars come in. The trick is to know which ones are most like real food: tasty, low in added sugars, and high in dancer-friendly nutrients like fiber and protein. Behold, our ultimate energy bar breakdown.

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Dance News

We featured commercial diva Liana Blackburn in 2015 and she wowed us with her super-healthy, vegetable-centric diet—which she maintained while dancing in Las Vegas for Britney Spears.

Now that she's on tour as Selena Gomez's dance captain (nbd), Blackburn has added a new component to her DailyDancerDiet blog and Instagram presence: A YouTube series! "DaiyDancerDiet on Tour" takes followers to restaurants that Blackburn has chosen to highlight based on their commitment to healthy food.

 

If you're curious what a pro dancer eats to fuel their day of rehearsals, training and performance, Blackburn provides an interesting and thorough resource.

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Your Body
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From 8 am calculus exams to rigorous evening rehearsals, dancers require a lot of mental focus to get through the day. DS chatted with registered dietitian Marie Scioscia of The Ailey School for tips on what to eat to keep your brain running on all cylinders.

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Dance News

We love these guys so much we just HAD to put them on our July/August 2012 cover. (Photo by Jacob Pritchard)

Have we mentioned lately that we're obsessed with the Broadway show Newsies? OK, maybe we have once or twice (or maybe it was three times). But can you blame us? I mean, Disney sure knows how to put on a completely dance-tastic show. If you've seen it, you can probably relate to that overwhelming desire to get up out of your seat and seize the day right alongside these über-talented dancers.

Disney has capitalized on that urge as a part of its new "Get Up and Go" campaign. The idea behind it is pretty self-explanatory: It's about using dance—specifically Broadway dance—to get kids moving. Since December, Newsies cast members have been visiting participating NYC schools to talk to students about healthy living and to teach them some of the choreography from the show. (Jealous!)

This week, Disney released a free online tutorial with Newsies choreographer Christopher Gattelli teaching a section of "Seize the Day." Now you don't have to be in one of those NYC schools to get in on the fun! Oh, and they got none other than Michelle Obama to introduce the tutorial. Super casual. If you think about it, it makes sense—"Get Up and Go" has a similar mission to the First Lady's "Let's Move" campaign.

The cast will also include live tutorials in select cities as a part of their upcoming national tour. And this is just the beginning: Disney plans to continue "Get Up and Go" with Aladdin and The Lion King in 2015.

Look out for Gattelli and select cast members on "Good Morning America" this Tuesday, July 22. They'll be teaching the choreo to a live audience in NYC's Times Square. And in the meantime, check out the tutorial below, and get dancin'!

Dancer to Dancer

Christina Ilisije in a recent performance of Kate Skarpetwoska's A Stray's Lullaby (by Masato Kuroda)

I wish I could say I didn’t fulfill the dancer-with-an-eating-disorder cliché, but I can’t. My struggle started when I was a dance-crazed teenager, nitpicking more than just my technique in the mirror. As a type-A gal, I thought of losing weight as a way to take control of one more element of my life. Perfection was what I was after, and I thought every pound lost would bring me closer to it. My goal was to get into good shape, and to me that didn’t mean improving my stamina or strength, but appearing more “dancerly.”

The problem reached another level when I started as a dance major at Marymount Manhattan College. The summer before my sophomore year, I enrolled in a course on nutrition. The class opened up my mind to a better, healthier diet, but I took its lessons to an extreme. I read every ingredient on nutrition labels and became tediously aware of serving sizes. I stopped listening to my body’s signs of hunger and analyzed my meals as if I were being graded. Any time I absent-mindedly snacked on trail mix, I felt consumed by guilt.

I became extremely thin—too thin by anyone’s standards. At 5' 5", I weighed about 100 pounds. Upon my return to Marymount in September, teachers took note of my deteriorating figure. “Christina, you look so thin. Don’t lose any more weight, please.” To me, this was a compliment. While it was easy for me to look at people with more severe cases of anorexia—their bones protruding harshly—and know they were sick, I was proud of my new figure. I was in denial, convinced there was nothing wrong with my body and that my pitifully constrained dinners were what a dancer should be eating. I’m scared to think how close I was to extreme anorexia—probably much closer than I realized.

