Dara Godfrey is a registered dietitian who works in private practice in Manhattan. As an expert in nutrition, she customizes eating plans to help empower her patients to make positive food choices. Dara’s lifestyle-driven approach has encouraged individuals to understand what is realistic and has provided them with a flexible set of tools to achieve sustainable goals of health and happiness. Dara is also the dietitian at Reproductive Medicine Associates (RMA) of New York, a fertility clinic, where she supports patients’ nutritional goals at every stage of infertility treatment and pregnancy, including pre-treatment health and weight loss, prenatal nutrition and pregnancy nutrition during each trimester. Dara lives in lower Manhattan with her husband and two children. She can often be seen trying new restaurants with her adorable little girls, and is an expert in the best workouts. Whenever I see Dara, she looks like a knockout whether it’s the middle of the day with her girls or a party at night. She has it all together. That is someone I want to take advice from! Read on to hear more about Dara, her approach to nutrition, her favorite meals and workouts!
Dara, what made you interested in a career in Nutrition?
I grew up in a very ‘foodie’ home. Fiddleheads, Persimmons and Farro were a part of our daily home cooked meals. From as early on as I can remember, my parents were both into health and nutrition. They have always been super balanced eaters and enjoy being active and that’s something that has rubbed off on me. Sharing how food can be both nutritious and delicious tasting is what I enjoy most about my job.
What are some of your key principles for healthy eating?
Plan ahead – A key ingredient to living a healthy lifestyle is trying to have an idea of what your meals will look like for the day. Having some sense of WHEN you will be eating your meals and WHERE you will be eating, can help you prepare yourself for WHAT you will choose to eat. This especially applies to meals eaten out at a restaurant. It’s a good idea to look at a menu ahead of time to get a sense of what you should order. Other ideas to help you prep include:
- Writing down your grocery shopping list before you head to the supermarket
- Putting a sticky note on your purse/bag to remind you to take your lunch or snacks that are in your fridge before you leave for the day
- Pre-portion snacks for the week in a snack-pack Ziploc bag
Being accountable – Keeping a record of what you’re eating daily is really useful to help you gauge where you are and where you should be. It’s a helpful reminder to eat at least three meals a day, to drink enough water and to make sure you’re eating enough veggies. It is critical to helping you change your eating habits by identifying when and where you may not be eating enough or when you may be bingeing. It is especially beneficial if you are recording EVERYTHING that you eat and drink (every bite counts!).
Progress, not perfection – Being successful at something takes time. Balance is about finding that happy medium between living a very structured life and living in the moment. So instead of focusing on what you are doing wrong, think about the ways you can change those negative habits. It takes approximately 30 days for something to stay with you, so try and set a goal that you can maintain for a month. Make it small, attainable and not too stressful to your normal routine. And remember, a slip up here and there is normal!
What are some of the most important things to keep in mind with respect to eating as we start to get past 40?
One of the biggest complaints I hear from my female patients who are 40 years old and beyond is that they can’t eat what they used to eat in their 20’s and 30’s without gaining weight. As we get older, our metabolism does change, which can potentially impact our waistline. But getting older does not mean that we have to gain weight. What is crucial is focusing on building muscle mass to help increase our metabolism and avoid storing body fat. I always stress focusing on both lean protein consumption and strength training to help maintain and build muscle mass.
How do you incorporate healthy eating with your children?
I try to lead by example. Since I can’t control what they’re eating at school or at camp, I focus on having a variety of well-rounded breakfast and dinner options at home while still incorporating some of their favorite foods (eggs, peanut butter, oatmeal, salmon, cucumbers and capers). Surprisingly, my kids aren’t the biggest vegetable eaters. Instead of forcing them to eat everything during mealtime, we have a rule in the house that they need to try at least one bite of everything on their plate.
If you could pick 5 go to meals, what would they be?
When planning meals ahead of time I make sure they have the 3 basics – lean protein, non-starchy vegetables and possibly a healthy starch. I often add more than one vegetable since they are loaded with lots of vitamins and minerals. Here are some of my favorite combos:
- Grilled salmon with asparagus and a small purple potato
- Roasted spaghetti squash with tomatoes, herbs, a bit of goat cheese and some grilled shrimp and a side of gazpacho
- Omelet using 1 egg and lots of egg whites, filled with lots of greens and mushrooms and a side of steamed broccoli
- Grilled scallops, roasted carrots and green beans
- My version of a macro plate including quinoa, black beans and lots of greens with a side of tahini
How important is exercise when trying to lose or maintain weight?
I look to exercise as a means to release stress, boost endorphins and help reduce blood cholesterol as opposed to a means for weight loss. Often people overestimate how much they burn while exercise and underestimate how much they eat afterwards (and often use exercise as an excuse to ‘reward’ themselves with food). Look at exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle to help you stay toned and strong (not to mention, to build muscle mass). Find a workout that you enjoy, so it’s something you can maintain for life.
What are your 5 favorite workouts in NYC?
I personally like workouts based on strength and flexibility. Some of my favorites include:
- PRIVATE PILATES MAT WORK with Jillianna Richcrick
- BODIES BY P
- CHAISE FITNESS
For more on Dara Godfrey, visit: www.daragodfreynutrition.com. Follow along on Instagram @DaraGodfreyNutrition