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What Ballet Dancers Really Eat

Forget the Black Swan clichés. Here are nutritious (& delicious) meals dancers rely on for fuel.

Styling: Renée Rodenkirchen
Photography: Renée Rodenkirchen

It's all too easy to fall on the tired tropes that dancers are obsessive, pin-thin perfectionists. While we're not ones to minimize the very real pressures (and effects of said pressures) of the job, our recent visit to the National Ballet of Canada's studio and HQ pretty much instantly shot down any notion of the Black Swan-types dancing in or heads.

Does the profession require serious dedication and discipline? Yes. Are these girls strong as hell? Yup. Do they view food as fuel rather than foe? You bet.

We spent the afternoon with four lead dancers working on the company's upcoming performance of Sleeping Beauty (like, in an IRL studio with IRL tutus and everything), dining on the protein-heavy and complex-carb meals that keep them going. And yup, wine, coffee, kombucha is included in their day-to-day, too. Ballerinas: they're just like us!

 

Principal Dancer

Jillian Vanstone


BREAKFAST

Coffee
1/2 grapefruit
2 boiled eggs
Sautéed spinach in olive oil

 
LUNCH

Greens
Chicken breast
Sweet potato
Olive oil vinaigrette
Green tea
 

 

DINNER

Baked salmon with grainy mustard and steamed and buttered broccoli
Sliced tomato
Water 



 

SNACKS

1C blueberries with dry roasted almonds
Lindt 90% dark chocolate
Water throughout the day 


 

HOW DOES YOUR DIET DIFFER DURING THE SEASON VERSUS OFF-SEASON?

"I have to be strict about my eating during the season to fuel my performance and make sure that I recover from performances as well as I can. I'm very health conscious and aim for foods that are very nutrient dense. During a long rehearsal or performance day it can be really hard to sit down for a proper meal so I sometimes end up splitting my lunch into 2 and having snacks on hand. I don't want to feel too full before dancing, but I also need energy. I also make sure that I am getting enough fluids. 
 
During the off season I can be more relaxed. It's nice not to have to plan as much. Even when I'm not dancing I'm still pretty nerdy about being healthy, but that being said, I try to follow the 80/20 rule."
 

FILL IN THE BLANK: “My last meal on earth would be ______”

"Caesar salad, duck confit with fries and chocolate covered almonds."
 

DO YOU HAVE ANY GUILTY PLEASURES?

"Chocolate!"

 
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT  NUTRIENTS IN YOUR DIET?

"I aim to incorporate as much nutrient dense food as possible. I wouldn't say one nutrient is more important than the other. I make sure I get enough protein to support my muscles and enough carbs to fuel my performance and recovery. Healthy fats are so important for nutrient absorption and other important body functions. I just try to get the right ratio of nutrients for my body, and I eat lots of veggies, which seems to be the one thing we can all agree is good for us. 



I have been eating gluten free for almost 10 years. I spent a year dealing with some awful stomach issues, when I figured this out it made such a difference. I don't buy 'gluten free' products though. They are expensive and are never the same as the real thing. I just eat things that are naturally gluten free, including when I decide to indulge."

 

Baked Salmon

with Grainy Mustard and Steamed Buttered Broccoli

 

SALMON
Place uncooked salmon, skin side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with grainy mustard
Cook for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees
 
GRAINY MUSTARD:
2 tbsps of pommery mustard
2 tbsps maple syrup
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

First Soloist

TANYA HOWARD


BREAKFAST

Coffee
2 eggs/frittatas
2 pieces toast
 

MORNING SNACK

Fruit salad

 
LUNCH

Chicken club on a croissant with aged cheddar
Roasted Italian potato salad
Iced tea or San Pellegrino 

 
AFTERNOON SNACK

Coffee with granola bar or nuts

 
DINNER

Chicken and rice with veggies


 

HOW DOES YOUR DIET DIFFER DURING THE SEASON VERSUS OFF-SEASON?

"I'm a little more careful with what I eat during the off-season because I'm not working the same amount of hours, so I’m not burning as many calories."

 
FILL IN THE BLANK: “My last meal on earth would be ______”

"Bison Aussie burger (burger with fried egg, pineapple and beets!) and sweet potato fries."
 

DO YOU HAVE ANY GUILTY PLEASURES?

"Chocolate. Every day."

 
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS IN YOUR DIET?

"I have no dietary restrictions, but I feel like I need to have protein with all my meals. Especially before a show."

 

Chicken Club Sandwich

with oven roasted chicken breast, crisp double smoked bacon, fresh tomato, cheddar with an herbed aioli

 


ROASTED ITALIAN POTATO SALAD:


Quarter 3-4 red skinned potatoes and roast at 325 degrees with olive oil, salt and pepper until fully cooked inside
Remove from oven and toss in sundried tomato vinaigrette with white beans, sun dried tomato strips, quartered artichokes and fresh basil 


 

VINAIGRETTE RECIPE  
Using 1 cup of real dry sundried tomatoes (not the ones packed in oil), soak for 15 mins in a pot of just boiled water
Cut the tomatoes in strips for the salad and use the soaking water for the vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil


1/2 cup sundried tomato water


2 tbsps. red wine vinegar 


1 tbsp. Dijon mustard


1/2 cup torn basil leaves


1 tbsp. honey


1 clove of garlic


salt and pepper


Combine all ingredients and whirl with a hand blender


Second Soloist

JORDANA DAUMEC


BREAKFAST

Two eggs with a bowl of rice
A latte (coffee is a must!)
 