Ilisije (right) at her thinnest in college (courtesy Christina Ilisije)

The most tragic part? I felt great. I felt on top of my dance game when I was truly at the bottom. Once I knew I was skinny, I took class with a liberated state of mind, riding the wave of my positive body view. Finally, when I spotted myself in arabesque in the mirror, I didn’t think, Ugh, that belly and thigh are a bit unfortunate. Instead, I was free to sail effortlessly in a promenade, focusing on luxuriating in my épaulement instead of scrutinizing my body. And as my college training continued, my technique got better, which in my mind proved my bogus equation: thinness = better dancing.

At the end of spring semester, my parents came to see me perform. After the show, they were near tears. They told me I needed to put on weight and they were going to get me help. Seeing their urgency about an issue I thought didn’t exist made me reconsider what I was doing to my body. My parents were right. It had been nearly a year since I’d started my misguided efforts to get in “dancer shape,” and I had become weak and withered. I hadn’t had a period in nine months, and I knew in my gut that my body was shutting down. Gratefully, I accepted their intervention.

I saw a therapist to help sort through the emotional turmoil and wrap my mind around the seriousness of the issue. I realized that potentially ending my dance career—because of lost bone density and an increased risk of injury, both side effects of my dangerously low body weight—frightened me almost as much as putting on weight. My therapist repeatedly reminded me to view food as a source of nourishment and emphasized the importance of fueling my bones and muscles to allow them to do what I requested of them. I was never formally diagnosed with a disorder, but I became aware that my perception of my body wasn’t aligned with reality.

I dove full force into my recovery, and when it came to food, I didn’t limit myself. I increased my portions and didn’t finish a meal until my belly felt full. Food still came with a whopping side of guilt, but I kept trying to convince myself that my new eating habits were necessary. Seeing the poundage creep onto my scrawny frame while maintaining a sense of self-pride was a challenge. Those five extra pounds made me feel like I was wearing a balloon suit.

Ilisije (front right) with friends at Marymount Manhattan College (courtesy Christina Ilisije)

Along my road to recovery, I became heavier than I’d been before I was sick. I intuitively felt I would need to go further in the opposite direction before I could balance myself and feel my healthiest. But I let this new heavier body limit my dancing because I felt no pride in it. It was a distraction that took me out of the work and into the mirror, concerned with the appearance of my movement instead of the movement itself. The honest truth is my mind hadn’t made as much of a shift as I had hoped.

But I repeatedly recited to myself, “I have to fuel my body. This is me, and I’m beautiful.” With these self-loving mantras and a lot of patience, I started to believe the asexual, prepubescent look was not all that and a bag of chips (let’s be real, it was no chips!). The clothes that once sagged on my wilted tushie had a field day with the comeback of my bubble butt. At first, I gawked in the mirror with a tinge of disgust at my new curves, but I gradually embraced that womanly figure. There was no “aha” moment. It took time before I was able to own my body and shed my mental balloon suit.

While I was in the midst of this mental battle, life threw me other tests. During a phone call with a director about an upcoming season, she asked if I planned on getting in shape for it—“You know, slimming down,” she said. I went on the defensive and told her I wasn’t willing to drop pounds and sacrifice my health. It was a proud moment, but the harsh reality was that I wasn’t in my best shape. Negotiating the fine line between healthy eating habits and obsessive ones was too sensitive an issue for me. Slowly, I faced the fact that I needed to make sure my physique was strong, lean and functioning at its best for dance jobs.

