As much as I preach about eating whole foods – fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, avocado, maybe some lean meats and fish I know dancer’s will end up eating some pre – packaged, convenience food. Your schedule is crazy a lot of the time. When your body is tired and you’ve got a lot going on, prepping food isn’t always gonna happen.

It’s helpful to be able to incorporate some pre – packaged foods into your eating plan. So what should you look for when choosing packaged foods?

The number one thing I want to stress when it comes to packaged foods is that the ingredients are what matter. I’ll give you some things to look for in the Nutrition Facts label but the main thing to consider is what’s inside.

If you’re relying on packaged food for a meal, whether it’s a pre – packaged frozen dinner or a meal delivery service of some kind check the ingredients first.

Amy’s products are great. They have a variety of options – frozen meals, soups and snacks. Not all of them are super healthy but here’s one that’s a great option :

Amy’s Brown Rice and Vegetable Bowl

Check out the ingredients in this meal. Each and every ingredient is pronounceable. That’s always a good sign. Also notice that the majority of ingredients are whole food ingredients vs. fillers or thickeners or preservatives you can’t pronounce and haven’t heard of.

Part of the reason I wouldn’t suggest relying on any packaged foods for meals on a daily basis is that even the higher quality options often use cheap Omega 6 heavy oils like safflower or sunflower oil. These oils are highly inflammatory and should be kept minimal.

Ingredients :

organic brown rice, organic onions, organic mushrooms, organic broccoli, organic carrots, organic tofu (filtered water, organic soybeans, magnesium chloride), organic spinach, organic celery, organic extra virgin olive oil, spices, organic sesame tahini, organic tamari (water, organic soybeans, organic alcohol [to preserve freshness], salt), ground mustard seeds, organic apple cider vinegar, sea salt, ume plum vinegar (water, ume plum, herbs, sea salt), grain vinegar, expeller pressed high oleic safflower and/or sunflower oil, black pepper, organic garlic. contains soy. includes sesame seeds.

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Now, take a look at the Nutrition Facts label for the same product. When you look at a nutrition facts label, focus in on the Sugar. This meal has 9g of Sugar. HOWEVER, when you look back at the ingredients you’ll notice that there’s no added sugar. So that means the sugar is coming from whole foods like carrots (1 medium carrot contains approx. 3g of sugar).

There’s not much else on the Nutrition Facts label that I think you need to worry about. It’s great when a food item has a good mix of protein, carbs, fiber and protein in order to help you feel satisfied by the meal. As long as you’re including high quality plant foods (for fiber), healthy fat sources (in this case tofu), lean protein (this meal has a mix of protein sources), and complex carbs (brown rice) you’ve got your bases covered.

The numbers are pretty irrelevant. During and after eating you need to ask yourself, how do I feel? Am I satisfied? Still hungry? Craving something specific? Think about the answers to those question and go from there.

If you’re determined to do more cooking at home, make it easier for yourself. There are some great recipe delivery services out there. My current favorite is Sun Basket. Going right along with quality of ingredients in packaged foods – Sun Basket only sources the highest quality ingredients.

Remember that you’re paying for convenience so it’s not necessarily as budget conscious as grocery shopping for yourself. If you’re interested in trying Sun Basket click here to save $35 on your first order!

Splendid Spoon provides on the go soups and smoothies. While I wouldn’t suggest relying only on the food options they provide because dancers need more sustenance than a nearly liquid diet, I think it can be a great way to supplement for those long days at the studio or on stage.

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Snacking smart is also an essential element to a healthy day of food. If you’re not able to have a proper lunch or dinner due to rehearsal schedule you need to make good snack choices.

In addition to your fresh snacks – fruit + nut butter, vegetables + hummus, etc. you will likely need some packaged snacks to make it through the day. My current favorite are Evo Hemp bars. Lets take a look at the ingredients :

Figs, Pecans, Apple, Hemp Protein Powder, Hemp Seeds, Coconut Nectar, Dates, Cinnamon, Turmeric

And Nutrition Facts label :

When you read this label and look at sugars you might be thinking, “Jess! That’s a lot of sugar and it’s coming from coconut nectar. Isn’t that no good?” I hear you! However, in this case you need to consider that the #1 ingredient is Figs. That means that by weight there are more Figs in this bar than anything else.

Yes, there is some sugar in there from Coconut Nectar but more of the sugar is coming from figs and apples – whole food sources. I often compare Evo Hemp bars to Lara bars. I think Evo bars are a better choice for dancers as they have more protein and less sugar. Food for thought 😉

At Thrive Market there are lots of snacks and pantry staples you can order. Head over there and explore.

Bottom line : Read the ingredients on packaged foods and don’t worry so much about the nutrition facts. Your body is extremely smart. If you listen to it, you’ll get all the messages you need around food needs and choices.

 

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Analyzing nutrition labels.