Diet…which One?

Everyone knows that dancers need to be healthy to maintain their strength and keep their energy levels high as possible.  A dancer needs stamina to be able to practice routines, perform at competitions and also go through whatever is necessary to get to a travel destination.  For most people, traveling can be draining.  At times, dancers can exist on pure adrenaline ~ but that just might not be enough.

It used to be easy to figure out, that the food standard of getting enough protein, carbohydrates, grains, fruits and vegetables would be enough (Standard American Diet).  Not so, say health advisors and nutritionists. These days, there are so many diets that dissect different components of nutrition and what a body needs, that it can be confusing.  The good news is you have choices.  The bad news is, which diet to choose!  I’m not here to tell you what to eat, I thought I’d help you categorize the different diets and let you see what is available and what sounds right for you!

Mediterranean Diet

Derived from tradition and countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, this diet has been around for a very long time.  People on a Mediterranean diet mostly eat plant-based foods and are big on herbs and spices.  Healthy fats rule this diet with olive oil being a staple.  Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes and nuts with occasional meat, more fish and some poultry; satisfies requirements for good nutrition and a well-rounded diet. This type of diet is rich in fiber and allows the body to distribute sugar at a slower pace, a good way to ward off chronic disease.

Ketogenic (keto) Diet

The Keto diet is a low carb, high-fat diet that is designed to put your body into a state called ‘ketosis’ (which means your body becomes more efficient at burning fat as a fuel source). You may hear people talking about this diet (as it is very popular) right now and is similar to previous fad diets you may have heard of such as the ‘Atkins’ diet.  On a Keto diet, it is ideal to eat high-fiber, low-carb foods.  Vegetables rule here and there are many to choose from.  Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, asparagus, zucchini, cucumber and leafy greens are some examples.  Fresh fruit is also desirable to eat on this diet.  Examples are:  Peaches, nectarines, cantaloupe, lemons, limes, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries as well as nuts and seeds.  Over half of your daily calories should come from healthy fats such as fatty fish, coconut oil, ghee and grass-fed butter.  Of course, all dancers need their protein too, to keep their immune system going, to repair tissue and for muscle growth.  On a Keto diet, it is important to minimize carbs.  In this way, the body uses other energy/body sources to start ketosis. This means, you go from burning sugar, to burning fat. 

Paleo Diet

This diet is derived from Paleolithic times, also known as the Stone Age.  It refers to simpler times when people gathered plants, fished and hunted wild animals for food.  In other words, whole, organic, unprocessed foods are most desirable.  Grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish and pastured free-range poultry and eggs describe this type of diet.  Greens, kale, tomatoes, cauliflower and mushrooms are favored in this diet.  Fruits, nuts and seeds are eaten sparingly.  Legumes, grains, dairy products, caffeine and sugar are avoided on Paleo diets.  Nutritionists look at a Paleo diet, as good for the gut, digestive track, and can resolve imbalances while supporting pathways to nutrient deficiencies and detoxification.

Pegan Diet

The Pegan diet combines the best eating principles from both Paleo and Vegan diets because it is less restrictive and generally easy to maintain and follow.  It concentrates on vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.  Healthy fats are also an essential part of a Pegan diet. Meat is considered a side dish and not the main course. Careful attention is paid to avoiding grains, legumes, vegetable oils and dairy.

Vegetarian Diet

This diet centers around fruit and vegetables. Also included are legumes, nuts/nut butters, seeds; like chia, hemp and flax.  Tofu, seaweed, sprouted and fermented plant foods can be a big part of this diet.  The main thing to be concerned about in this diet is getting enough protein, calcium, iron and vitamin B-12.  There are sub-sections of this diet:  Semi-vegetarian who will eat animal products selectively like fish, chicken but no red meat. Pescatarians do not eat meat and poultry but will eat fish and seafood.  Lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, poultry, but will eat dairy and eggs.

Vegan Diet

A Vegan diet is entirely plant-based and generally stricter than a Vegetarian diet. Vegans eat no animal products at all.  No eggs or dairy on this diet.  Both Vegetarians and Vegans would eat soy, tofu, kale spinach beans, peanut butter, lentils and nuts. The same principle applies to Vegans as Vegetarians; getting enough protein, calcium, iron and vitamin B-12 is essential for optimum health.

Raw Food Diet

There are some people who do not want to eat any food that is processed or cooked. This kind of diet consists of raw vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes and seaweed. No food can be cooked above 115 degrees Fahrenheit, pasteurized or refined.  Most people who follow a Raw Food diet are Vegan but others will eat meat, dairy and seafood as long as it remains below 115 degrees.  Eating a Raw Food diet is low in sodium, high in fiber and regulates blood pressure because of all the fruits and vegetables.  There is still concern about not getting enough essential nutrients, as mentioned above, protein, iron, calcium and vitamin B12 on this diet.

These are some of the most popular diets that you will see and read about.  A good rule of thumb is to eat “real foods.” This means to eat minimally processed foods (junk foods).  Good snacks for workouts are carrot and celery sticks and fruit that is seasonably grown; preferably organic.  You can pack these kinds of foods up easily.   Smoothies are wonderful and packed with minerals and vitamins.  There are many fruit and vegetable varieties and they are fun and easy to make and take on the road.   And for a special treat, throw in some nuts and dark chocolate (cacao) and you can’t go wrong!

**We have received contributions from individuals who would like to have a dear relative or friend who passed on remembered that loved to dance or was a dance aficionado.  We call these memorial contributions.  Perhaps you would like to have someone memorialized in this manner.  Make a donation and give us their name.  We will soon put on our website a yellow brick road to add their name to a brick as a memorial to that person.  This contribution will assist future generations of dancers and help keep young people more positive and healthy.

Thought Of The Week:

The Greatest Wealth is Health – Virgil



Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website