Talking to the Experts: The Fuelin’ Roadie Wendy Jo Peterson

by in Food and Nutrition Experts, February 9, 2012
wendy jo peterson
The Fuelin' Roadie: Wendy Jo Peterson

With the Grammy’s right around the corner we sought to answer questions like how do musicians keep their voice in tip-top shape, or what do musicians eat on the road? I had the pleasure of speaking with registered dietitian Wendy Jo Peterson, who provides nutrition counseling for musicians including the guys from Reckless Kelly who are up for a Grammy this year.

Q: What’s your role as a dietitian for musicians?
When working with musicians I take on the role of a nutrition coach, culinary expert and sports nutritionist. I work with musicians on the road but also music festivals, catering companies and event coordinators. Besides working with some of the guys from Reckless Kelly, I have also worked with musicians from last year’s Grammy-winning group, Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses.

Q: You counsel your musicians to eat like athletes. Do musicians really burn that many calories? Does this philosophy apply to the entire band (i.e. drummer, guitarist)?  
Interestingly the current data is quite outdated in regards to calories burned by musicians, but I have measured calories burned with many of the artists I work with and yes, they burn like athletes. Whether they are banging drums, bouncing around with a fiddle, or doing a choreographed dance while singing they are all burning calories that require nutrition and sport performance considerations. In addition to calories they have major sweat losses on stage, and until they see the evidence they don’t quite get it. I employ similar principles with my athletes as I do with my musicians. The results are impressive!

Q: When you work with musicians at venues, what do they usually like to have in their dressing room before and after the show? Do they have any unusual requests?
Generally, they are given whatever the venue has to offer or gets catered. Most often I see sandwiches, chips and drinks.  Personally I haven’t experienced anything wacky, but I do have clients who are vegans, vegetarians or have food allergies. Those musicians are quite relieved to have someone help navigate what they can and cannot eat. That’s where my expertise as a dietitian really stands out.

Q: Congratulations on being invited to the National Singer-Songwriter Music Conference this year. I understand you’re working on bringing awareness of certain nutritional and medical issues. Could you tell me about that? What are some nutritional issues that are more common in artists that they should be aware of?
Thank you, it’s really exciting to be able to speak to a large group of musicians at one time and help bring awareness to nutritional concerns they have due to their profession. Generally speaking musicians don’t have medical coverage, so they struggle even having baseline knowledge of their health. Given their work schedules and rock-star lifestyles they are clearly at risk for liver issues (hard drinking), low Vitamin D (negligible food sources and work at night; thus, rarely get outside much to get sun), sleep deprivation which leads to all sorts of medical concerns, and a diet that revolves around fast food and truck stop fare.

Q: Musicians are frequently on the road—where do you find they eat most often and what do you typically recommend?
Fast food, fast food, fast food . . . oh and throw in truck stops, too! Educating them on food choices at truck stops and fast food restaurants is key. I have my favorite stops and top picks, plus I teach them on what to add and what to skip when eating out. I always opt for the balanced approach knowing that they are going to eat there regardless.

Q: Many musicians are worried about their voices. What are foods you specifically recommend to keep their voices in check?
Hydration is essential for vocal performance, so I always inquire about their beverage choices. Alcohol can hurt the vocal chords, so it’s a balance to keep them filling up on water in between cocktails. Colds can wreck vocals; thus, I do a lot to prevent the onset of a cold through foods high in probiotics. Although folks think dairy ruins vocals the evidence is weak; however, if a musicians feels as though it truly alters their sound then we skip it. Coffee or caffeine can actually help open the vocals, so sometimes I recommend it. I also have a tea with ginger, rosemary and lemon that we use to soothe throats. I have a lot of tricks to the trade!

Q: What do you recommend when an artist or member of the crew drinks too much?
Ha! Balance! I don’t pick on their drinking; however, I do recommend taking actions to help their liver heal. I focus on limiting fatty or fried foods, increasing water consumption, limiting caffeine and increasing fruits and vegetables. In addition to all that I teach them how to mix a darn good, and healthy cocktail.  My favorite is a tart cherry twister: lime, tart cherry juice, ginger and vodka.

Q: Could you share with us your favorite “on the road” recipe? Where would musicians prepare this dish?
Absolutely, my most requested recipe is for my Kale Salad. I teach them to make this partly at home and toss it on the road. They prep the kale at home (or can buy it already cut at the store) and make the miso vinaigrette at home, then on the road they simply toss. Another key recipe I teach them is how to make a darn good scrambled egg on the road in their microwave.

Roadie’s Kale Salad
6 cups kale (wash, remove tough stems, and chop)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup almonds, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 tablespoon miso (gold or red paste)
1 teaspoon Bragg Amino Acids or low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lemon or lime, juiced

In a large bowl, toss together kale with apple cider vinegar.  Using your hands squeeze the kale and mix well with the vinegar, this breaks down the tough fibers.

Add in almonds and celery and mix.

In a small bowl whisk together miso, olive oil and citrus juice.  Pour over kale mixture, toss, and store or serve!

Travel Additions:

  • Serve with grilled or rotisserie chicken
  • Toss with canned salmon, grated carrots, or orange segments
  • Mix with cooked couscous, quinoa, or pasta
  • Serve it along side your favorite fast food sandwich…it’s a lot better than fries!

I served it up Southern-Style tonight with some fried chicken tenders!  I enjoyed a cold Shiner Blond Lite with it and it made me miss home. It’s all about balance, y’all! Enjoy!

Wendy Jo Peterson, MS RD CSSD is a sports dietitian, nutritionist, chef and co-author of the 2011 book Mediterranean Diet Cookbook For Dummies. For more information, visit her website.

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