Witney Carson
ABC/Craig Sjodin
Julie Mazziotta
October 04, 2016 10:33 AM

As a professional dancer on Dancing with the Stars, Witney Carson knows that she needs tons of healthy foods to fuel her cardio-heavy days.

“Each day, my diet is super important,” the 5’3″ Carson, 22, tells PEOPLE. “I need energy throughout the entire day, especially during the DWTS season. I try to stick to whole clean foods and I can’t tell you what a difference it makes!”

Carson, who hopes to nab her second mirror ball trophy this season with partner Vanilla Ice, never wants to lose that energy – and that’s part of why she has no interest in going on a restrictive diet.

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“I love food and will never starve myself to make my body look a certain way,” she says. “It’s all about being healthy on the inside that matters and getting whole foods to keep you happy and energized. If you think starving yourself is the way to go, it’s not. Actually, the more healthy foods you eat, the faster your metabolism gets – therefore you burn more calories.”

And Carson, who drinks almost a gallon of water each day, says staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body.

“The most important thing is to drink as much water as you can throughout the day – it will keep your skin healthy, your body healthy, and your mind,” she says. “Nothing feels as good as being healthy does!”

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Hydration

80-96 oz. of water a day

Breakfast

1 cup of green tea

Homemade banana oat waffles – mix one mashed banana with 1 cup of steel cut oats, ¼ cup of almond milk, 1 tsp. vanilla and a dash of cinnamon, and cook in a waffle maker. Top with Greek yogurt, fresh berries and a drizzle of honey

Snack

Handful of raw cashews

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Lunch

Mediterranean chicken salad, with cucumbers, olives, diced chicken, spinach. Topped with a scoop of hummus, feta and balsamic dressing

Snack

Apple with almond butter

Dinner

Grilled salmon with asparagus and a sweet potato

RELATED VIDEO: Dancing With the Stars Pro Witney Carson Ties the Knot on New Years Day

Dessert

Two squares of dark chocolate

1 cup of herbal tea

Total Calories:

1,890

The Verdict:

“Witney has an awesome balance of whole grains, quality proteins, colorful produce and healthy fat,” says Chicago-based dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner. But she suggests that Carson incorporates a little more protein into her morning meals, especially breakfast. “Other than the Greek yogurt, this breakfast is a little low in protein,” Blatner says. “Adding an organic, omega-3 egg or 1-2 tbsps. of hemp seeds into the batter can increase the protein.”

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Carson’s Mediterranean chicken salad is a “great, veggie-rich lunch with healthy fat coming from the olives,” though Blatner recommends adding cooked quinoa “for a dose of smart carbs.” The pro dancer picked a “perfect” snack combo – “produce gets you full, protein keeps you full” – and her dinner is a great balance of a protein, a smart carb and produce. Plus, “salmon is a good choice because it contains omega-3 fats to help decrease workout soreness,” Blatner says.

Carson finishes her day on an “excellent” note with her dark chocolate and herbal tea dessert. “When a sweet tooth hits, the best thing to choose is a little dark chocolate savored along with caffeine-free herbal tea,” says Blatner.

NOTE: It is recommended that women eat at least 1,200 calories per day, and men eat at least 1,800 calories per day.

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