What Does a Ballerina Eat?

Ballerina posing on floor
A ballerina holding a pose in a studio. (Image: DAJ/amana images/Getty Images)

With the 2010 release of the movie "Black Swan," a spotlight has been turned to the world of dance and ballet, specifically the lifestyles of ballerinas. When "New York Times" critic Alastair Macaulay made a snide remark about ballerina Jenifer Ringer's weight while performing in 2010's "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker," it became clear how much pressure and scrutiny dancers are under when it comes to diet and weight. A smart ballerina relies on balanced meals for dancing fuel, rather than starvation tactics in order to lose weight.

Caloric Intake

Ballerinas might dance anywhere from four to 10 hours a day, depending on the practice and performance schedule of the season. This means that she is burning as much as 1,200 to 2,000 calories dancing each day. New York City Ballet nutritionist Marie Elena Scioscia recommends that ballerinas eat anywhere between 1,600 and 2,200 calories per day, depending on the scheduling, roles and other activities. Starvation tactics and simply not eating enough can result in a less-energized ballerina.

Healthy Balance

When it comes to the types of food ballerinas eat, there must be a balance of carbohydrates, protein and saturated fat. The combined three offer energy, muscular strength and endurance as well as healthy joints and bones, all necessary for athletes like ballerinas. By balancing each meal for 55 percent complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, pasta and fruit; 20 percent lean protein, such as turkey breast or tofu; and 20 to 25 percent unsaturated fats from food items like olive oil and nuts; a ballerina ensures that she has the nutrients her body needs to perform well.

Meals and Snacks

A ballerina may often need to eat on the run as she travels to and from practices. Also, long rehearsals may mean that she needs to eat at the studio. Highly portable meals are best so a ballerina needn't rely on fast food or restaurant fare for the proper nutrition. Three balanced meals per day, along with two snacks, are necessary to keep energy levels high in order to stay focused and disciplined. Skipping meals is highly discouraged, as it could lead to hunger, dizziness and a loss of coordination. A ballerina must also stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day.

Sample Day

A healthy ballerina wakes up and eats a well-rounded breakfast. An egg white and veggie omelet paired with an orange and a few slices of turkey bacon start the morning off properly. While at the studio practicing, she might have a snack of dried fruit and nuts or protein-packed string cheese. When she breaks for lunch, a whole wheat tortilla roll-up with lean meat, vegetables and light mayo served with vegetables and hummus for dipping helps her refuel for a grueling practice. Another snack is eaten mid afternoon. Then, dinner may be made from whole wheat pasta and steamed vegetables drizzled in olive oil and served with grilled chicken breast.

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