By Becky Dimock / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance(Performing Arts)
If your family is anything like mine, you’re constantly on the go. You’re driving your dancer to and from class, competitions, rehearsals, etc. and still need to make sure they have enough healthy energy to get them through the day.
These are 22 of my favorite go-to snacks that are simple to prepare and pack, but will also keep my dancers going.
A general note about snacks: Stay away from anything with high-fructose corn syrup or a lot of sugar, because this will give your dancer a lot of energy right away, followed by a crash. This crash can make your dancer tired and grumpy, which is the opposite of what they need.
Snacks for dancers on the go –
When my dancers don’t have much time to eat, but they’re somewhere that a little mess is OK, such as at the studio between classes or in the car, these are my top choices.
Skip to the next section if you’re looking for something mess-free. These snacks might leave fingers a little sticky, or leave crumbs that have to be picked up, so be sure to send along a napkin for cleanup:
1. Energy Bars – Also known as Granola or Muesli Bars
Energy bars (Granola bars). Beware: not all granola bars are created equal. I look for something with just a few ingredients, such as nuts, fruit, and oats. I try to keep some store-bought ones on hand all the time, just in case, but high-quality granola bars from a store are expensive and all that wrapper waste makes me cringe. So when I have time, I prefer to make them. You can search for a “6-ingredient granola bar recipe” and try a few until you find one you like. My daughters prefer my homemade bars, and they only take about 45 min, start to finish.
2. Protein bars
Protein bars. Again, not all protein bars are equally good. Sugar should not be in the top three ingredients, and it should have at least as much protein as carbohydrates. Try to find one with whey or pea protein, and at least 3 grams of fiber to help your dancer feel full longer. Avoid bars with trans fats, palm or kernel oil, and alcohol sugars such as xylitol or sorbitol which can cause gas and bloating. Of course, you can make these too.
3. Apple slices, rice cakes, or graham crackers with nut butter
Apple slices, rice cakes, or graham crackers with nut butter. This is a great blend of quick energy plus protein to keep your dancer going. Sprinkle sliced apples with a little bit of lemon juice to keep them from browning.
Smoothies. These aren’t exactly messy, but they have to be kept cold and there’s that dirty, drippy cup at the end, so you may not want to pack them for a dress-rehearsal, performance, or competition.
What I like to do is to whip one of my daughter’s favorites up, add extra ice, a lid, and a straw, and pop it into her drink holder before school pick up if we have a dance class to get to straight away. This way I know she will have the energy for class, the snack is easily digestible and she feels full and happy to keep going after a long day in class.
Everyone has a favorite smoothie recipe, but to make sure your smoothie keeps your dancer satisfied without becoming a sugar bomb, smoothies should contain the following:
- 1-2 servings of fruit and/or veggies
- A healthy liquid (milk, almond milk, juice, coconut water…)
- A source of protein (yogurt, whey-based protein powder, nut butter…)
- Optional extras, such as chia seeds, ground flax, or spices.
5. Hard-boiled egg
Hard-boiled egg – I included these on the “messier” list because sometimes the yolk crumbles, or you might not have time to peel them beforehand, but they’re pretty messless. Also, did you know you can them in the pressure cooker? I make a dozen at a time and they always come out perfectly and super easy to peel.
6. Cheese slices, meat slices, and whole-grain crackers.
This is a simple snack but one kids seem to really enjoy! If this is a quick snack at home before we leave for dance class all I do is arrange the items on a plate so my dancers can choose and top their crackers themselves.
I admit I sometimes also do exactly the same on the go, throwing these items into a cooler bag with an ice pack and making sure I bring a plastic plate.
Or if you have one of those bento box lunch boxes you can place each item into a separate section for your dancer to do on their own.
7. Veggies with hummus
Veggies with hummus (a much healthier option than ranch dressing!)
You can send this with your dancer to class, with the hummus in a separate leak-proof container. A small ice pack can help keep everything fresh!
Bananas have to be mentioned on this list as they pack a powerful energy boost and are so simple coming in their own natural wrapping.
Pretzels are my usual go-to carbohydrate crunchy snack. I prefer these over crisps or packets of chips and my dancers love their saltiness!
Olives – so yummy, pack them with a toothpick or fork so you don’t get oil over the fingers – and a napkin incase they do!
11. Trail Mix
Trail mix – otherwise known as “stuff I have on hand and toss in a bag”. Aside from the standby of M&Ms, peanuts, and raisins, try white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, dry cereal, granola, mini-marshmallows, popcorn, and dried fruit.
