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You’re Worth It: Fueling Yourself for Health and Success

Happy fitness young woman drinking pumpkin smoothie in kitchen

If you’re like most excellence-oriented studio owners, prioritizing your own health may feel like just one more thing on your to-do list. You might say, “I know I should take better care of myself, but I just don’t have time.” If that sounds familiar, give yourself permission to read this with an open mind. Fueling for success isn’t just one more line item on a list but a way to show up, feel, and work at your best.

What does it mean to “fuel for success”? It’s all about setting yourself up to be the kindest, sharpest, and most prepared version of yourself by consuming foods your body needs. On most days this will include a balance of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unsaturated fats, protein, and hydration.

Read on for an overview of the main types of “everyday” foods. Other foods not listed here are good to have too, but it’s important to remember that some foods are for everyday and some should be “occasional.” Food is fuel, but it is also meant to be enjoyed—all foods can fit into your life!

A meta-analysis done in 2014 found that each additional serving of fruits and vegetables per day offered an average of 4% reduced risk from death related to cardiovascular disease.

Vegetables and fruits are everyday foods because they provide antioxidants (different colors equal different antioxidants!) that can help reduce inflammation, provide vitamins and minerals, are a source of fiber (key for digestive health and managing cholesterol), promote brain functioning, and offer water content—all necessary for your body to function optimally. Aim for one to two servings of each per meal and incorporate with snacks, with a daily goal of two-and-a-half to three cups of vegetables and one-and-a-half to two cups of fruit. If these foods are not a part of your daily regimen, remember that adding even one serving per day can have significant benefits.

Examples: apples, asparagus, avocados, bananas, berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, celery, cucumbers, cabbage, eggplant, green beans, jicama, kale, kiwi, melon, oranges, peppers, pomegranate, spinach, sugar snap peas, tomato, watermelon, zucchini. 

Whole grains are grains that include all three parts of the grain. If you see “whole grain” or “whole” in front of the name of a grain (e.g. “whole wheat”), that means you’re getting all three parts. If unsure, check the ingredients list. Whole grains are complex carbs, so they digest more slowly and help to promote steady energy levels. They also offer B vitamins and fiber. Make at least half your grains whole and aim to include a serving with meals to promote longer-lasting energy.

Examples: brown rice, popcorn, whole grain crackers, oatmeal (almost always a whole grain, so you don’t need to check the ingredients list), whole grain pasta, whole grain barley, whole grain bread, corn, quinoa, whole grain cereals (such as Cheerios). Potatoes and sweet potatoes aren’t technically a grain, but they offer complex carbs (especially if you keep the skin on), so they can fit in this category.

If you have celiac disease and are unable to have gluten-containing grains, you can look for gluten-free (GF) certified whole grain options. Examples include GF brown rice, GF oatmeal, GF quinoa, and GF corn products.

A 2018 meta-analysis study indicated that consuming whole grain foods posed a significant decrease in the concentration of inflammatory markers.

Unsaturated fats are important for promoting heart health, reducing inflammation, and building healthy hair, skin, and nails. Certain types of unsaturated fats, called “omega-3 fats,” help to promote brain health and can also protect your vision. omega-3s have also been linked to helping alleviate symptoms of mental health conditions such as anxiety. omega-3 fats are important because your body cannot make them the way your body can make other fats—the body has to get them from foods. They make up a key part of cell membranes and cell receptors throughout your whole body. A little bit goes a long way with healthy fats; you don’t need large portions to gain the benefits. To meet your needs, aim to include one to two servings of unsaturated fat per day, and one to two servings of seafood per week (omega-3 enriched eggs could be an alternative if you don’t eat seafood; just look on the carton).

Examples: nuts, seeds (especially flax or chia seeds), avocado or avocado oil, seafood (especially salmon or tuna), olive oil, omega-3 enriched eggs.

Protein is needed in our diets because it helps to repair tissues, is needed for cell functioning, helps rebuild and maintain muscles, and plays an important role in metabolic processes. The amount needed will depend on whether you’re getting it through meat, dairy, and/or plant-based options (consider a mix of the three for variety). Generally aim for a serving of protein with each meal and include protein-rich snacks throughout the day.

Examples: beans, bean pasta (such as Banza brand), cottage cheese, edamame, eggs, Greek yogurt, legumes, meats, milk, nuts, nut butters, poultry, seafood, soybeans, tofu, quinoa.

A note about iron: Protein from most types of meat and poultry offer iron. If you eat meat, you can likely reach your iron needs that way. If you choose not to eat meat, be sure you’re getting iron from other sources (examples: spinach, beans, oats, or tofu). Check with your doctor if you are concerned about low iron levels.

Hydration is important for almost all organs and bodily processes. Staying hydrated is important for preventing dehydration headaches and promoting healthy brain function. Fruits and vegetables are high in water content so they contribute to hydration status, but taking in fluids is still necessary. Keep in mind you may have increased needs if it’s hot outside and you’re sweating. Most people need around 64 ounces of water per day, plus an additional 8 to 12 ounces for every half hour of physical activity.

You may be surprised that even small changes in your eating rhythm can help you feel better in both the short and long-term. Maybe it’s packing an easy-to-eat meal with a whole grain wrap for that long dress rehearsal day to keep your blood sugar (and mood) steady. Perhaps it’s adding some almonds for omega-3s to your breakfast or morning snack to keep your body energized and your mind sharp. Focus on foods you love and discover new ones!

Remember the “why” that’s at stake here: Your health matters. You want to feel energetic and focused rather than distracted and tired. Putting your best foot forward is important so that everything at your studio can run smoothly. Remember that your body allows you to do that hard work—your health is essential to your studio’s success.

It is worth noting that fueling for success also requires fueling your mind with encouragement and grace. Set yourself up for success by adopting the twin habits of fueling your body and fueling your thoughts. Think small; learn and apply corrections (just like your dancers do); and take it one sustainable step—and one food choice—at a time.

Scroll down for a delicious, healthful, and simple recipe! Add it to your weeknight meal rotation or meal prep plans.

Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp canola or avocado oil
  • ½-1 packet Mrs. Dash salt-free taco seasoning (depending on flavor intensity preference)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast strips Corn tortillas or whole grain flour tortillas*
mexican chicken fajitas in iron skillet with peppers

*Check the ingredients list on the tortillas and aim to find a product that does not have hydrogenated oils.

Optional sides/toppings for serving:

  • Cilantro
  • Avocado
  • Diced pineapple
  • Jicama sticks

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a sheet pan (or baking dish).
  • Toss peppers, onions, chicken, Mrs. Dash seasoning, and 1 tbsp oil together in a large mixing bowl. Spread onto sheet pan. Drizzle with remaining tbsp of oil.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees and vegetables are cooked through.

Serve fajita mixture divided onto tortillas and enjoy!

You can also combine all ingredients except the tortillas in a gallon-size freezer bag, mix together, and freeze. Then simply transfer from freezer to refrigerator to thaw overnight and prepare using the same instructions, no need to toss since ingredients are already mixed. Or make two batches, one to cook and one to freeze for another day

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