Essential Eats: Top Ten Foods For Dancers

These foods are a dancer’s best bets for promoting stamina, strength and overall health.

1. Soy

Contains protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, calcium, selenium

Eat it in calcium-fortified vanilla soymilk over your cereal, tempeh on salads, soybeans in chilis or on salads, edamame (soybeans that look like snow peas with a fuzzy outer coat that are boiled in water and salt), soy nut butter as an alternative to peanut butter, and soy-based protein powder in shakes or smoothies.

Recommended: one serving per day, which is about 1 cup of soy milk, 1⁄2 cup of soy beans, 1⁄3 cup of soy nuts, a handful of edamame, or 1 ounce of tofu (1⁄3 of a deck of cards)

2. Salmon

Contains omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, phosphorous

Eat it grilled, baked, poached, steamed or broiled. Avoid the skin, which stores contaminants like PCBs (cancer-causing chemicals found in some bodies of water). For added calcium, try canned salmon with bones.

Recommended: 6 ounces per week, or the size of both your palms. Because of high levels of mercury—which can cause central nervous system disorders in adults, among other ailments—limit yourself to 12 ounces of fish per week, and no more than 6 ounces of the same type.

3. Spinach

Contains vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, zinc

Eat it raw, steamed or lightly sautéed in olive oil. Use in salads, casseroles, soups, as a side dish, in pasta sauces and on top of pizza. Maximize iron absorption by eating with a vitamin C source such as tomato or lemon.

Recommended: 1 cup raw or 1⁄2 cup cooked per day, 2-3 times per week

4. Sweet potatoes

Contain more beta-carotene than carrots or winter squash

Eat it baked, microwaved or steamed, then cube and toss into a salad or casserole.

Recommended: 1 potato, 2-3 times per week

Perk: will satisfy your sweet tooth.

5. Walnuts

Contain omega-3 fatty acids (one of the few plant sources), vitamin E, B-vitamins, magnesium, manganese, potassium

Eat it on cereal and salads or in yogurt; pair with raisins or dried figs for an energizing mid-afternoon snack.

Recommended: 11⁄2 ounces per day (about 21 halves)

Perk: may reduce risk for heart disease.

6. Oats

Contain soluble fiber, selenium, the B-vitamin thiamin, potassium, zinc

Eat it mixed with water, milk or soymilk for a low-calorie snack (80 calories per 1⁄2 cup cooked oatmeal).

Recommended: one bowl daily

Perks: Oats are natural anti-inflammatories, can help stabilize blood sugar, and soothe dry skin when applied topically. Instant oatmeal also makes an easy-to-pack studio snack.

7. Blueberries

Contain vitamin C, potassium, fiber

Eat it on cereal or pancakes or in yogurt, muffin mixes or smoothies.

Recommended: 1⁄2 cup daily

Perk: Blueberries are especially good for protecting cells from cancer-causing free radicals that are generated during exercise.

8. Yogurt

Contains protein, calcium, phosphorus, B-vitamins

Eat it unrefrigerated—contrary to popular myth, yogurt doesn’t need to be kept cold. Choose reduced or nonfat to keep intake of animal fats (which cause inflammation) low. If you’re lactose-intolerant, try soy yogurt.

Recommended: 1 single-serving carton per day

Perk: Acidophilus, the active cultures found in yogurt, helps digestion and immune function.

9. Broccoli

Contains fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium, indoles

Eat it raw, steamed or sautéed; buy frozen or fresh.

Recommended: 1 cup, 2-3 times per week

10. Olive oil

Contains healthy unsaturated fats

Eat it in salad dressings, or use for cooking.

Recommended: 2-3 tablespoons per day

Perks: Using olive oil instead of animal and saturated fats like butter, margarine, mayonnaise and shortening will help lower cholesterol and prevent inflammation, which is especially important if you’re developing arthritis.

Marie Scioscia is a nutritionist in NYC who works with dancers and athletes.

Latest Posts

Martha Graham Dance Company's Xin Ying (James Jin, courtesy Ying)

How to Dance Outside

We've all been stubbing our toes and whacking our elbows dancing in less-than-roomy indoor spots lately (hello, 5' x 8' patch of bathroom tile). If you're lucky enough to have access to a backyard or other big green space right now, you're probably itching to take your grand allegro outside, especially as the weather gets warmer. But how can you dance safely and productively in the great outdoors? We got pro tips from Mike Tyus of Jacob Jonas The Company and Xin Ying of Martha Graham Dance Company, both of whom were dancing outside long before COVID-19 hit.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Listen to Black Dancers Speaking Out Against Racial Injustice

This weekend, protests against racially-charged police brutality—spurred by the unjust killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Sean Reed, and so many others—swept the country. Supporters, including many of members of the dance world, took to social media to share their thoughts, and express their grief.

As allies, one of the first actions we can take in this moment is to listen to and amplify the voices of Black members of our dance community. Here are some of the most powerful posts written by Black dancers.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Just a few of our special Class of 2020 digital covers

Congrats to Our 2020 Dance Grad Cover Stars!

We're thrilled to be honoring members of the great Dance Class of 2020 on special digital covers. One new cover star was revealed every day during the month of May. Take a look at all of our winners below!

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search