4 Ways Dancers Can Make Healthy Choices This Thanksgiving
By: Marcella Day, Company Dancer & Choreographer | Professional Fitness Instructor
“Are you going to be able to dance after eating all that?” Is what I remember a family member saying to me at Thanksgiving as I was getting a piece of pie.
I was a freshman in college and had just been accepted to George Mason University’s School of Dance so yes, being in shape for my first day was weighing heavy on my mind.
As a dancer, I have always taken what I eat into consideration over the holidays. “Will I still fit into my costumes or will I be bloated for rehearsals over the weekend?” Those questions kept me from living my best life at Thanksgiving but not anymore!
It took me a few years to accept the fact that with how active I am as a dancer, I can eat a little more and enjoy it. Now, do I eat a whole pie by myself? No. Do I want to? Yes!
I’ve realized it’s all about balance. I’ve learned to love my veggies (brussel sprouts, steamed broccoli and carrots are the first thing on my plate), love my fruit (wine), and I make sure I get my protein in as well (gobble gobble).
1. For me, I have to start my holiday with a workout. Last year I started my Thanksgiving with a 6am boxing class and this year I plan on starting it with a run and some weightlifting at the gym. Starting my holiday with a workout makes me feel a little less guilty over food and it gets my day off to an exciting start. I also have planned my workouts for the days before and after to something other than cardio. I’m sure you’re thinking “ Why don’t you just do all cardio to burn off all the calories from thanksgiving?” For me, I would get bored with three cardio workouts straight. I love doing different things. Plus strength training isn’t just for the boys! Building muscle helps increase metabolism which burns body fat, hence the reasoning for not feeling guilty about filling up my plate.
Now for real reason you are reading this post, FOOD!
In years past I have been someone who barely eats all day or all week then goes ham (pun intended) at Thanksgiving dinner. But since graduating college I have tried to be a little more balanced for Thanksgiving and have learned that binging is not the answer. As cliche as it sounds, it really is about moderation and portions.
2. My number one rule with food is to always eat breakfast!
Always! In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I like to spice up my breakfast with pumpkin spice protein French toast. Make it like you would regular French toast and add a scoop of vanilla protein powder, as much pumpkin spice seasoning as your heart desires, and substitute regular milk for almond milk. Then of course my traditional sides are eggs (hard boiled or veggie omelettes), turkey sausage, and coffee!
Since my mother and I tend to eat a pretty early Thanksgiving Dinner, we like to snack throughout the day throughout as we cook. Sometimes we snack on whatever we are cooking and sometimes we snack on our favorite lentil dip! It’s three easy ingredients and all you have to do is open the packaging and stir (See below)! It also makes a great side dish or dip to bring to any holiday dinner!
3. Dinner is where the magic happens. The table is filled with so many favorites and I bet you’re thinking to yourself “Ok I can’t have this or that and I can’t have dessert”. First of all, change that can’t to can! You can have your holiday favorites in moderation. I fill my plate with veggies first and then follow it up with protein. Stick to about a palm to fist size full of protein and also keep the same rule with carbs (mashed potatoes, rolls, etc). Now for you gravy lovers out there, remember that less is more. Oh, and that glass of wine, yes you can have it! One glass or two is not going to hurt.
4. I lied, dessert is where the magic happens. Cookies, cannolis, and pie, oh my! Everyone who knows me knows I have a sweet tooth so this part of the evening is really hard for me to keep myself under control. I could easily justify eating half a pie with my workout from earlier in the day but instead I keep my dessert plate very small, usually just eating one piece of pie, and maybe one cookie later in the night.
Now with all of this being said, remember that I am not a licensed dietitian. I’m a dancer and fitness instructor who has a passion for food and sharing that love with the world. You can always find a dietitian in your area to help you find your holiday eating needs! All in all, remember to enjoy the holidays. One day of balancing out holiday foods will not ruin your body!