I am so excited to introduce you to the newest students of the TTP team! Similar to myself, Caitlin Alfano and Abby Haynes have an obvious passion for nutrition. As former dancers turned dietetic majors, Caitlin is currently completing her degree at LIU Post University and Abby at New York University. Both Caitlin and Abby cannot wait to share their favorite tips and experiences on DanceNutrition.com! Let’s welcome them to the TTP community. Here is what they have to say:
When did you start dancing?
Caitlin: I began dancing at 2 ½ years of age. My parents realized I loved to move when I would dance in front of the TV. That led them to enroll me in a local dance studio where I continued to take dance classes through college. In college, I pursued my minor in dance as well as continuing teaching dance classes at my studio.
Abby: I took my first dance class when I was about 3, but I spent a few years away from dance to try out several different sports. Clearly none of them were for me, because I got back into dance when I was around 8 years old. I started with ballet only, then incorporated more styles after joining a competition team in fourth grade. I continued to train up until I left for college!
Did you only dance?
Caitlin: In middle school and high school, I joined the color guard for the marching band. It challenged me in a new way physically, which is where I gained a passion for exercise.
Abby: After my brief fling with sports as a child, once I started dancing seriously I never looked back! I was at the studio nearly every weeknight, rehearsing, or traveling to conventions. I was serious about school, but I was dancing there too!
When/why did you become interested in nutrition(enough to pursue it as a career)?
Caitlin: I have always had an appreciation for food. From a young age, I cooked alongside my mom in the kitchen. I learned to appreciate going from the grocery store to cooking a meal and then enjoying it. I started to educate myself on eating a more well-balanced diet. Soon enough, I found that small changes made me feel better all around. In college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue. After taking a sports nutrition class during my last semester, I realized that I wanted to become a registered dietitian so I could help others.
Abby: I’ve been fascinated with food and creating things with it for as long as I can remember. Growing up, when I wasn’t dancing, I was baking! As I got older I faced many of the challenges with food so many young dancers know too well, and working through those struggles inspired me to pursue a career in nutrition so that I might one day be able to help dancers like myself. Since being in college I have also found that I am super interested in the science behind how the body and its systems work, especially in the context of nutrition!
What topics interest you most in nutrition?
Caitlin: All aspects of nutrition interest me! I am interested in how people can improve their health to live a longer healthier life. I believe many people aren’t educated on how simple it can be to make better food choices. My passion is how nutrition impacts athletes, especially dancers. I have a bachelor’s degree in exercise science so fitness has always been a passion of mine. I want to work with dancers because I have seen first hand how learning about food and appreciating food can improve your dance performance.
Abby: I love that nutrition science is constantly growing and evolving—there’s always something new and exciting to learn! With that said, I come across new topics that interest me frequently and I love to learn all I can about each one in turn. Most recently, I’ve been researching nutrition and sleep patterns, plant-based diets, and gut health! More broadly, I will always gravitate towards any nutrition information that I can relate back to dancers.
The most difficult part of your college experience?
Caitlin: Learning to balance life was a challenge for me. The challenges of working, getting good grades, socializing, and taking care of yourself become difficult. I’ve learned that making time for yourself is extremely important when you have a busy schedule. Self-care will strengthen every aspect of your life. For me taking the time to take a bubble bath or a dance class is what helps me.
Abby: Like so many others, I have to say that handling the disruptions caused by COVID-19 has probably been the most difficult part of my college experience so far. Transitioning abruptly from in-person to online, from living in a dorm in NYC to living with my family at home, and from having ample studio access to none at all made it much more difficult to stay motivated and keep up with my schoolwork. Some things that have helped me cope are: dancing in my room, reading, cooking, and staying (virtually) connected with friends.
What is your go-to breakfast?
Caitlin: Right now my favorite thing to make in the morning is a lightly salted rice cake with peanut butter topped with blueberries and hemp seeds. This is especially great when I wake up hungry and don’t want to cook something. I also cannot start any morning without my cup of coffee with a splash of soy milk!
Abby: Toast with peanut butter, banana, and a sprinkle of cinnamon! So easy and so good.
Caitlin: My favorite dessert is apple pie. I love the fall time when I can go apple picking and make my homemade apple pie. It’s always warm and comforting and even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! I love to bake, so anytime I can take ingredients and make something delicious I will!
Abby: Any Van Leeuwen or Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream flavor! Or a chocolate chip cookie. Sometimes both!
For you what does it mean to be a healthy dancer?
Caitlin: A healthy dancer means finding a balance physically, mentally, and emotionally. Dancing is an extremely demanding sport on the body. It’s being able to find the time to take care of your body and love who you are so you can feel your best. Misty Copeland, a principal dancer from the American Ballet Theatre, once stated “ What you put into your body is as important as how hard you dance. I believe with the right training and understanding of how to take care of your body, you can mold it to be whatever you want it to be.” This quote captures the idea that your body’s health must come first, then you can be the best you.
Abby: To be a healthy dancer is to know yourself and know what works best for you as an individual. “Healthy” is a heavy word that carries a different meaning for everybody, but I personally feel the healthiest when I am fueling myself with a healthy mindset as well as nutritious foods. For me, this means checking in with my mind and my body regularly and striving for balance in both of those areas.