Dancer Health

Jazz Instructor Caroline Lewis-Jones on Nutrition + The 7 Green Foods You Need to Add to Your Diet

"I hate the word 'skinny.' As a dancer, you're an athlete." —Caroline Lewis-Jones. Photo courtesy of Adrenaline Dance Convention

“My mom is always the story I lead with," says Caroline Lewis-Jones about her relationship to health and wellness. “She was sick my entire life, and I'd do anything to have her back." A certified health coach who teaches for Adrenaline Dance Convention, Lewis-Jones is passionate about training healthy, mindful dancers. And while it might seem rare to witness a nutrition course during a jam-packed convention weekend, Lewis-Jones always finds a way. She incorporates wellness into her workshops and master classes on the circuit, empowering young dancers to take control of their bodies—and what they put into them.

A Columbia, South Carolina, native, Lewis-Jones trained with Nancy Giles at The Southern Strutt. After high school, Lewis-Jones headed to New York to attend Marymount Manhattan College as a communications major, and, while in the city, performed with Jason Parsons and Mia Michaels' RAW, as well as in music videos for Madonna and *NSYNC. But after five successful years in NYC, Lewis-Jones moved back home in 2004. “My mom had been sick with breast cancer, and I didn't have a good feeling about her prognosis this time," she says. “She died a year later, and I haven't left."


Now 34 and a mother herself, Lewis-Jones spends much of her time traveling on the convention circuit. She's been with Adrenaline for seven years and she also choreographs and leads workshops at studios around the country, including Southern Strutt, where she guests on occasion. Her jazz classes have an anatomical bent. “If we're doing an attitude, for example, I'll talk about what muscles need to engage," she says. “I've found that some kids don't even know where their hamstrings are. I'm very hands-on, tactile. I try to demonstrate as much as I can and talk about process and how movements initiate. I'm not there to just show off some cool moves and call it a day."

And to take her commitment to wellness even further, she often hosts a lunchtime discussion that parents and studio teachers are encouraged to attend. “I talk about the importance of whole-food nutrition," she says. She also leads a studio nutrition seminar, where parent and teacher attendance is required. “Teachers are dancers' biggest mentors, and they need to walk the walk, too," she says. “You can't sit and drink a Coke during class. And in your studio lobby, why not offer a bowl of fresh fruit instead of a vending machine full of chips and soda?"

“I preach about eating plant-heavy, nonprocessed foods to prevent disease," she says. “But it's about being strong on a cellular level—it's not about looking thin." And while Lewis-Jones recognizes that professional dance does require a certain aesthetic, students need to understand that it looks different on different bodies. “I hate the word 'skinny,'" she says. “As a dancer, you're an athlete. You have to cross-train, do cardio, lift weights." Talking about body image, however, can be a slippery slope; Lewis-Jones is careful to help dancers and their families turn to medical professionals in cases (such as suspected eating disorders) beyond her expertise.

For young dancers, Lewis-Jones starts the conversation about body health from the inside out. “I'll ask them if they've ever known someone who's been sick," she says. “Then we talk about what healthy food is and what it tastes like." Lewis-Jones goes deeper into nutrition topics with more senior dancers, using buzzwords like “macronutrient," “antioxidant" and “inflammation." Many students, she says, have followed up the discussions with Facebook questions, and some have even asked about minoring in nutrition in college.

Regardless of the age group, Lewis-Jones gets pretty fired up about helping students develop smart habits that will have long-lasting impact on their physical and nutritional health. “It's so easy to take a cholesterol-lowering medication; to take a pill for diabetes," she says. “These are things that can be reversed—but people are lazy. I'm very direct with dancers. If you exercise, eat whole foods and a plant-based diet, your body will do what it needs to operate on a great level."

Lewis-Jones gives a nutrition talk to convention dancers. Photo courtesy of Adrenaline Dance Convention

Eat Green

By Rachel Caldwell

With the arrival of spring and St. Patrick's Day, green is definitely the color of March. What better way to honor your body than to enjoy these seven foods in season this month?

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Artichoke

In addition to being rich in antioxidants, artichokes are a significant source of fiber, which promotes intestinal health, lower cholesterol and healthy blood-sugar levels.


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Asparagus

It's a dancer's super food—high in anti-inflammatory nutrients and low in fat and sodium. Asparagus is also full of vitamin K—the MVP of blood clotting.


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Avocado

With fiber and essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K and folate, what's not to love about avocado? Also, the healthy fats promote heart health.

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Broccoli

There's a reason why your parents insisted you eat your broccoli—it's rich in fiber and packed with vitamin C. Health benefits include lower cholesterol, digestive health and detoxification.

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Brussels Sprouts

Low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals, one cup of these little green spheres contains more than twice the recommended daily dose of vitamin K.

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Cabbage

The anti-inflammatory properties of cabbage can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and the high fiber and water content aids digestion.

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Spinach

Popeye loved spinach, and for good reason—it is full of iron, which is essential for hemoglobin production in blood. Spinach is also a champion of vitamin A, which keeps skin and hair healthy.

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