5 Foods Dancers Should Have in Their Winter Kitchen

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Photo Source: Photo by Sarah Gualtieri on Unsplash

Before you know it winter will be upon us, so let’s get our kitchens ready with the superfoods that can keep your dancing self healthy! These are simple to find in your grocery store, simple to prepare, and delicious to eat. They can boost your immune system, keep your heart healthy, keep your bones strong, and keep your energy and digestion humming. These are the foods you should have ready this winter.

1. Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli and its cruciferous kin such as asparagus, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale contain antioxidants that can help reduce your cancer risk and keep cells healthy. As a bonus for dancers, broccoli and kale contain much-needed calcium for your bones and teeth. These vegetables taste great roasted with a bit of olive oil and fresh garlic. To roast, spray a roasting pan with a bit of olive oil-based cooking spray, cut your veggies into florets or bite-size pieces, and place on your roasting pan. Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper, add garlic or shallots, and pop in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees. They should be slightly browned and delicious in about 30 minutes! Make a big batch so you have some leftover for a day or two. They’ll keep in your fridge if tightly covered for at least a day. 

2. Apples
Who doesn’t like apples? They’re an autumn staple and so great for dancers. They contain a type of fiber called pectin which can help reduce cholesterol and keep your heart healthy. The fiber they provide will keep you full and keep your energy up, making them a perfect snack for a long dance day. Don’t peel your apples as the antioxidant called quercetin is in the peel. There are a million ways to enjoy apples. You can slice them and drizzle them with honey and cinnamon, you can slice and slather the slices with peanut butter for an energy-boosting snack, or you can chop them into salads, grate them into coleslaw, or saute them with your kale!

3. Cranberries
When we think of fall and winter we often think of cranberries. This brilliant red berry is filled with Vitamin C, so good for your immune system. Research shows us that cranberries may help prevent diseases of the gums and teeth. Proanthocyanidins, the antioxidant found in the greatest amounts in cranberries, may also help prevent urinary tract infections. There are no two ways about it though, cranberries are tart. One way to deal with this is to add some sugar to your recipe. If you don’t want to do this, you can try adding ¼ teaspoon of baking soda when cooking cranberries to help neutralize the acid. Dried cranberries are great to bake with, so load up those home-made muffins and quick breads with this delicious fruit. You can also add dried cranberries to your cereals, grains, and salads as well. Be adventurous and add them to your dishes often.

4. Green and Black Tea
Green and black tea can be incorporated into your diet all year long but especially in the winter. The health-promoting polyphenols in tea have anti-inflammatory properties as well as antioxidant activity. As a bonus tea contains half the caffeine of coffee. If coffee makes you jittery, you can opt for a delicious green or black tea with a smidge of honey.  

5. Legumes
Legumes are a dancer’s best friend. Legumes are defined as large, fleshy, colorful plant seeds. Beans, lentils, and peas come in several varieties and contain fiber and protein. Best of all they’re economical! They also contain B vitamins for energy, iron, folate, calcium, and zinc. They’re also low in fat. They contain the type of carbohydrate that keeps your energy up! If you want to prepare dried beans, you can rinse them in cold water, then cover the beans with about three times their amount in water and soak for about six hours. You can add them to soup, salads, tacos, chili, and pasta dishes. Mash them up and make your own veggie burgers with onions, celery, ground walnuts, and a bit of tomato sauce. Don’t be afraid of canned beans either. If you wish, you can rinse them in water and drain to rinse off the salt, and then they’re ready to go.  

With a little thought and planning, you can get your winter kitchens ready for a very healthy season. Experiment with new recipes and enjoy taking care of yourselves in the most basic but important way: your diet!

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Marie Scioscia
Marie Scioscia, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian and certified fitness professional working in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. She’s the author of “Eat Right Dance Right,” the definitive nutritional guide for dancers. Her expertise in the dance world comes from being a former dancer, working with the Ailey School, New York City Ballet, the Martha Graham school, and other venues to promote wellness for dancers and all performing arts members.
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