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The Rockettes: Eating Healthy Before the Show
If you think your holiday schedule is jam-packed, consider the demands on a Radio City Music Hall Rockette.
Called the "hardest working women in show business," the troupe performs 32 shows a week during the holiday season. Two dance companies share the load in New York City, but an individual Rockette can dance as many as five shows a day, starting at 9 a.m.
And the 90-minute "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" includes 45 minutes of dancing, including those famous eye-popping high kicks. During lightning-fast costume changes, the dancers are handed cups of water much like you see when long-distance runners are pushing through the miles.
So when someone asks if dancers are athletes, she is quick to reply: DEFINITELY, YES!
Winslow-Redmond should know. She was a Rockette herself for 11 years before becoming head trainer. (A trainer works with athletes to get them in shape and prevent injuries.) She also has a master's degree in nutrition, so in addition to keeping dancers on their feet, she keeps them eating healthy. That's essential if dancers are going to keep up with the crazy pace, she said.
Dancers May Eat Too Little
But dancers often underestimate the amount of calories they need, Winslow-Redmond said. It can take some convincing to get a dancer to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-grain bread, even though it's the perfect, power-packed snack, she said.
When you're dancing all day long, "that's not going to make you fat. It's going to replenish what your body used," she said.
Her top recommendation for the Rockettes is simple: Eat a breakfast packed with energy and nutrition. She suggests a spinach omelet (the recipe is at the end of this article) plus whole-grain toast. Once the dancers arrive at the theater, there's little time to eat.
The time between shows can be as little as an hour and, after so much exercise, sometimes the dancers don't feel like eating. But Winslow-Redmond encourages high-quality snacks, such as a banana, yogurt, or a handful of nuts.
No Soda for the Rockettes
The dancers drink sports drinks between shows, but never energy drinks because they contain too much caffeine. And soda is a definite no-no. "Don't even bother," Winslow-Redmond said. "It's just wasted calories."
Lunch is provided for the Rockettes during a longer break. Pasta salad with chicken, tomatoes, and mozzarella makes an ideal lunch during these busy, dancing days, Winslow-Redmond said. Dancers get protein (chicken) along with the carbohydrates in the pasta, and vitamins from the tomatoes.
And after the Rockettes have finished their long day of dancing, Winslow-Redmond recommends a serving of lean red meat. That's also a hard sell with some of the dancers, but it's a great source or iron and can combat anemia.
Other good dinnertime choices include a grilled chicken breast with a baked potato (leave the skin on) or whole-wheat pasta with tomato sauce and veggies, such as zucchini, yellow squash, and asparagus.
Shows Get More Demanding
The "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" has drawn thousands of people every holiday season for the last 75 years, but the longstanding tradition has changed a lot over time, Winslow-Redmond said. The Rockettes are on stage more than they used to be and their routines are far more physically demanding.
This year, that's prompting her to add a nutrition lecture to the Rockettes "training camp." She thinks better nutrition can prevent injuries and help dancers recover more quickly if they do get injured.
As Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps does, the Rockettes need to see food as necessary fuel that will help them achieve peak performance, Winslow-Redmond said. "He's ideally fueling his body," she said. "That's exactly what they need to do."
Rockette Jacey Lambros takes her nutrition seriously. Find out how she prepares to hit the stage.
Food Q&A With Rockette Jacey Lambros
Born in Oneonta, N.Y., Jacey Lambros moved to New York City after graduating from college with a degree in psychology. Since moving to NYC, she's been an NBA dancer for the New York Nets, has appeared in several commercials, and was a dancer in the Disney film "Enchanted."
Lambros calls being a Rockette "a dream come true." In addition to dancing, she loves learning about fitness and nutrition. "Being healthy has helped me become a successful dancer," she said.
Here's what she had to say about eating right:
What's your favorite healthy food?
What is your favorite pre-performance meal or snack?
What's your favorite post-performance meal or snack?
What's your favorite junk food and do you limit how much you eat?
Have your eating habits changed since you were a kid or teen athlete?
Any food advice for kids and teens who are working hard at learning to dance?
Eat eat eat. Load up on healthy proteins and colorful produce. Carrot sticks are fun, peanut butter crackers are great too! Make a trail mix of your favorite healthy snacks: nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, cereal ... anything ... be creative. Stay away from soda and other sugary drinks. Be sure to load up on water before, during, and after dance classes or rehearsals.
What a Rockette Eats for Breakfast
Winslow-Redmond recommends this breakfast to Rockettes who have a long day of dancing ahead. It includes whole-grain carbohydrates (the wheat toast), plentiful protein from the eggs, plus the powerful vegetable that Popeye made famous: spinach.
Rockette-Powered Breakfast for Two
What You Need
Equipment and Utensils
What to Do
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD