Meal Plan: Simple, Smooth Rice Bowl

Meal Plan: Simple, Smooth Rice Bowl

Brown rice is a great staple to include in your dancing diet for a number of reasons.

  • It’s a whole grain, meaning it has all of its bran layer intact, so it’s full of vital nutrients.
  • Brown rice has more vitamin B than any other grain; it also contains iron, vitamin E, and amino acids, among other nutrients.
  • It’s high in fiber (good for you) and made up of 80% complex carbohydrates, so it burns slower than white rice, giving you longer-lasting energy.

I like to cook up a big pot of brown rice on Sundays and then have it for the week to mix with different veggies, greens, and beans. This is a super simple rice bowl recipe that you can make in 10 minutes or less after the rice is cooked:

  • After chopping and rinsing the broccoli,  steam for 5 minutes in a steamer, or boil in water; drain. Place in bowl.
  • Slice half of an avocado (healthy fats make you feel satisfied and give you sustaining energy)
  • Add 3/4- 1 cup brown rice.
  • Toss with a squirt of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil (omega-3 fatty acids), and salt and pepper.

This is a light lunch between classes and rehearsals as well as a tasty, easy-to-throw-together dinner. And of course, once you’ve got the huge pot of rice, you can get creative about ways to spice it up.

To get you started here are some simple recipes to try mixing with your rice.

  • Black beans and sweet corn kernels with chopped fresh tomatoes and avocado;
  • Sautéed kale with sesame seeds and sesame oil;
  • A can of tuna fish, black olives and capers.

The combinations are endless and so easy to do once you have your base. Dig in!

*New Note: as of 2012, brown rice has been found to have higher than normal levels of arsenic in it, thanks to the soil and water in which it has been grown. Read this Consumer Reports article for the full story.

I know, right, another toxic thing to have to worry about! You can still eat brown rice. The report recommends brown basmati from California, India, or Pakistan. “It has about a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices.” They recommend no more than 3 servings per week.

So maybe make a slightly smaller pot or consider trying some of the whole grains that are naturally lower in arsenic like quinoa, millet, and white basmati.

Love Your Dancing: Find the Joy

Does it ever feel like you’ve forgotten how to love dancing? It’s something I hear from my dancers a lot. “Dance is so hard. Why do I do this to myself? I don’t even know why I’m dancing anymore!”

I remember those days. I remember long, hard days of taking corrections, analyzing every finger and toe in the mirror, and constantly looking, looking, looking for problems. And since there are *always* problems, it can start to feel like you’re never going to get where you’re going.

First, everyone has those days, so take a deep breath and know that you’re not alone.

Second, every minute of every day does not have to be about perfection or fixing things. (So just ditch that idea!)

Third, when you do feel like you’re going down that black hole of perfection and analyzation, it’s definitely time to step away from the mirror and the nitpicking and just…dance.

Dance like your biggest fan is watching. You have someone in your life who *loves* your dancing – everyone does. That person never sees the mistakes and thinks everything you do is golden. Imagine that person standing in the front of the studio, or at the door, and dance for that person only. Just let go, feel the music, feel your body engaging in the movement and enjoy the wonderful feeling that dancing gives you.

Allowing yourself to do this will reconnect you to the reasons that you started dancing in the first place. Too often, those reasons can get lost in the day-to-day experience of training. It’s like missing the forest for the trees: you work and sweat and cry, and at the end of the day, you have no joy to show for it.

I think that’s a real pity, and perhaps the worst casualty of taking it all a little too seriously. One of my dancers likes to remind herself that she’s not curing cancer and no one’s life depends on her nailing the final diagonal in her variation. That helps put her endeavors into perspective and it helps her remember to love it. Otherwise, what’s it all for?

The next time you find yourself sinking beneath the weight of your imperfections, or consistently leaving the studio with feelings of loss or frustration, try to take a step back. Ask yourself, why do I dance? Then tap into that answer the next time you’re dancing. You owe it to yourself to at least enjoy yourself a little bit everyday.

It’s Never Too Late to Change Direction

Dancers put a lot of time, energy and passion into their dancing. That dedication often spills over into other areas of our lives: we approach many other things in life with that same spirit of staying the course, without a thought to the direction we’re going.

When we’ve put so much on the line, it can be difficult to admit to ourselves, or others, that we are heading in the wrong direction. Our commitment is so complete, that there is little space for doubt or re-evaluation. When we do see the problem, a stubbornness can set in that says, “I came this far; I can’t turn back now.”

Personally

I had an experience like this while dancing professionally. While I had a natural facility for ballet and the technique often looked right on my body, it wasn’t always coming from a place of understanding. A good example was my alignment in allegro: when I was moving quickly, my knees were rarely over my toes, so that when I landed from jumps, I was often rolling in on my ankles and twisting my knees. It was very slight, but I knew it was happening.

Sometimes, the ballet master would point it out. I remember thinking on many occasions that I should really do something about that, but it seemed daunting. How was I going to slow down long enough to fix the alignment in my lower legs? Where would I begin?

In my mind, I had missed the window for fixing old problems – now I was a professional and had to keep moving forward. I told myself, “I can’t regress now, I’ve come too far.”

It wasn’t until I got a stress fracture that I understood the full effect of my stubbornness. I had been going further and further down a wrong road, and refused to admit it. Had I taken the time to investigate my alignment with a PT or a teacher, I might not have given myself the fracture.

“No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road, turn around.”

I’m sharing this little phrase with you as a reminder that we have never gone so far in the wrong direction that we can’t turn around. We can always choose to take a new direction in our training, our habits, and our thinking.

