For dancers who have been medically diagnosed with one or more food allergies, constructing a nourishing meal plan that meets their increased needs can be challenging. This is further compounded when dancers face the reality of a busy schedule and the possibility of financial constraints. This article will deconstruct the nuances dancers face when navigating food allergies. Make sure to grab your FREE downloadable guide to navigating food allergies below!
What are the most common food allergies?
Food allergies are serious and can be life-threatening. There are eight major food allergens responsible for most of the serious food allergy reactions in the United States (learn more about food allergy stats here). These include:
- Tree nuts
- Fish, and
What about gluten, dairy, and sugar?
There are legitimate reasons why a dancer might need to avoid gluten (like being diagnosed with Celiac disease). Also, dancers struggling with lactose intolerance often find relief from reducing and/or omitting dairy from their diets. But going gluten- and/or dairy-free without a medically-diagnosed allergy or intolerance can be a slippery slope into disordered eating.
In regard to sugar, despite some very rare exceptions (like fructose malabsorption), intolerances to sugar are extremely uncommon. Since sugar is the body’s primary fuel source, especially for active dancers, any suspected need for avoidance should be taken up with a licensed professional (like a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist).
Bottom line: when compared to the general population, dancers are three times more likely to struggle with an eating disorder. If you’re concerned about a potential intolerance or allergy, and/or are considering omitting any of the above foods from your meal plan, you’ll want to consult with a medical professional first. Here are four articles that dive further into these common concerns:
- The Truth About Gluten and Dairy.
- What’s The Deal With Sugar?
- A Dancer’s Guide To Digestive Health
- Balancing Food Freedom with Food Intolerances.
Navigating allergy-free zones
For dancers who do not have food allergies, the impact can still be felt among allergy-free zones. In response to the rise in food allergies over the years, some dance schools require the omittance of high-allergen foods (like peanuts and tree nuts) from their studios. Since peanuts and tree nuts are oftentimes convenient snacks for dancers (especially those choosing a plant-based lifestyle), it can be difficult to construct replacements that offer a comparable nutritional profile.
But with one in thirteen children struggling with a serious food allergy, it’s important that we support each other and respect the rules of an allergy-free zone. And there’s good news!
It is possible to adequately fuel your body despite needing to omit common allergens. Here are some favorite allergy-friendly snacks to consider. And if you’d like to learn more about common allergen food swaps, download this free guide.
Allergy-friendly Studio snacks
- Edamame, either in the pods or shelled drizzed with EVOO and a dash of sea salt
- Smoothies made with coconut milk, protein powder, frozen fruit, ground flax, and greens.
- Chia seed pudding blended with cinnamon, vanilla, seed butter and plant-based milk.
- Banana slices topped with sunbutter.
- Sliced veggies and crackers with hummus.
- Sliced veggies and crackers with sunflower seed butter.
- Legume pasta can be made with a variety of sauces.
- Homemade Energy Bites: mix a ½ cup of rolled oats, ¼ cup sunflower seed butter, 2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds, 2 tablespoons chia, 1 tablespoon ground flax, 3 tablespoons chocolate chips, and a dash of sea salt. Roll into balls (1-inch circumference) and roll through a flour mixture of: 2 tablespoons ground flaked cereal (I use Kashi Sprouted Flakes) and 2 tablespoons ground oats.
Food allergies can bring about many food-related complexities for dancers. This is especially true for those who are simultaneously healing their relationships with food. If you’ve been medically diagnosed with a food allergy, it’s encouraged that you reach out for professional support. A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help. Here are a few additional resources to check out:
- The Allergy Chef offers awesome advice for navigating allergies in the kitchen.
- Dietitian Kate Scarlata provides many comprehensive guides and articles on her website.
- The Food Allergy Therapy network offers a registry of mental health therapists who specialize in food allergies.
- For a few dancer-specific starter tips, grab a free download for navigating allergies here!