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

Its all too easy to fall on the tired tropes that dancers are obsessive, pin-thin perfectionists. While were not ones to minimize the very real pressures (and effects of said pressures) of the job, our recent visit to the National Ballet of Canadas studio and HQ pretty much instantly shot down any notion of the Black Swan types dancing in our 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 companys 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, and kombucha are included in their day-to-day, too. Ballerinas: Theyre just like us!

 


Jillian Vanstone

Principal Dancer


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. Im 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 two and having snacks on hand. I dont 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. Its nice not to have to plan as much. Even when Im not dancing, Im 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 wouldnt 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 dont 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:

1. Place uncooked salmon, skin side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with grainy mustard.

2. 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

 


TANYA HOWARD

First Soloist


BREAKFAST

coffee
2 eggs/frittatas
2 pieces of 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?

Im a little more careful with what I eat during the off-season because Im 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:


1. Quarter 3-4 red-skinned potatoes and roast at 325 degrees with olive oil, salt, and pepper until fully cooked inside.

2. Remove from oven and toss in sundried tomato vinaigrette with white beans, sun dried tomato strips, quartered artichokes, and fresh basil.

 

VINAIGRETTE RECIPE:

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

1. 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.

2. Cut the tomatoes in strips for the salad, and use the soaking water for the vinaigrette.

3. Combine all ingredients and whirl with a hand blender.

 


JORDANA DAUMEC

Second Soloist


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 sockeye 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:

1. Fry 2 eggs in pre-heated cast iron skillet with sesame oil and butter.

2. Top with a drizzle of soy sauce and a sprinkle of roasted sesame seeds.

 

ASIAN BROWN RICE SALAD:


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

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

3. 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.

4. Blanch 1/2 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.

 


ANDREEA OLTEANU

Corps de Ballet member


 

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 Fashioned 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 Im 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 dont take vitamin D and omegas. I eat mostly organic and stay away from bad sugars, carbohydrates, and processed foods.”

 

Baked eggs
 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Lightly oil muffin tins.

3. Crack eggs into muffin tins and add salt, pepper, and a dash of smoked paprika.

4. Bake for 7-10 minutes.

5. 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.

×