Practical Parenting expert: Joanna McMillan
A PhD-qualified Nutrition Scientist and Accredited Practising Dietitian, Dr Joanna McMillan is one of Australia's favourite and most trusted health & wellbeing experts
By Practical Parenting Team
July 17 2018
Jo has a natural ability to translate complex science into simple, everyday messages that engages audiences across all media platforms, from broadcast, print or a live audience.
A regular on our television screens for well over a decade, she is currently a health presenter on ABC’s Catalyst, and is a frequently called upon expert for a variety of radio networks, online and print publications.
Jo is an experienced keynote, scientific and TEDx speaker. She is the founder of Get Lean - an online lifestyle change program; and she has authored six books including her latest, Get Lean, Stay Lean. She is also a mum to two boys so fully understands both the nutritional and practical aspects of feeding a family!
Q. Your profession: What drew you to this area?
A. I was always interested in health and wellbeing, training as a group exercise instructor when I was at university. Going on to study nutrition science was a natural fit for me, combining my love of science, food and health.
Q. You recently hosted Gut Revolution – a three-part series on ABC’s Catalyst. What are your thoughts on gut health?
A. I always take and give my family probiotics during and after taking a course of antibiotics. I used to give them more regularly to my children when they were younger to help them build a varied healthy microbiota and strong immune system. Today they have natural yoghurt (a fermented food) every day and plenty of plant foods that deliver prebiotics or fermentable fibres.
Q. What children’s health and wellbeing topic are you most passionate about?
A. Weight control is key, but it must be handled in the right way. I’m big on ensuring children learn basic nutrition and healthy eating, but also how to cook and prepare food. The skills of our mothers and grandmothers are being lost as generations of children are raised on junk food. That’s driving the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes.
I’m passionate about ensuring kids build a healthy relationship with food so that eating is a pleasurable part of their lives. But it’s not just about weight. Food also impacts on their gut health, their skin health, their brain development, their energy levels and every aspect of their health and wellbeing now and into adulthood.
Q. What mum’s health and wellbeing topics are you most passionate about and why?
A. New mums are almost always a rewarding group to work with as they are highly motivated to shift the family’s eating habits and lifestyle in a healthier direction. They are now responsible for the nutrition of their offspring and they have a keen desire to learn and apply their new knowledge. If mums nourish themselves well, both with food and a healthy lifestyle, they are better placed to help look after those around them.
Q. What’s one of the biggest dietary myths aimed at parents recently?
A. Probably that sugar is to blame for everything. Added sugars are a problem, but not the only problem. Nutrition is much more complicated than just one thing. By having such a focus on sugar, parents are ignoring other aspects of nutrition – even the simple ones such as eating more vegies. It has also led to confusion over sugar on labels and in natural foods like fruit. Seeing a newspaper article on getting sugar out of kids lunchboxes, with a picture of an apple made my blood boil!
Q. Off duty: what does your life look like when you’re not at work?
A. You’ll find me down by the coast on a long walk with my dog, standing on the sidelines of one of my boys’ soccer fields, in the kitchen with a glass of wine in my hand while making a meal for a whole host of friends, watching a movie with my family or tuned out to the world with my phone off and a good novel on my Kindle.
Q. What work accomplishment are you most proud of?
A. Building my own business while raising children at the same time. Doing a science degree, you don’t get any business training and so there have been so many aspects I have had to learn and apply. Juggling work and family can be incredible difficult at times but is also rewarding and hopefully I am doing both reasonably well!