With Jason Macdonald in Parson's Swing Shift (by Masato Kuroda)

In 2010, I joined Parsons Dance. Now, for the most part, the physical work I do on a daily basis helps me achieve the necessary strength, stamina and flexibility. Other times I have to step up my game and fuel my body carefully to make sure I feel at my prime. I still consciously opt for nutritious foods. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full—for the most part. I eat chocolate, and I like it. Heck, I love it, and I may occasionally eat one too many Godiva truffles

in the confines of my apartment. Yes, there are still times when I mumble to myself, “Did you really need to eat that much?” However, these mental slip-ups are few and far between, and I have faith that one day they’ll subside into my dark past completely. And these days, when I’m coming back from an off-season and notice my figure is a little rounder, I have deeper patience with myself. I’m well aware I’m a beautiful woman and artist at a healthy, ideal-dancer-weight-for-me of about 130 pounds (a guesstimate, since I don’t step on a scale unless I’m at the doctor).

This is my challenge to other dancers who take drastic measures to change their bodies: Choose to see your beauty, and, for heaven’s sakes, use the mirror as a tool to sharpen your technique, not to see if your thighs look fat. There has to come a point when you stop worrying and let dance take over. If you want to reach your fullest capacity as an artist and a person, working to maintain a healthy relationship with food is a battle worth fighting.

Your Body

This month it might be tempting to just grab a handful of Halloween candy before heading to class, but you’ll be much better off with one of these goodies. They’re packed with protein, fiber and good fats, leaving you fueled and ready to take on even the trickiest combinations.

 

(iStock)

Nutty Popcorn Balls

Ingredients

•    1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels (makes about 16 cups popcorn)

•    3/4 cup honey

•    1/4 cup brown sugar

•    3/4 cup peanut butter

•    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

•    Air-pop popcorn kernels and set aside.

•    Mix honey and brown sugar in a saucepan. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil, then add peanut butter and vanilla extract. Stir until the mixture is well combined.

•    Put popcorn in a large bowl. Pour honey-peanut butter mixture over it (careful, it’ll be hot!) and stir until popcorn is thoroughly coated.

•    As soon as the mixture has cooled enough to be handled comfortably, start forming it into golf-ball–sized balls, compressing the popcorn tightly with your hands. Place

the balls on a cookie sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper. Put the cookie sheet into the refrigerator to cool.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Makes 25–30 balls

(by Josephine Daño)

Peanut Butter Power Pack

Ingredients

•    1 medium or large apple

•    raisins, cinnamon and peanut butter to taste

•    toothpicks (optional)

Directions

•    Slice an apple horizontally about an inch from the top. Remove the top part, and scoop out the core with a melon baller.

•    Tuck peanut butter, cinnamon and raisins into the hollow space and replace the “lid.” Secure it with toothpicks if you’ll be taking this snack on the go.

Prep Time: 5–10 minutes

Makes 1 serving

Delicious and nutritious: “The peanut butter in these recipes provides healthful oils that don’t cause joint inflammation, and the protein will decrease hunger and keep you fuller longer—no sugar cravings! Also, the raisins are a good source of iron (athletes, like dancers, are more prone to developing iron-deficiency anemia).” —Marie Scioscia, MS, RD, CDN, of The Ailey School

 

STRETCH YOUR GOALS

Still trying to nail that triple pirouette? Researchers say you’re more likely to succeed if you shoot for 2–4 rotations instead. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that flexible goals seem both attainable and challenging, so you’re more likely to keep achieving your objectives and setting new ones. Translation? The lower number feels doable, while the higher one dares you to work harder. Talk about the best of both worlds!

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Still trying to nail that triple pirouette? Researchers say you’re more likely to succeed if you shoot for 2–4 rotations instead. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that flexible goals seem both attainable and challenging, so you’re more likely to keep achieving your objectives and setting new ones. Translation? The lower number feels doable, while the higher one dares you to work harder. Talk about the best of both worlds!

 

Dealing with self-doubt? Write yourself a love note! We know you’re amazing, but it’s important that you know what makes you great, too. Read your note before your next big audition, and you’ll head into the room beaming with confidence.

Your Body

With the new year rapidly approaching and a flurry of holiday gatherings competing for a spot on your social calendar, it’s just the right time to think about how to keep your waist in line and your energy levels soaring. When heavy party foods start to weigh you down, a trip to the produce section at your favorite grocery store may be just what your body needs to feel light and keep you full of holiday cheer.

