10 Ways Dancers Can Eat Healthy On a Budget

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Photo Source: Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

Is it possible for a dance student to eat healthy on a budget? Even in non-pandemic times, dancers may be on a limited income, whether in school or out. The good news is with a little knowledge, you can make a healthy meal without breaking the bank. 

Here are some simple tips to incorporate in your decision-making to help you have a little less financial stress in your dance life.

1. Eat seasonally. 
Choosing produce in season is less expensive than choosing say, imported berries in the middle of winter. The Environmental Working Group, a watchdog agency, tells us that the foods to always buy organic (since they label them part of “the dirty dozen”) are strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, and spinach. Other than those, you may not need to spend extra on organic. Mix it up.

2. Consider joining a community food coop. 
Not only will you get fresh local produce weekly at better prices, but you may even get to know who is growing your food and how they grow it!

3. Eat at home whenever you can.
Not so difficult in these times. Remember that restaurant meals generally give you twice as much food as you would normally make at home. My rule of thumb for any restaurant meal is to eat half and take the rest home for lunch! Your tummy and wallet will thank you.

4. When cooking, cook larger amounts. 
Then portion off and freeze for a delicious lunch or quick dinner when you are pressed for time. Make sure you defrost your portion of turkey chili and rice, for example, in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter for food safety reasons.  

5. Consider going meatless once or twice a week if you do eat meat.
Animal protein is by far the most expensive item we can purchase. As a word of caution, some meatless options do contain a bit more fat and sodium than we would like, so again, mix it up and use these options occasionally. Try to keep your sodium intake to less than 200mg per serving. Calories from fat on your label should be one-third or fewer total calories per serving. These guidelines will help you choose healthier foods. Also, the type of fat in your ingredient list should be heart and joint healthly, like a polyunsaturated (sunflower oil for example) or monounsaturated fat (olive oil for example). Decrease saturated (animal fats, butters) and trans fats (hydrogenated oils) which can clog arteries and promote inflammation. Do the best you can! Our choices will never be perfect and it is insane to try to always choose perfectly. It is a balance.

6. Plan your weekly meals before going shopping and make a shopping list.
And of course, stick to your list! Research tells us that we might cut our grocery bill by 10% just by making a list and not getting hypnotized by whatever is being promoted in the store.

7. Buy whole foods.
Avoid packaged “junk” foods. They are usually pricier and filled with not-so-healthy fats and sugars. Examples of whole foods for snacks might be an apple with peanut butter, yogurt topped with granola, hummus and whole-grain crackers, a hard-boiled egg and baby carrots, a pear and a low-fat string cheese. You get the idea. Less processed equals less money usually.

8. You don’t always have to choose the big brand names. 
Be a label comparison shopper. See if the store brand which is usually cheaper has just about the same ingredients as the higher-priced version. Most likely it will. You might be able to save between 25–50%.

9. Don’t be afraid to cash in on coupons! 
Sometimes your favorite grocery store will have a circular which offers coupons and savings. Your favorite grocery store may even have a rewards program which may mean that after a certain number of purchases, you may be rewarded with a free gift of food. You might be able to save up to $30 a week by using coupons!

10. Is it OK to opt for a slice of pizza for lunch or order from a food truck simply because it fits into your budget? Of course.
Foods like tacos, anything grilled or baked, or even a healthy sandwich (sliced turkey on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato), or your favorite pizza is absolutely fine. Learn to choose food establishments and stores that offer you options at reasonable prices. Again, don’t obsess about being perfect. Do the best you can with what you have available.

Hopefully, some of these tips and suggestions will help you not only save some money but also improve your health and energy so that you can focus on what you love: dancing!

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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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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