Eating in a cafeteria can sometimes feel like a game of roulette – you never know what you are going to get. For a dancer that needs to fuel themselves for a long day of class and rehearsals this food situation can be nerve wracking.

No two cafeterias are the same. They can differ from school to school and even on various locations on campus. So unfortunately, there’s no easy or simple answer to how to navigate the cafeteria at your summer program.

Here’s a list of tips that I learned from the different dinning situations I encountered at summer programs throughout the years.

#1  Fruit bowls are your friend. Pretty much every cafeteria has massive bowls of fruit you can just grab. If you’re not paying by the item, grab an extra apple or banana. It’s a great easy snack for in between rehearsals or later in the dorm.

#2  Be aware of all of your food options. Don’t pick the first item you see in line. Check out all of your food options before choosing your meal. Also, learn whether the cafeteria offers gluten free, vegetarian, or vegan options.

#3  Tell the Cafeteria staff if you have allergies. This can be very important if your allergies are very severe. Many cafeterias are able to create allergy-free options or even cook you food in an allergy free prep space.

#4  If you have to pack your lunch during breakfast, make sure you give yourself enough time in the morning. Some summer intensives have you pack lunch to take the studio during breakfast time. Make it part of your morning routine. Figure out if eating breakfast first works or packing lunch first to not feel rushed to catch the bus works better.

#5  Bring a lunch box and/or ice pack. If you have to pack a lunch to take to the studio, this keeps your lunch and snacks nice and cool. A soggy, melted wrap is disgusting in the summer.

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#6  Salad bars save lives. Ok not literally. But many cafeterias have salad bars, which can be great when you don’t like any of the options for the meal. They often include many options for veggies, proteins, salad dressings, and other salad mixings.

#7  Just because there are ice cream machines does not mean you should eat ice cream with every meal. Everyone discovers this the first time they live away from home in a dorm situation. It feels fun, exciting, and novel at first, but the feeling goes away within a day or two.

#8  Only get take out or delivery when the cafeteria is closed. You and your parents did pay for the cafeteria after all. Plus eating delivery food several times a week might not offer as many healthy options as the cafeteria.

#9  Make a new friend to sit with at meals. Most people show up to summer programs knowing no one. Grab your roommate(s), the people next door or down the hall, or anyone that looks lonely. No one likes starting a summer program out by eating alone.

#10  If the cafeteria staff asks for suggestions don’t be afraid to speak up! You’re going to be eating in this cafeteria for 2-6 weeks, so you should enjoy what you’re fueling your body with.

The Whole Dancer Intern Bio

Eating in a cafeteria during your summer intensive!

Jess Spinner

Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Holistic Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Coach for high level dancers. She founded The Whole Dancer in 2015 after identifying a greater need for balance, wellness and support in the dance world. Since The Whole Dancer was founded, Jess has worked with 100's of dancers worldwide at top companies and schools. She has been featured in or written for Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Pointe Magazine, and Dance Spirit Magazine.

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