Health officials recommend that an American consuming a 2,000 calorie diet gobble up two cups of fruits and two and a half cups of veggies a day. Unfortunately, The Produce for Better Health Foundation says fewer than 1 in 10 Americans report eating the recommended amount. Worried about not meeting this lofty goal? A well-balanced salad may be the perfect solution. For instance, a salad that includes one cup of dark green lettuce, half a cup of chopped peppers, half a cup of broccoli, five cherry tomatoes (considered half a cup) and one medium carrot will provide your recommended daily dose of veggies and fruits in one bowl. (Check out www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid for more great ways to boost your daily fruit and veggie intake.)

What’s All the Hype?

Developing a taste for salads can be a great tool for busy dancers looking for a quick way to take in a lot of key nutrients at once. Fruits and vegetables pack a serious nutritional punch, and salads filled with them are high in disease-fighting vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, beta carotene, folate and potassium. Fruits and vegetables are also drenched with phytochemicals (phyto = plant), which help fight colds and relieve sore muscles (they also give produce its color, taste and aroma). Healthy salads are high in fiber, a filling nutrient that will help keep hunger at bay and your digestive tract on track. Some great benefits during this season of indulgence, don’t you think?

The Anatomy of the Perfect Salad

There are so many fruits and vegetables available, the possible salad combinations are endless. But beware, not all salads are healthy. For example, if your salad bowl is filled with colorless iceberg lettuce, a few carrot slivers, croutons and a heaping ladle-full of creamy dressing, or your idea of a healthy salad involves the names “Caesar” or “taco,” you may need to make over your salad to ensure you’re getting the most nutritional bang for your buck–without the muck! Here are some simple tips to help get your salad in shape.

The Perfect Bowl

Start with a huge bowl. Yes, this is one of the few areas where we won’t automatically recommend the smallest serving size! In fact, imagine your bowl has a device on the side to measure the nutritional value of your salad: Add healthy ingredients and the points on your meter will increase, but add less favorable elements to your salad, like bacon or creamy dressings, and the points will plummet.

Taste the Rainbow

Color is key. Be sure to add at least one dark green, deep orange, blazing red and bright yellow veggie to your bowl. To satisfy your sweet tooth, toss some chopped fresh fruit into the mix, as well. Grapes, apples and strawberries are especially nutritious and delicious.

It’s Not Easy Being Creamy

If creamy is your thing, watch out for most potato salads and cole slaw, but feel free to mix up your own using low-fat mayonnaise or plain yogurt. Yes, mayonnaise can be particularly damaging to the healthy value of a salad, so it would be wise to limit your intake of similar salads, such as egg salad, tuna salad and chicken salad.

Pump Up the Protein

Top your salad with lean proteins to keep you satisfied longer and provide the building blocks for strong muscles. Meats such as turkey, grilled chicken breast, canned albacore tuna packed in water, freshly cooked salmon and swordfish, or hard- boiled eggs can do the trick. Those looking for non-animal-based protein sources should consider adding moderate amounts of tofu, nuts, beans, other legumes or avocado to the mix. Cheese lovers might opt for a dollop of low-fat cottage cheese, or a sprinkle of parmesan, asiago, feta or part-skim mozzarella, each of which will give your greens a serious protein and calcium lift.

Dressing Up

Dressings can make or break a salad. Go for the ones that contain healthy, plant-based oils, such as olive, canola, peanut and flaxseed oil. Keep in mind, even though salad dressings containing these oils are heart healthy, they still check in at 9 to 12 grams of fat for two tablespoons. Consider giving nonfat or low-fat dressings a try, but beware that many of these can have high sugar content. Dressings with no more than three grams of fat and 200 milligrams of sodium per two tablespoon serving are ideal. Yogurt-based dressings are another nutrient-packed option. At restaurants, ask for your salad dressing on the side, so you can monitor the amount you take in. No matter which dressing you choose, it’s essential to use it sparingly!

