10 Sneaky Foods Singers Need to Avoid


Think twice about these items for the sake of your vocal folds, energy level and waistline –says nutritionist Sharon Zarabi

So its gig time and you’re on the road. The only places to stop are the convenience stores or, your last resort, the vending machine down the hall.

Here are ten sneaky foods that are commonly perceived as power foods loaded with nutritional benefits.

Let’s challenge the myths behind these “so called” health foods:


Juice Aka: sugar water with a hint of fruit flavor. Even in “100% pure” fruit juice, the vitamin and mineral content is minimal since most of these were removed with the skin and juice-making processes. Yes, fruits are good for you; that was why you were given teeth – to help chew the fibrous portion that helps with digestion and elimination. Yes, you have been suggested to hydrate your vocal folds (Why Singers Need Water) and throat; choose water and flavor with the whole fruit itself- such as lemon, orange slices, mint, etc.


Low Fat Yogurt. Ahhh yes, calcium is necessary in the diet, however once milk is processed into a thick consistency and added with all types of sugar, it loses its health luster. The lactose in yogurt and added sugar content will leave your digestive system with unnecessary work. Your throat will be coated – something you don’t want to experience before a performance. Many people have some sort of lactose intolerance so gas and cramps can come along with the dose of calcium you were encouraged to consume thanks to the “3 A Day” Milk Campaign.

Cheese03Cheese. The dairy industry may come after me after writing this, but now we have the processed milk into a solid and, instead of adding sugar, we have concentrated fat and salt into a cube -yum! Once again, the high fat content takes longer to digest and can lead to weight gain and acid reflux. The reflux irritates and burns, causing a stiff, thick inflamed mucus membrane that may cause your vocal muscles to become overly “tight” and may affect the range of voice.

Granola04Granola. I know I know… everyone says it’s healthy. Yes, if you keep it to a ¼ cup portion. If you are using it as a topper to Greek yogurt (that is high in protein and low in sugar) go for it – the added crunch is nice! But pouring this stuff into a bowl can lead you to consume 500 waistline-unfriendly calories. And let’s not forget that granola is actually toasted oats, glazed with honey. So why not just opt for a bowl of hearty oatmeal, instead? Sweeten it with fresh fruit—isn’t that what we did before packaging was available?

UnsaltedCrackers5Unsalted Crackers. Yes I know that they have less fat than potato chips and no salt (and basically no flavor) —so how can they be bad for you? Well, anything that melts in your mouth doesn’t have the proper substance to keep your stomach full. Not that you want a full belly, but eating the addicting crackers will still leave you hungry with all the added calories that quickly get metabolized to fat cells.

Nutella06Nutella. Nuts are healthy for you, but you may be surprised to know that the first ingredient which tends to be the most abundant is sugar. The second ingredient is vegetable oil. Hello? Wasn’t this supposed to come from a hazelnut? Let’s just call this sweet fat with a side of nuts. A better option would be peanut or almond butter that actually contains unsaturated fats that are less harmful to our arteries and give us the protein we need to keep our hunger levels at bay.

Cookies07Sugar Free Cookies/Desserts. So you might have gotten the memo from the above listed foods that sugar is detrimental to a tight physique on stage; then, sugar free cookies must be heaven sent. Not so fast!!! When sugar is taken out of a product, guess what they add for flavor—you got it: a mix of sugar alcohols, or a sugar alternative (such as NutraSweet) and the good ol’ flavor enhancer fat. Be wise and read the labels or choose in moderation.

VeggieCrisps08Veggie Chips/Crisps, Well if they taste too good to be true, they usually are. Veggie chips are powdered potato flour mixed with artificial flavor and colors. Far from the real product that would need to be chewed and contains roughage. I know your concern of broccoli florets stuck in your teeth before rushing out on stage but why not try kale chips? With crunch and flavor, they actually come from the real vegetable and not a powdered version!

TraTrailMix09il Mix (aka g.o.r.p. aka monkey food). Often these mixtures contain “yogurt” covered nuts which are not real yogurt but artery clogging fractioned palm kernel oil , coated in sugar and white powder. These contain ingredients you can barely pronounce, assorted with dried fruits and nuts. Not a horrible choice but once again 15-20 pieces would be an entire serving! Choose whole fresh fruits and 2 tbsp of nut butter when available.

Alcohol10Alcohol. Don’t ever think that this clear, highly caloric liquid can do for your vocal folds what water can do. Check out this cool article on the effects of alcohol and drugs on your voice.  Your folds will thank you for choosing the other clear liquid that’s absolutely free.


See these other articles from Sharon for Singers:

Top Energy Foods for Performance

Caffeine and the Singer

Honey and Lemon: Fact from Fiction

-Sharon Zarabi

Sharon Zarabi
Sharon Zarabi is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist (RD, CDN) and Certified Personal Fitness Trainer with the International Fitness Professional’s Association (IFPA) and Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA.) She is a contributor to The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health (Oxford University Press) and her work can be viewed at www.sharonzarabi.com/

  • Rhinehart99

    Great article!

  • Alanivox

    Good lord, it looks like you put everything under the sun on the “bad for singer’s list”. I totally disagree with many of these. The studio where I teach in NYC is one of the largest rehearsal/audition facilities in the country. They have a wonderful little cafe they sells all kinds of snacks that singers can grab before, between or after an audition or rehearsal. Low fat yogurt, Granola, Trail Mix, Veggie Chips and Sugar Free Cookies are some of the top selling items at the cafe. These are wonderful alternatives when you need a little “pick me up”! Many time students will bring the snacks I listed into a lesson so that they have enough energy to continue a busy day.

  • Teri Lassetter Stock

    I feel this is a case of “know your body.” and be aware of foods that are promoted as “healthy” may not be and may cause a problem for singing.
    She is not giving technique advice, she is giving nutrition advice that we can learn from and use or not use. Every professional singer I know develops a pre-performance singing routine that works for them. One experience with post eating phlegm will teach one that. Knowing some of those triggers might make the choices a little earlier instead of learning through trial and error.

  • Really? Water is better for hydration than juice, alcohol is a diuretic and dairy is probably bad for your vocal folds? These are the best tips you can come up with? Those three are, after all, the only ones related to singing. The others are just generic health/diet/waistline/aesthetic tips. Waste of damn time.

  • I break all the rules. I would have to say this list varies from person to person. Gronola, water and trail mix are in my rider. Nutritional and help in my “nervous” hour.