Also, moving in the wrong direction has consequences: it takes us further from our goals. In some cases, like mine, our goals are brought to a standstill for a while. So, even if turning around feels like a setback, face that with the same determination you have in your dancing. Slowing down in order to reorient yourself in the right direction is well worth the effort.

Unleash Your Personality onto the Stage

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of watching the Pina Bausch company, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, dance at BAM. The performance was fun, strange, disturbing, and delightful. But what touched me most were the strong personalities of the dancers onstage, particularly the women.

Joan Acocella’s review of the performance noted as much, that the dancers’ demeanor was “comfortable, unleashed. They want to be onstage.” Their diverse looks and personalities kept my eyes glued to the stage, even in moments when I felt the choreography was thin or discordant. It almost didn’t matter as long as I could keep watching them communicate with us.

I cannot remember the last ballet performance I saw where true personalities shined brighter than the choreography. It makes me wonder why that is. Why is it that ballet dancers often show glimpses of who they are onstage, but those moments are fleeting- almost like we’ve been let in on a little secret and then- poof, it’s gone. The person disappears behind the ballerina, the danseur, or the choreography.

What about unleashing who you are and letting that fill the space? What about letting the dancing be a vehicle for your full-fledged personality? It’s definitely not necessary to cover up who we are in order to be ballet dancers. The truly great dancers of the past were great in part because they unleashed their personalities on the audience and we wanted more: Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Maya Plisetskaya, to name the obvious ones.

It has been my experience that students wait to get onstage before they work on their stage persona. This is much too late. Who you are must come through the technique- it is not separate or distinct from what your body is doing.

YOU are the vehicle for both who you are and the dancing itself; YOU are the reason people will buy tickets to your performances and will love watching you.

I would love to hear from some of you: how do you think about this challenge? Do you find it difficult to express the full range of your personality in your dancing?

Variety is (more than) the Spice of Life

Dancers are probably known more for being creatures of habit than variety. Why wouldn’t we be? Our art form demands it. We do roughly the same exercises in the same order every day, and work on the same things over and over again.

As creatures of habit and repetition, it’s natural that we would carry that thinking into our diets. How many of us eat the same thing for breakfast every day? Why? Because it’s fast, easy, and we can predict our body’s reaction to it.

If this describes you, you’re not alone. When you have a strong, clean diet of whole foods, habit is not necessarily a bad thing. But we can all benefit from adding some variety to our diet and here’s why.

Kiwis and Oranges

Think about kiwis and oranges for a minute: not only do they look and taste differently, but they also have different nutritional make-ups. We think that oranges are high in the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C at 139%, but kiwis are even higher at a whopping 273%!

Kiwis are also high in vitamin K (89%) and potassium (16%), while oranges give us thiamin (12%) and calcium (8%). But neither fruit gives us much Vitamin B6 or potassium. For that, you’re better off eating bananas. So, while you might be an orange lover and be getting your daily allotment of fruit from oranges, look at what you’re missing out on by not eating other types of fruit.

The same comparisons can be done for whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, and greens like kale and lettuce. If you get stuck on one, you’re missing out on vital vitamins and minerals that your body needs.

Simple tips to get out of your food rut

When you grocery shop, aim to get at least three kinds of each food group.

  • Proteins: choose from both animal and vegetable sources, like eggs, salmon and black beans. If you’re a vegetarian, try yogurt and tempeh in place of the animal products.
  • Whole grains: try different ones for breakfast (steel cut oats), lunch (quinoa), and dinner (wild rice).
  • Vegetables: go for color! For example, dark leafy greens like spinach, red peppers, and carrots, or beets, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.
  • Fruits: go for different colors and textures: blueberries, oranges and kiwis, or bananas, apples and strawberries.
  • Healthy fats: walnuts, avocados, and olive oil.

Your dancing body needs a wide variety of nutrients, and keeping track of what those are and where to get them can be a big job. But experimenting with the abundant choices of available whole foods is easy and fun, not to mention more exciting for your taste buds.

So the next time you are shopping or eating out, try breaking out of your food rut and trying a few things outside of your comfort zone. If you want to do some research on what nutrients are found in your favorites foods (and the new ones you’re investigating), check out http://nutritiondata.self.com/.

 

Lucious Beets & Kale for Lunch

There are a ton of beets in my local farmer’s market lately so this is what I’m whipping up for lunch today.

Start by grabbing your vegetable scrubber. (I like this one by Oxo.) It’s a special brush for scrubbing vegetables, which although it seems like a frill you can live without, it does make the job of cleaning vegetables much faster and easier. I use it on all veggies whose skin I want to eat. (After all, the skin is often the best part and full of nutrients.) Consider it a small investment with a big return.

Recipe for Kale & Beet Salad

  • 2 bunches of beets: I used one bunch of golden and one bunch of red beets
  • 2 bunches of Tuscan/dinosaur kale

I like to cut the beet greens off first and clean/store them for later use in smoothies. Then scrub beets and put into pot of boiling water for 15-25 mins, depending on size of beets. Cook until you can pierce straight through them easily with a fork.

In the meantime, rinse and chop your kale leaves. Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a large skillet. Drop the kale leaves in and cover with tight-fitting lid. Cook for 4-6 minutes till greens are wilted but still bright in color.

Drain beets and greens. Set greens in a large bowl. Chop beets and toss with the greens and a vinaigrette of your choice. I like olive oil and balsamic vinegar with some salt and pepper – easy peasy.

Tuck in and enjoy.

Beyond Nutrition

There are reasons beyond nutrition for adding beets to your diet. Just two of these tubers have 528mg of potassium (more than a single banana!), which is an important mineral for heart health and muscle cramps. Beets get their bright color from betalains, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. That’s good news for your inflamed tendons.