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healthy foods for dancers

Healthy Foods for Dancers: Are Your Students Eating Too Much Sugar?

If you asked whether your dance students were eating too much sugar, the simple answer would be yes. Research shows that more than 70 percent of Americans consume too much added sugar on a daily basis. So in a class of 10 students, chances are that seven of them eat an unhealthy amount of sweeteners each day – shocking, isn’t it? Read on to find out the significant health risks associated with continued over-consumption of sugar and how this bad eating habit affects dancer nutrition in particular.

“70% of Americans eat too much sugar.”

Health Risks Associated With Sugar Consumption

Most people know that eating too many sugary foods cause weight gain, but there are a number of other health conditions that come along with an unhealthy sweet tooth. A study from the journal JAMA Internal Medicine showed that people who consume 25 percent of their daily calories from sugar are twice as likely to develop serious cardiovascular problems, regardless of whether they are overweight.

Other research has linked sugar consumption to high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol, diabetes, dementia and other health problems.

What Happens When Dancers Overindulge?

Those are some of the long-term consequences that come along with unhealthy eating habits. However, there are also immediate side effects for dancers who drink too much soda or snack on sweets all day.

Dance magazine explained that sugar provides empty calories, and while it may give dancers a temporary energy boost, they’ll have more sustainable levels of energy when they eat complex carbs and protein-packed foods. When your students’ diets are loaded with sugary meals, they may also find it hard to build muscle or stay satiated throughout the day.

All of these factors can hold back an otherwise talented performers, so what’s a dancers to do? Don’t fret! There are simple ways that dancers can slowly decrease their sugar consumption and get into the habit of eating healthy foods for dancers.

Dancers should always choose water over sports drinks or soda.
Dancers should always choose water over sports drinks or soda.

How to Switch to Healthy Foods for Dancers

Cutting sugar consumption down to healthy levels is challenging, as sweets are addicting. However, it’s doable with the right preparation and attitude.

“Dancers should drink water – not soda or sports beverages.”

The first step dancers should take is to stop drinking sugary beverages, which are the largest source of sugar for many Americans. In general, a 20-ounce soft drink contains around 40 or more grams of sugar – more than the daily recommended intake for women. Sports drinks usually contain some beneficial ingredients like electrolytes, but they still often have high sugar levels. Dancers should drink water instead. One way to ease into the change is to use fresh fruit to sweeten the water that they’re sipping on throughout the day.

Next, dancers should identify the times when they’re prone to cravings and be prepared with healthy snacks.

“When people think they’re craving chocolate, they’re actually just craving calories,” Jan Hangen, a consulting nutritionist for the Boston Ballet, explained to Dance magazine. “Because the body is focused on getting food, the mind goes to the foods that give the most pleasure.”

Performers may want to carry fruit, trail mix or whole-wheat crackers to snack on when cravings strike. Eating a number of small meals (after doing some research and finding healthy foods for dancers) every few hours will keep dancers satiated and energized throughout practice and rehearsals.

Finally, many people think that cutting out their favorite treats completely is the best way to adjust their sugar consumption, but this can lead to binging when you have a moment of weakness. Instead, dancers could allow themselves a small treat after a particularly good class. This will make it easier to stay on track and not undo all the process they’ve made.