12. Yogurt, applesauce, or cottage cheese
Yogurt, applesauce, or cottage cheese are great snacks as they are filling but not heavy on the belly which is good when your kid has a short break before having to get out there and dance again.
I prefer to send a small reusable container with a spoon instead of buying the ready-to-go pouches.
Some Mess-free snack Options for Dancers:
There are times when your dancer might get hungry but needs something relatively mess-free, such as any time they’re in a costume.
Everyone knows that you’re not supposed to eat in your costume, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable for example during delays at a competition or a recital dress rehearsal that is going on for a lot longer than you expected.
Instead of just giving in and eating a juicy peach (which I actually saw a dancer do), choose one of these fairly mess-free options.
Remember – If you do let your dancer eat in their costume, be sure to send a napkin, or even cover them in a towel or their dressing gown or robe.
1. Cut up vegetables (no dip!) such as carrots, cucumbers, or peppers.
Cut up vegies can be a great healthy option, as your dancer can quickly nibble on these. Just give some thought to the types of vegetables you cut up – for example sometimes cut up cucumbers can be a little juicy and drip?
2. “Clean” fruit
“Clean” fruit such as peeled mandarin orange slices (I prefer these to full-sized oranges because they’re one bite and also as an orange is so juicy), Grapes, or blueberries.
Bananas are a powerhouse snack and can also be another option if your child can eat it holding the peel so they don’t get it over their fingers and then accidentally wipe their hands on their clothes. You also need to make sure they have somewhere to put the peel afterward.
Just be aware that if you have a younger dancer, this option may not be best for them as a mess-free option because although these fruits are clean on the outside and you can pop them into the mouth, if they open their mouth while eating or go to spit the fruit out, juice could inadvertently get on what they are wearing or a studio floor.
3. Cheese sticks
Cheese sticks are processed, but they can be a good mess-free alternative to get some filling protein into your dancer.
4. Tortilla spread with nut butter and raisins
Tortillas are a good option instead of bread which can have a lot of crumbs, fill it with something like nut butter which won’t come out. If you want to be a bit more adventurous stick in some raisins. The idea is for the nut butter to act as a glue and to stick everything together so nothing falls out.
With any sandwich, you do need to be careful of fillings falling out, but I have had great success in the past with this one, but you do need to remember if the raisins are not stuck into the nut butter well enough they can fall out.
5. Rice Cakes
Plain rice cakes may not be tasty, but having a few on hand especially if your child is in costume can be a lifesaver. These things might crumble a little, but as long as you buy the plain ones, they are dry and won’t stain a costume.
If you are game you can always add some nut butter or another spread on top or let your child take a bite of these and then a cheese stick for example for more flavor.
6. Dry cereal
Dry cereal (it may fall as they eat it, but it won’t stain a costume!)
Choose one that is low in sugars and high in whole grains or even protein.
7. Protein balls
Protein balls small enough to pop in the mouth in one go can be a great non messy snack!
It’s easy to make these bite-sized balls. Look for a recipe that’s cooked, so they’re not sticky. I’ve found that most granola bar recipes can be cooked as balls.
Make sure they are small enough to be bite-sized for your dancer. Sometimes biting into these things creates crumbs that can fall onto what your dancer is wearing.
8. Cheese cubes with a toothpick
Cut up a block of cheese and then bring some toothpicks so your dancer can pop these protein-filled cubes into their mouth.
9. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is a great mess free option as long as your dancer doesn’t leave it in their hands too long.
Snacking on a few dried apricots, raisins, sultanas, apples or bananas can be a great alternative to sugary lollies when sitting around at a competition for example.
10. Nuts & Seeds
As long as there are no allergies and your dancer is over the age of 5 to reduce choking hazards, nuts and seeds can be a great mess-free snack for dancers.
I do add nuts and seeds with some hesitation though – we usually leave this one for a home snack because so many other kids have allergies to nuts and we would hate to be the ones that introduced the allergen into the environment. But if you know this is not an issue they are a great protein-filled mess-free snack!
Water – Sometimes thirst can masquerade as hunger. So make sure you get your child to have a few sips before grabbing a snack.
12. Energy Drink
Did you know that you can make your own energy drinks? They are just sugar, salt, water, and juice.
Search for a recipe online to get a good balance and tasty mix and rejoice in the knowledge that 1. you know exactly what ingredients are in there and 2. you never have to buy expensive energy drinks again!
IMPORTANT: Please note – we are are not promoting children or older dancers have energy drinks full of caffeine or other stimulants.
We are referring to drinks that help to quickly replace lost salts and sugars as a result of exercising and can therefore curb hunger pangs.