It’s essential to have a plan surrounding your meals and snacks in order to best fuel your body for dance. You’ll also end up eating more food you actually enjoy rather than turning to packaged convenience food most of the time. There are some very practical planning strategies to help you increase variety AND cover your macronutrient and micronutrient bases in your dancer fuel plan.
Meal planning for dancers is always something I cover with my Elite Best Body Coaching clients. Having a plan will help you feel more confident in your food choices. You’ll feel greater ease and will spend less time overthinking and overanalyzing what you might eat at a given moment. Busy dancer schedules need the support of an intentional and supportive plan around food.
Pick a meal to focus on first: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Eventually, you’ll build up to having a plan in place for all of your meals and snacks, but let’s start simple. Again, this is not about overthinking. It’s about giving your food choices some thought so you’re not scrambling and just eating whatever happens to be around.
Choose the meal that needs the most attention first. For many dancers, it’s dinner because it can easily become an afterthought. Breakfast is generally easier to prioritize, and you have some energy to bring to the breakfast creation process since you’ve just gotten a (hopefully) good night’s sleep.
Most dancers are pretty good at packing a lunch or at least a bunch of snacks to get you through your dancing day, but dinner gets forgotten. When you get home after dancing all day, you’re exhausted, and cooking is probably the last thing you want to do. This is where some dinner planning and prep are incredibly valuable.
Pick your top 3–5 go-to recipes for that meal time.
When you start to get into meal planning, it’s easy to get overly ambitious. Meal planning for dancers should be simple. Setting a plan in place where you’re incorporating 6–7 brand-new recipes is going to be hard to live up to. Instead, pick a few recipes you already have experience cooking. Allow space for one new recipe and also allow for a day or two of super easy, just-reheat options. On those days, you might include frozen dinners, canned soups, leftovers, or takeout.
A rule I use personally and one I always recommend to dancers with super busy schedules is to stick to recipes that take 15–30 minutes to make (from start to finish). If you want to make something that takes longer, it’s helpful to break down the steps and make grains, sauces, or any longer cooking elements ahead of time.
Make a grocery list based on your cooking plans.
When you have your dinner plans, look at the recipes for each and make your shopping list. If you don’t have a good supply of oils, spices, and grains in your pantry, stocking it with ingredients you use frequently may take an initial investment. Once it’s stocked, it will make cooking and shopping even easier.
One of the big benefits of having a plan for what you’ll be cooking for the week is it makes grocery shopping much easier, faster, and budget conscious. You’ll only be buying things you have a plan to use, so you’ll do less random spending.
Decide on your meal-planning day.
Consistency in new habit formation is super helpful. Is there a day when you’re off or have more free time? That can be an ideal meal-prep day. Look at the recipes you plan to make for the week and see what you can make ahead of time. Some examples include cooking grains, making sauces, or pre-cooking or baking vegetables or proteins.
Grocery shop that morning or the day before.
There’s definitely some leeway here, and you have to do things that work for your schedule, but it’s helpful to shop around the day you’ll be prepping. This just ensures that your produce is freshest and any other ingredients with an expiration date don’t go bad. You’ll have less waste and, therefore, less wasted money.
Make your cooking experience fun.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be a chore. I always tell my clients to do something they find fun at the same time as doing the meal prep stuff. This is one instance where I think multitasking is OK if it helps you get it done. While you prepare meals, you might also watch a show on Netflix (I watch on my phone while I cook), listen to a podcast, or socialize with your roommates or friends.
As with all supportive shifts you might make in your life, it’s really helpful to be clear on your motivation for prioritizing them. What do you see as benefits to meal planning? Why is it something you want to start doing consistently? How will it save you time or make your life easier? Answer these questions for yourself and remind yourself of your responses any time you’re struggling to motivate yourself to stay consistent.
Meal Planning for Dancers