Veganism! What is a vegan diet, you might ask? Many teen, kid, and adult dancers are making a statement with what they’re eating — or not eating. They’re going vegan, which means giving up all animal products — such as meat, fish, cheese, eggs, butter, milk, and honey.
As a vegan ballerina myself, I get a lot of questions about my diet. “Where do you get your protein?”, “How do you have any energy?”, “So you can’t eat ice cream or pizza?”, “Don’t you have a hard time finding stuff to eat?”
I’ve been vegan my whole life. I was born with a dairy allergy and my parents never really introduced meat into my life, so I’ve never had meat or dairy. Now, my veganism is based more out of my own desire. I really enjoy eating planted-based and I don’t feel as if I’m missing out on anything.
Currently, there are so many options for vegans. For instance, plant-based “meat,” “ice-cream” made with different types of nut milk, vegan yogurts, vegan cheese, and much more! So yes, I CAN eat ice-cream and pizza!
For people curious as to where we get our protein, protein is not only in meat! Protein can be found in many vegetables. One of my favorite sources of protein is from nuts, I love having a handful of almonds or peanuts before dance. I also have a slight obsession with garbanzo beans at the moment, which is also a great source of protein. Natural plant fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds are necessary for the mind and body to function properly. Especially as highly active people, we need fats to recover and repair.
Personally, being vegan has really helped me as a dancer, I feel healthy, light, and energized. I rarely get sick and I my muscles recover much quicker than my meat/dairy-eating peers. I really enjoy fueling my body with clean, whole foods because I feel it allows me to rehearse confidently and perform better. Being vegan has definitely helped keep my body in optimum shape – a must for any dancer in our physically strenuous lifestyle.
If you are considering going animal-free, for a month, a week, a day, or a lifetime, the biggest piece of advice I could give to you is to do your research. Find out what is best for YOUR body, what makes YOU feel your very best. What works for one doesn’t always work for another. Eat mindfully. Some of my favorite tips are:
- Drink plenty of water.
You probably hear this a lot, but I can’t stress it enough! I understand that water can seem plain and simple but it really helps replenish and heal your body. If you want to jazz up your water add some lemon juice, mint leaves, or cucumber slices!
- Smoothies, smoothies, smoothies.
I love smoothies because you can pack a lot of nutrition in and you won’t feel stuffed while you’re dancing. Easy, light, and customizable!
- Don’t give up!
If you have a “cheat day” or you go a little off your vegan/vegetarian path, don’t worry! Don’t beat yourself up. Start fresh, stay motivated, and determined. You’ve got this!
Registered Dietitian and nutrition expert Rachel Fine weighs in on the topic of Veganism for dancers: “While vegan diets can be a wonderful diet for dancers, it’s important to seek nutritional advice prior to starting any new diet plan. Variety is key. Including more plant-based proteins from whole food sources like beans, legumes, nuts, quinoa, and seeds, is essential for avoiding the risk of nutritional deficiencies.”