A Little Extra

Finally, to give your salad a crunchy kick, sprinkle a little low-fat granola, wheat germ, ground flaxseed or crumbled pita chips on top. You canalso consider other unique additions, like nuts, seeds, celery salt, fresh ground pepper and even a splash of lemon juice to put a new twist on your favorite fruit and veggie combo.

You now have all the tools to build a healthy and colorful salad–but don’t stop there! The beauty of these guidelines is that they’re flexible enough to leave you with room to experiment with new combinations all the time. Keep switching the mix to keep your tastebuds tantalized and your cravings on course, and we bet you’ll never think of salads as boring again!

Karlyn Grimes, a registered dietitian, holds a dual master's degree in nutrition and exercise phsiology from Boston University and is a faculty member in the Nutrition and Biology departments at Simmons College in Boston.

Your Body

A number of teens are making a statement with what they’re eating—or not eating. They’re going vegan, which means giving up foods that come from animals—that includes all meat, fish, cheese, eggs, milk and butter. Teen dancers who think it’s the right choice should know it’s not necessarily the safest for every body. DS investigates.

Is It Healthy For Dancers?

Isabella Mariani, 15, who takes dance classes at The Chapin School and performed with the National Dance Institute, now follows a vegan diet. Isabella says she feels “healthier, a lot cleaner and more pure. I have more energy, too.” But there are certain factors to consider when going vegan: “Many vegetarians and vegans are missing the veggie part,” says dietician Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD, and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. In other words, fries might be free of animal products but contain zero nutrients.

Donald Hensrud, MD, nutrition specialist and chair of the Division of Preventive, Occupational, and Aerospace Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, points out that you’ll need to stick to whole foods (hint: They don’t come in boxes or wrappers). “A lot of packaged foods—like white bread—are processed and have nutrients removed,” he explains.

If you do eat processed foods, you’ll have to read the labels because they often contain hidden ingredients that come from animals. “Forms of dairy, such as whey, casein or lard, pop up in packaged foods like canned refried beans,” warns dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Health Risks

Between 13 and 19, you grow like crazy, so getting the proper nutrition is crucial. And what you eat today doesn’t just influence your body right now; it sets you up for the future. Here are five vegan pitfalls you’ll want to watch out for—and ways to sail past them.

Lack of Calcium: “Bone-building calcium is especially important for dancers, who may be more prone to bone and stress fractures,” says Blatner. You’d have to eat more than seven cups of raw broccoli to get as much calcium as there is in only one cup of milk!

Solution: Girls ages 9 to 18 should shoot for 1,300 mg of calcium a day—find it in broccoli, kale, tofu made with calcium and calcium-fortified soy foods, juices and cereals. Ask your doctor about taking a calcium supplement with magnesium.

Low Calorie Count: As a vegan dancer, “you need to eat more volume in order to get the same amount of calories,” Dr. Hensrud says. You would have to eat 35 cups of green beans to get the same number of calories in a pound of hamburger meat. “Because you’re expending a lot of calories in the dance studio, you need more calories than the average teen, not less.”

Solution: Eat calorie-dense foods, like avocados and dried fruit. Also, eat something starchy at every meal, like whole-wheat varieties of cereal, pasta, bread, rice or potatoes. And don’t forget your nuts and seeds.

Diminished Muscle Tone: “Protein is essential for building and repairing muscles and body tissues,” says Blatner. But vegans don’t eat meat or dairy, which are huge sources of protein.

Solution: Eat nuts, seeds, soy, whole grains, lentils, avocados, olives, peas and kidney, pinto and black beans.

Limited Variety: Every day you need protein from several different foods. “Each source of protein carries its own unique blend of amino acids,” says Farrell. So you can’t replace the protein in all meat with just nuts.

Solution: Mix it up and keep it interesting! Make sure the food on your plate isn’t all one color, and beware of buying one or two items in bulk.

Too Little Fat: Not having enough fat in your diet leads to low body fat, which can influence your hormones and  menstrual cycle. Vegans have to get the fat elsewhere—vegan dancers need to compensate even more.

Solution: Eat avocados and nuts; cook with oils.

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