In a world where we’re constantly told what we should and shouldn’t eat, it’s easy to become confused by what classifies as ‘healthy’.
But when you add kids – or teenagers for that matter – to the mix, feeding the family a variety of healthy, tasty and fulfilling meals can become a daily battle.
Enter Dr Joanna McMillan, who is not only a sought-after nutritionist, dietitian, author and TV host, but is also a mum of two sprightly teenage boys.
During her illustrious career, Dr McMillan – who has hosted two ABC TV series, Gut Revolution and Beating Diabetes – has seen countless clients who are confused by what they should be eating for a healthy, balanced diet.
This confusion, she says, is often fuelled by the constant influx of new health and diet trends.
“An unfortunate side effect of having access to so much information from all sorts of different sources is that it can become difficult to ascertain what is based on science and evidence over what is opinion, theory or simply sensationalism,” Dr Joanna says.
“Extreme diets tend to be cult-like and are so effective at advertising their approach, that it can be hard to see past the pseudo-science and marketing. That then undermines the balanced approach of real science.”
As a busy working mum, Dr Joanna understands the challenges of trying to juggle parenting, work and home life, and in her line of work she’s often asked about how to provide tasty, nutritious meals for fussy eaters.
So in putting together her latest book, The Feel-Good Family Food Plan – which she co-authored with professionally-trained caterer Melissa Clark – Dr Joanna wanted to address these commonly-held concerns for busy families.
From fuss-free weeknight dinners and breakfast on the go to energy-fuelled snacks and healthy fast-food alternatives, the book is brimming with practical recipes and ideas that the whole family can enjoy.
“This book came about as I saw a gap in the information available to families, particularly once children are past the toddler years,” she says. “There is plenty of help for new parents and for pre-school years, but then not much for the family as a whole beyond that.
“I speak with families who never sit together for their evening meal, or just don’t know what to do when their teenager decides to be vegetarian or what to give their active kids after sport to support their energy needs.
“The title is deliberate as Mel and I wanted to inject some fun and joy back into family meals – something that tends to get lost when the pace of modern life can make cooking and preparing meals a chore.”
Whether you’re dealing with toddlers, pre-schoolers or teenagers, Dr Joanna is all about embracing a happy experience at mealtime and hopes the book brings back a sense of joy for families at the dinner table.
“The book is designed to be a happy solution to feeding your family that we hope brings joy back to mealtimes,” she says. “Food should be a wonderful part of family life that can bring you all together around the table.”
Along with a variety of mouth-watering recipes, the book is sprinkled with evidence-based, expert advice on healthy eating such as the foundations of a healthy diet, how to deal with fussy eaters and tips for building a healthy relationship with food, as well as an easy-to-follow family meal plan for winter.
Recipes throughout the book are also suitable for people living with diabetes.
“My PhD research was in the area of glycaemic index/load, and so this is always factored into my food recommendations,” she says. “You can therefore happily enjoy and I hope you find this book is truly helpful for you and your family. Happy eating!”
As for those who may be avoiding regular trips to their local shop or supermarket during the COVID-19 pandemic, the book also features freezer-friendly meals and a list of pantry essentials.
“The list of pantry essentials is really a peek into my pantry and I’ve given some information as to why I use it and what I use it for,” she says. “The recipes and foods in our book are doable, home cooked-style meals and snacks that anyone can make with ingredients they can find, or order online, from their local supermarket or grocer.
“I know people have been asking me for tips and meal ideas as they have more time to cook or want to be able to budget and eat more healthily during this time.
“By breaking old habits and starting new ones, this is a great time to get into the kitchen and start to do things differently. Once life returns to normality – or our new normality – those habits will stick with you.”
The Feel-Good Family Food Plan by Dr Joanna McMillan with Melissa Clark, RRP$35, is available now.