4 Stay-at-Home Cooking Tips For Dancers & Athletes

Kristyn Burtt

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Photo credit: Dance Dish Media.

In a time when home cooking is more important than ever, it can be hard to be creative or inspired when you don't think you have skills in the kitchen. What makes it even harder for dancers and athletes is that it's important to eat healthy in a stressful time. The better you take care of your body, the better your mental health will be. Exercise and eating healthy do go hand-in-hand.

When the pandemic started, everyone thought it would be a two-week situation. Yet here we are, almost at the one-year mark and nutrition is even more key to keeping our overall health at the forefront. Just as ballet companies and dance studios have had to adapt and pivot, our at-home routines have had to adjust accordingly, too. The long-term effects of staying at home can alter how we approach nutrition, and it's easy to slide into bad habits.

Let's be honest, we've all grabbed a salty or sweet snack and called that dinner. We haven't met a bag of chips we didn't like, but the truth is that cooking isn't that hard if you keep it simple and flavorful. With a little preparation and planning ahead, you might have a few signature dishes before long.

Here are four tips to get those culinary skills sizzling:

1. Prepare before you shop: Try to pick three different recipes before you go to the grocery store, and then build a shopping list around it. Look for recipes that will provide a warm meal at dinner, along with a few days of leftovers. Try to get enough supplies to carry you through — whether you are shopping weekly, biweekly or monthly. The more you plan, the easier it is to stick with healthier eating. One great suggestion is to find a recipe that will give you a lean protein, a vegetable and a carb to fill you up.

2. Cooking: Don't let recipes intimidate you! If you are missing an ingredient, google for substitution options. If you don't know how to convert measurements, use CulinarySchools.org's handy ingredient conversion calculator. We use it all of the time to help me convert everything from measurements, temperature and weight. It's a lifesaver in the kitchen.

3. Listen to your body: The more whole foods you nourish your body with, the better it responds when it comes to physical and mental health. After years in a leotard, dancers often find that counting calories or grams of fat, weighing themselves or tracking the number of calories burned, does nothing but cause anxiety. We all know when our pants are tight, and it's important to go for a checkup each year, so your doctor can monitor any changes. Do what works to keep you mentally and physically fit and strong.

4. Listen to how you are feeling: Our mental health can often be tied to how healthy or unhealthy we eat, so it's important to check in on how we are feeling. Registered dietician and founder of Healthy Grocery Girl Megan Roosevelt has some sound advice for checking in on our mental health.

"Your mental health matters. A healthy lifestyle is not just about drinking green smoothies and going to yoga," she advises in her "10 Tips To Start A Healthy Lifestyle" video. "Your emotions, thoughts, concerns, frustrations and fears — they matter, and you are not alone. If you're struggling in life through a certain season of waiting or disappointment, stress, fatigue or worry — the best thing you can do is to share what you're feeling."

She recommends talking to a trusted family member or friend, a therapist, or writing things out in a journal to "work through anything that is causing you anxiety." Just remember, it's always OK to ask for help, you are doing your best and many people can benefit from hearing your story.

To kick off your adventure in the kitchen, here's a fun recipe for Ground Turkey Teriyaki Rice Bowls that you can alter to suit your taste buds. The recipe calls for sugar in the teriyaki recipe. If you are trying to cut down on sugar, add a little less — it will still be tasty and sweet. If you need more veggies in your meal plan, throw whatever you have from your fridge like bell peppers, snap peas, spinach or celery.

If you don't want to use brown or white rice, cauliflower rice is the perfect alternative and adds another vegetable to the meal. This should provide you with plenty of leftovers, too. And remember, if you get stuck with measurements, the CulinarySchools.org's ingredient conversion calculator should do the trick!

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Ground Turkey Teriyaki Rice Bowls

INGREDIENTS

Teriyaki Sauce

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar or less as desired

2 tablespoons granulated sugar or less as desired

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons warm water

Ground Turkey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup diced onion

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 pound ground turkey

1 cup finely chopped broccoli

2 large carrots peeled and chopped

Garnish: cilantro, basil, or green onions

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Photo credit: Dance Dish Media.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Mix soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, red wine vinegar, sugars, garlic and ginger in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir with a whisk until sugar is dissolved.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons warm water and cornstarch until cornstarch is completely dissolved.
  • Heat sauce over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in cornstarch mixture and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced onions and cook until soft.
  • Crumble ground turkey and garlic into the pan and cook until turkey is about half-cooked.
  • Add carrots, broccoli and other veggies, and continue to cook until turkey is no longer pink.
  • Pour teriyaki sauce over the cooked turkey and vegetable mixture and stir. Simmer for about five minutes to combine the flavors.
  • Spoon meat over rice or noodles. Garnish with your favorite herb and serve immediately.

Don't forget to tag us in your cooking photos and feel free to share some of your favorite recipes from your at-home cooking adventures.

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Kristyn Burtt is a commercial dance journalist, TV host and producer. She was the West Coast correspondent and host of "To the Pointe" on Dance Network for five years. Her coverage of "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing With the Stars" and "World of Dance" is popular with dance fans across the globe. Kristyn's love of dance began early in her life. She trained at the Boston Ballet School, danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in "The Nutcracker" and won a dance scholarship to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She currently serves on the American Dance Movement’s Marketing & PR Committee and is a member of the Television Academy and SAG-AFTRA.

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