MORNING SNACK

Some honey Greek yogurt, cashews or a banana 

 
LUNCH

A salad with some kind of protein, like chicken, as long as it has a nice dressing, OR

a sandwich, maybe with salami and a garlic aioli. Garlic aioli always makes everything so much better. And ginger ale

 
DINNER

Usually a Japanese meal, some kind of protein like steak or fish (my favorite is sock eyed salmon cooked in a pan with butter!) with rice, miso soup with daikon and tofu, and a side of avocado, cucumbers and tomatoes

 
AFTER DINNER SNACK

Some kind of dessert like ice cream or a cookie. 


HOW DOES YOUR DIET DIFFER DURING THE SEASON VERSUS OFF-SEASON?

"During the season I tend to have more snacks throughout the day. Rehearsing and performing takes a lot of energy so it needs to be replenished. When we are in our off-season, I tend to do a more relaxed diet, where I eat when I am hungry, not just based on what time it is, but I make sure it’s still good for me and it's enjoyable to eat."
 

FILL IN THE BLANK: “My last meal on earth would be ______”

"Pizza. Definitely a New York style pepperoni pizza. My favourite! That answer hasn’t changed since I was a kid."

 
DO YOU HAVE ANY GUILTY PLEASURES?

"The top of the guilty pleasure list would be desserts. I need to treat myself to something every day—makes my stomach smile. Anything from ice-cream (which I sometimes make myself) to small desserts from our local bakery."

 
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS IN YOUR DIET?

"Everyone gets their protein and healthy fats in different ways. I try to switch between the usual proteins like beef, chicken and fish, then add things like avocado, broccoli, and asparagus. Other snacks like cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, and bananas with peanut butter are great too during the day when you need a pick me up. 

It’s important to eat well and by doing that you help prevent injuries and build stronger muscles. Not only are foods like these good for you, but they taste great and it’s always fun trying to figure out new recipes with them."

 

EGGS

with Asian Brown Rice Salad

EGGS:

Fry 2 eggs in pre-heated cast iron skillet with sesame oil and butter
Top with a drizzle of soy sauce and a sprinkle of roasted sesame seeds

ASIAN BROWN RICE SALAD:


Cook brown rice in a 1:1 water: vegetable stock and 1 tsp. of five spice


Toss butternut squash in sesame oil, garlic, salt and pepper and roast at 350 degrees until tender


Toss purple kale with rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil (1 tbsp. each for 1 head of  sliced kale) and roast at 350 degrees until tender


Blanch ½ head of broccoli and toss with dressing

 

DRESSING:


1/4 cup soy sauce


1/2 sesame oil


3 tbsp rice wine vinegar 
1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (or more to taste!)


Toss all the vegetables and rice together with pickled ginger, sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds

 

Corps de Ballet member

ANDREEA OLTEANU


 

BREAKFAST

2 baked eggs with bacon on a bed of greens
Cappuccino
 

MORNING SNACK

Apple with cinnamon
 

LUNCH

Any kind of fish (usually sardines or mackerel)
Dark green vegetables
A bottle of Kombucha (I make my own!) or coffee
 

AFTERNOON SNACK

99% or 100% chocolate and nuts 
 

DINNER

Protein (steak, chicken or shrimp)
Veggies
Glass of wine or an Old Fashion or another cappuccino 


 

HOW DOES YOUR DIET DIFFER DURING THE SEASON VERSUS OFF-SEASON?

"During the off-season my meals tend to be more balanced than during the season. Because we work unusual hours during the season,  if I'm not careful enough I can miss out on meals. I usually have to make sure that I get all the protein and good essential fats I need to have energy."
 

FILL IN THE BLANK: “My last meal on earth would be ______”

"Sourdough bread straight out of the oven with butter and salt, a rib eye steak grilled in charcoal, home cut fries with feta cheese, Haagen Daz coffee ice cream and a shot of espresso to finish."
 

DO YOU HAVE ANY GUILTY PLEASURES?

"Haagen Daz coffee ice cream."
 

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS IN YOUR DIET?

"Healthy fats and protein. I really notice a difference in my energy and mood when I don't take Vitamin D and Omegas. I eat mostly organic and stay away from bad sugars, carbohydrates and processed foods."

 

Baked eggs

 

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees
Lightly oil muffin tins  
Crack eggs into muffin tins add salt, pepper and a dash of smoked paprika
Bake for 7-10 minutes
Add herbs/spices as desired (caramelized onions and sweet peppers. Cherry tomatoes and basil. Smoked salmon and fresh dill.); Andreea’s had mizuna, beet sprouts and slivered leeks

The National Ballet of Canada’s The Sleeping Beauty is onstage June 10 - 20, 2015 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto

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