Eating well right before class is important for all dancers, young and old. Good, balanced nutrition will provide them with the energy they need to perform to their potential. It helps to prevent injuries, provide sustained, balanced energy, and keep them strong in the class – both physically and mentally.
Why is it important for young dancers to eat well?
Just like adults who participate in high intensity activities, children and teens need:
- Vitamins and minerals: Children need a variety of vitamins and minerals. Calcium and iron are two important minerals for dancers:
- Calcium helps build strong bones to resist breaking and stress fractures. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, as well as leafy green vegetables such as broccoli. Click here for a list of 15 more calcium-rich foods you could include in your child’s diet.
- Iron helps carry oxygen to all the different body parts that need it. This is very important for dance students. Iron-rich foods include lean meat, chicken, tuna, salmon, eggs, dried fruits, leafy green vegetables, and fortified whole grains.
- Protein: Protein helps build and repair muscles. Most children get plenty of it through a well-balanced diet. Protein-rich foods include fish, lean meat and poultry, dairy products, beans, nuts, and soy products. For vegetarians, there are many options beyond beans. Click here to read more.
- Carbohydrates: Carbs provide energy for the body and are a very important source of fuel for a young dancer. When choosing carbs for your child, look for whole-grain foods like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, whole-grain bread and cereal, and add plenty of fruits and vegetables.
So, what can I give my child before class?
- Let them eat their hydration (water)! Eating water allows the body to absorb and store it longer, and it also replenishes any lost vitamins and minerals. Foods with high water content include watermelon, strawberries, broccoli, pineapple, cucumber, tomatoes and apples. Perfect snacks to carry on the way to class!
- Don’t have a big meal right before class! A large carbohydrate-filled meal, with for example rice or pasta, just before a class is usually not a good idea. It can lead to a lack of energy instead of a boost! Since carbs are absorbed slowly, eating a large meal about 2 hours before class is a better idea for ideal energy while dancing. Choose a high-nutrient snack if your child needs something to eat before class.
- Stay focused! Antioxidants protect the brain’s functions like focus and memory. Eating foods rich in antioxidants before class can keep your mind sharp for dancing! Examples of antioxidant rich foods that are easy to carry as a pre-class snack include blueberries, jamun, guava, pomegranate, apples, raisins, plums and red grapes.
- Keep it fresh! Fresh, unprocessed snacks are better than pre-packaged ones which are often filled with refined sugar.
Quick and easy ideas for pre-class snacks
- seasonal fruits (provide nutrition and hydration)
- dry fruits/dry fruit bars (avoid ones with added sugar)
- nuts (high in protein; go for dry roasted or unroasted)
- smoothies (high fruit content is great, and if not homemade, avoid ones with added sugars)
- whole grain crackers
I want to know more about this
To know what dancers eat before a stage performance, click here:
For nutrition tips from our teachers, click here:
Busting misconceptions about diet:
How to get ready for class in 10 minutes: