Happy Food = Happy Dancer. Part 1: Breakfast

This month, my blogs will be focusing on ‘happy food’ and how it can make you feel more energetic, centred and keep your mood on an even kilter. The pathway to wellness and vitality is through the food that we put in our body. Every time we eat, we should question: is this going to make me feel any good? Is this food going to make me feel energised, focused and calm or is it going to make me feel sleepy, moody and give me stomach pains?

This blog will give you quick and easy suggestions for breakfast, whether you are dashing out the front door to rehearsal or if you have a bit more time to spend. All of the recipes I give you over the next few weeks, ranging from breakfast to lovely sweet things, will be completely plant based. I believe from trialing myself, a plant based way of living is the best route to health and happiness and will therefore create a more focused, creative and healthy dancer.

The western diet is heavily processed and many breakfast options are full of sugar – it is literally like having dessert for breakfast… ‘ fun’ high sugar cereals marketed at children, processed breads, jams with high sugar content, fatty processed meats such as bacon and sausages are classed as the ‘norm’ in our culture but are in fact really unhealthy and widely linked to physical ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and depression as well as mental health issues such as poor memory, scatty concentration and inflammation which can cause low mood.

“Our stomach is our second brain and it has its own nervous system, called The Enteric Nervous System (ENS). 95% of the body’s serotonin (“happy hormone”) is found in the bowels and that’s why what you put in your belly has a real impact on your mood” (Lina Bon, Nutritionist, Benenden Healthcare).

It is clear that our thoughts can impact our digestive system. Have you experienced a jittery tummy just before you are about to go on stage or enter an exam? “Butterflies or feeling anxious are very normal in a dance career and eating during this time can feel like the last thing you want to think about. Research into nutrition initially thought that our mood when anxious or low could cause digestive issues such as IBS, Colitis or Crohn’s Disease but new nutritional research indicates that it may in fact be the other way around. The food that we eat can cause digestive issues, which can then cause depression and anxiety. Therefore the quality of the food that you put into your body is crucial in sustaining excellent physical and mental health. The further food moves away from its original state, the more likely it will cause a negative response in your body (we will talk more about this in next week’s blog).

How to start the day!

I always start the day with warm water and lemon. This helps to flush away any toxins that may be lingering in your body and allows you to start the day afresh. I always try to have this before I have a cup of morning tea!

Green Juice

Secondly I make a delicious green juice every morning (or prepare it the night before) which is jam packed with nutrients and helps to keep your body in an alkaline state. By keeping your body in this state it gives your body a better chance of reducing inflammation potentially caused by stress, anxiety or nutritionally deficient food and minimises illness arising and strengthens the immune system.

In this delicious juice I have included:

Serves 1 person

You will need...

1 x Mango

1 x Lime

1 x small chunk of Cucumber

1 x Handful of kale leaves

1 x Handful of spinach leaves

250ml of water

Blend together and enjoy. It feels like a detox in a glass!

Healthy Cooked Breakfast

An alternative to a traditional fry up and one that is so much healthier (and I also think tastier) is mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach on pitta bread or Sough-dour Bread, served with humous and avocado.

Serves 1 person

You will need…

4 – 5 x cherry tomatoes

4 x mushrooms

1 x clove of garlic

1 x teaspoon of rapeseed oil

Half an avocado (optional)

Salt and pepper

Half a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs

Humous (optional)

Pitta Bread or Slice of Sour-dour Bread

Crush the garlic and fry in a pan with the oil for 1 minute. Add in the sliced tomatoes and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add in salt, pepper and mixed herbs. Add in the handful of spinach and cook until it has wilted. Whilst this is cooking toast the bread or pitta.

Once the bread or pitta has toasted, spread with humous (optional) and then place the tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach on the bread. Serve with avocado (optional).

Easy peasey…

Make your own Granola…

This initially may seem expensive to make but it lasts for weeks and works out cheaper than buying granola from the supermarket and it doesn’t contain any added sugars.

You will need…

180g pecans

100g almonds

240g of oats

175g of pumpkin seeds

175g sunflower seeds

3 x tablespoons of coconut

3 x tablespoons of maple syrup

1 x teaspoon of cinnamon

200g of raisins

Melt the coconut oil, maple syrup and cinnamon in a pan on the hob.

Meanwhile pulse the pecans and almonds in a food processor or you can break them up by hand by placing them in a food bag and breaking them up with a rolling pin.

Put all of the other dry ingredients into a bowl along with the nuts and the coconut, cinnamon and maple syrup mixture. Mix well.

Place this mixture on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden on 200 C / 180C Fan.

Take it out of the oven and allow to cool. Once it is cool, stir in the raisins and store in a container in a cupboard.

NOTE: You can also add in goji berries, other dried fruit or other nuts that you may prefer.


Porridge is a favourite of mine and it tends to fill me up quickly and keeps me going throughout the morning.

I tend to use plant based milks such as almond or rice milk to heat it with.

Top with fresh fruit, nuts or dried fruit for extra yumminess and nutrition.

I hope this gives you some ideas for breakfast and gives you a great start to everyday. These changes in my diet make such a huge difference to me in terms of my health and happiness and I hope they do for you too.

THINK Happy | LIVE Healthy | DANCE Better

Stay in touch:


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Blog: hannilysblog.wordpress.com

Twitter: @hannilydance

Instagram: Hannily_Bendell_Dance


GreenMedInfo.com – How can you Eat Away Your Depression? Kelly Brogan M.D. (2018)

Benenden.co.uk – Good Mood Food, Lina Bou (2018)

Deliciously Ella – Ella Woodward (2015)


  1. Jenny

    Some lovely healthy alternatives to the standard breakfast options we usually choose. I eat overnight oats, organic porridge oats soaked overnight in almond milk served with 3 strawberries sliced over the top.


    1. That sounds delicious!


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