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8 Tips for Eating Out For a Dancer

How many of you have experienced late night hunger after a long practice session, performance, or dance battle? You've been working hard the past 3+ hours, and you're ready to smash down a juicy burger or an entire pizza all by yourself. Ever been there before?

I definitely have.

My dance team perform over 40 shows a year. Each performance usually last 4-5 hours including prep and show time. After such a long day, you can imagine the hunger (or hanger!) some dancers may be feeling at this time, especially if they didn't bring any of the 20 easy snack ideas I suggested in my previous post. ;)

The top restaurants my teammates and I patronize after a performance are Denny's, TGI Friday's, Portillo's, and Buffalo Wild Wings. Other popular food choices for dancers might be pizza, fried chicken, pancakes, Chinese food, or tacos. Whatever late night munchies you and your friends decide to go with, making healthy choices can be challenging to say the least. Is there a way to eat healthy when eating out? Yes! Here are a few tips I'd like to offer:

1. Eat a PFC Balanced Diet

P= Protein

F= Fat

C= Carbs

PFC is the general guideline I suggest most of my clients to follow for all meals and snacks. Eating from each of these macronutrients will help you maintain a steady blood sugar level and help you stay fuller longer. So yes, that means ordering that veggie side or salad, pico de gallo or guacamole on the burger, extra vegetable toppings on the pizza, or celery sticks and carrots with dip.

2. Go "Bun-less" If You Want Fries!

Sometimes, I really crave fries after practice or a show. And guess what? I will satisfy my craving! I think giving into our cravings can be done reasonably if it doesn't become a habit or if we don't allow the guilt to consume us. However, for many people, it does, and it's a struggle to eat healthy, balanced meals. Therefore, try substituting or trading in a carb for a carb. For instance, if you want fries, replace the burger buns or sandwich bread with a lettuce wrap. At TGI Friday's, you can save over 260 empty calories by forgoing the buns. Or if you want your buns and fries, don't order a drink. This brings me to my next point.

3. Skip the Sugary Beverages

This one can be a hard one, especially with the unlimited refills that many restaurants offer. We all want to get our moneys worth if we're paying $3 for a beverage, right?

But, are we really getting the bang for our buck? Sodas, lemonades, and sweetened teas are straight up empty calories that do nothing to aid our post-workout recovery. Each glass is about 150-200 calories (which is already double the normal serving size), so having 2-3 refills equal to 300-600 extra calories! Save your calories for something more worthwhile. If you're craving carbonated drinks with flavor, order seltzer or sparking water with lemon wedges.

4. Request Dressings On the Side and Start With HALF the Amount

Most restaurants (like Portillo's) already put their salad dressings on the side. However, try using just half the amount of the dressing they give you. Dressings are meant to bring out the taste of the food, not cover it up! If you need more, then use your fork to add more, but always try it first. This little trick can save you from unnecessary fat and sodium intake from the dressing.

5. Pack Half of Your Food BEFORE You Start Eating

It's hard to control your portions once you start eating. So, ask for a container when your food comes so you can pack half of it before you even start eating. Sure, you might look a little crazy to your friends, and the waiters might look at you funny. But hey, look on the bright side: you'll be satisfied from your meal, and you'll have food to eat for later!

6. Practice Mindful Eating

What if you ate half your meal and you're still hungry? Then, go ahead and eat some more! But at least you paused half way to think am I still hungry or am I satisfied? I would also note that it's important to ask yourself what feeling satisfied means for you. I never ask myself am I full? because the feeling of fullness for me usually happens only after I've had to unbutton the top button of my pants. On the other hand, feeling satisfaction means my taste buds are happy, my body is fueled, and my mind is re-energized. So, pack half of your meal or make yourself pause halfway to ask yourself some thoughtful questions.

7. Don't Fall For the "All-You-Can-Eat" Marketing

Besides at buffets, all-you-can-eat marketing include Olive Garden's soup, bread sticks, and salad, IHOPS' pancakes, Red Robin's fries, and TGI Friday's appetizers. This type of marketing ensues a challenge to eat more than the cost of the food, and dancers love a good challenge. Remember though, even if we could, it doesn't mean we should! Like any good story line, there's a beginning and an end. That's how our meal experience can be if we order a regular entree instead of opting for the all-you-can-eat buffet. At the end of the day, we as consumers are responsible for our own consumption. Choose an entree for a happy, guilt-free ending.

8. Eat a Snack Before You Arrive

Again, I'm a big proponent of snacking. This is because snacking a) helps maintain our blood sugar and energy level, b) keep us sane while we wait for everyone to order and get their food, and c) keeps us from overeating. Two hours may have already gone by from the time your group decide on a place to eat to finally sitting down to order your food. Honestly, I'm snacking on a protein bar, beef jerky, or fruit and nuts most of the time while I'm waiting or driving, on my way to the restaurant. Call me impatient, but that's my trick to not wanting to order everything I see on the menu. Visit my previous post to get 20 easy snack ideas.

So there you have it! 8 Tips for eating out for dancers. Let me know which ones you like or hope to apply by commenting below. Good luck!

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