The Dancer's Guide to Healthy Eating in College

October 18, 2020

Dining hall cheese burgers, dorm room snacking, and late-night pizza: Finding food that’s good for you can be even harder than finding your classes on the first day of freshman year.

And for college dancers, the importance of nutrition is even greater. Food is our fuel for dancing, and we need lots of it. To help you fuel up—the right way—Dance Spirit spoke with one professor and one dance student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, about how to manage healthy eating in college.

Hack the Dining Hall

The average college dining hall offers a veritable cornucopia of junk food. “It’s really easy to go into the dining hall and just eat whatever you’re craving,” says UNLV dance student Alexis Hansbrough. “But after a while, you realize that fries and stuff like that aren’t doing you any good.”

To stay healthy and energized for your college dance classes, dig a little deeper in the dining hall. “It’s about figuring out that there are better options,” says Hansbrough. Many college dining halls post menus, and sometimes even include nutrition information or a list of the healthiest options available.

If your school allows it, bring Tupperware, and take some food to go. This is helpful for dancers with busy schedules, in particular—pack up some grilled chicken, a bowl of salad, or a few pieces of fresh fruit so that later in the week, you can eat quickly in between rehearsals without having to stop at the dining hall again.

Hansbrough shows off one of her favorite meals to make in her college apartment: vegan pad Thai with tofu and sprouts. (Courtesy Hansbrough)

Stock Your Dorm Room

Even if you’re a master at hacking the dining hall, you’re likely going to want to supplement your meal plan. After all, eating the same few meals day in and day out can get a little boring. “On campus, your options are pretty limited. You might need to reach outside of the boundaries of campus,” says UNLV dance professor Dolly Kelepecz.

If you have access to an off-campus grocery store, make a trip every couple of weeks, and be smart about what you’re buying. Look for dorm-friendly foods that won’t go bad easily, like nut butters, frozen fruits and vegetables, and microwavable brown rice. Foods you can eat on the go, like protein bars, are also great for snacking between classes—but be sure to read the labels. “If you can’t understand the words in the ingredients, then you shouldn’t be eating it,” says Kelepecz.

Buy Before You Go (Or Once You Get There!)

If you’re planning to head to college sometime soon (or if you’re looking for new ways to spice up your dining options), consider buying a few appliances for your dorm room. Something as simple as a mini blender can be a huge help. “Having a mini Bullet blender is really beneficial, because then you can make your own smoothies in your room.” says Hansbrough. “It saves time, and you won’t have to go off campus and spend extra money.”

Check ahead to see if your dorm room comes equipped with a mini fridge. If not, check with your roommate to see if they’d be OK with getting one—and interested in splitting the cost. Being able to store fresh and frozen foods in your room can be a huge advantage. Reusable utensils, Tupperware, and baking sheets are other good dorm room investments. If you make it easy for yourself to eat healthily, there’s a much better chance you will!