Dana Ghareeb, proudly a mother of three, is your go-to nutritionist. Her approach to nutrition is functional and refreshing. Balance, a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and awareness at an early age, and seeking out reliable and professional advice from nutritionists are key components to her method. 

An educational path starting with her studies in Dietetics and Nutrition at the Florida International University in Miami, graduating in 2007, completing the coursework in 3 years; followed by a 9-month internship program at several hospitals such as Cedars Sinai, Baptist Hospital, Miami Children’s Hospital, and The Palace Nursing Home, enabling Dana to take the Registered Dietitian Certification required to work in the US. Dana was one of the first few dietitians in Kuwait back then (2007) to attain this certification. 

Grad school soon followed at one of the top merit universities, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “Moving from Miami to a small college town in Illinois was something I clearly did not think through! Major culture shock” Dana tells us, but she did it! She obtained her MS in Nutritional Sciences and a concentration in Neurocognition in the year 2009. Her thesis was based on the food-brain connection, on how healthy food in children aged 8-10 years affected their brain cognition, accuracy and precision in academics. 

Dana’s career journey was equally expansive; she decided to join Al Yasra Food’s Organic Food Division as the Assistant Regional Manager and Company Dietitian, once she moved back to Kuwait in mid-2009. She had also accepted another job offer, to teach HFIT 101 at the American University of Kuwait as an Adjunct Professor, discovering that she had a natural knack for teaching. A year-long break followed 2 years at AUK and 5 years Al Yasra. As we continue exploring her career journey, Dana tells us, “Education is such a powerful weapon. So when I was offered a job as a Program Manager at INJAZ, I took the opportunity even though it was not related to nutrition at all.” Her first passion and true love for ‘nutrition’ soon advanced her to focus back on it and Dana moved on to join the NATBASMA team, where she currently provides virtual nutrition services to everyone around the world. 

Why did you choose nutrition?

I did not initially. I wanted to be a doctor. My parents did not want me spending many years of my life studying away, so, I luckily opted for nutrition. 

What are the common mistakes you see in the region when it comes to nutrition?

The one-diet-fits-all approach. My pet peeve is when a dietitian provides the same “diet” printed on a piece of paper to every single client. I do not like the word “diet” to begin with. I believe in a wholesome healthy lifestyle approach. Changing your food alone is not the solution to a healthy lifestyle. We need to educate our clients to understand that food is only one piece of the healthy lifestyle formula. Other factors such as exercise, stress, sleep, mindset, and many other factors are as important to reaching your health goals. 

Why do you think Kuwait is one of the top 10 countries when it comes to obesity, and how can we solve this issue? 

Inactivity being the major culprit! There is no excuse whatsoever to be inactive. The simplest solution would be to walk 10,000 steps a day! Take the stairs at work. Park a little farther to walk to your destination. Walk around the mall to get those extra steps in. Or just head to the gym! There’s a new gym opening up around every corner in Kuwait offering a wide range of prices and services. Simply no excuse. 

Also, lack of dietary education – I say this because when I talk to my clients, they are truly unaware of what they are eating. A large part of what I provide is nutrition education to all my clients around the GCC. 

When it comes to prenatal and postnatal nutrition, what are the common mistakes women in our region make, and what would you advise them?Women around the GCC primarily make three mistakes. 1) They overeat and gain a lot of weight while pregnant. 2) They do not exercise while pregnant. 3) They also wait too long to exercise post pregnancy. 

During the first trimester of a pregnancy, a mother should not increase her caloric intake at all! However, the minute she hears she’s with child, she increases her food tremendously! We go back to lack of education. It plays a major role here as well. 

The same with prenatal and postnatal exercise workouts. There is a misconception that prenatal exercise will hurt the baby rather than benefit mother and baby. I am happy to notice an increase in expectant-mothers attending prenatal classes nowadays as opposed to a few years ago. Also, mothers tend wait too long to get back into exercising post-delivery. It is usually safe to start easing into your workouts 4-6 weeks post-delivery, with your doctor’s approval. 

In the households, what can parents do to train their children to make better choices?

First, be a healthy role model. I cannot emphasize this enough. Children mirror everything their parents do, good and bad. Research has shown when a household has one, if not both, parents practicing healthy habits, it is more likely that their children will practice those same habits as well. Second, provide only healthy food and snack options at home. When a child is hungry, they will eat what they see. If they see fruits and veggies, they will eat just that. Start early and you will not have to face lack of love for fruits and veggies.

In this region we are thankful to have a lot of resources and people to guide us through our health and nutrition journey. However, sometimes having too many opinions, at times conflicting ones, can take us back to square one. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Nutrition is a fairly new science. New research is constantly emerging on all kinds of nutrition related topics. What I studied back in university is not all relevant nowadays. They taught us that saturated fats are bad for you and should be kept to a minimum, however, new research has proved otherwise. 

With the spread of social media and the rise of individuals declaring themselves dietitians/nutritionists, I advise everyone to stay up to date on their nutrition information and resources with evidence-based research from reliable sources – nutritionists, websites, etc. 

Tell us about your personal nutrition regime. Do you follow something specific or is it just about making the right choices?

I am currently following a Gluten Free, Sugar Free regime. I find that gluten and sugar trigger my migraines. Since cutting them out in January, my migraines are almost non-existent! Alhamdulillah. I also eat more protein than carbohydrates because I find that my body likes that better. It is key to listen to your body and understand what it needs. Every person has different nutritional needs and what works for me might not work for you.

As our readers (and us) are prepping for summer-ready bodies, what piece of advice can you offer to guide us through? Balance. Balance. Balance. It’s okay to indulge in delicious foods every now and then. You only live once so why not enjoy it! But that does not mean go crazy. If you indulge today, balance tomorrow; walk and exercise more. What I do is if I eat, for example, dessert today, I’ll eat super clean the next day and add 2,000 steps to my daily 10,000 steps.