Australian nutritionist and lifestyle specialist, Dr Joanna McMillan will be featured in an upcoming GMHBA health seminar, open to all GMHBA members. Great Health caught up with Dr McMillan to learn more about how separating fad diets from lifestyle changes and how improving your health can lead to a happier, healthier life.
What do you think the keys are to maintaining a healthy lifestyle? How does centering our lives on joy and happiness help us to be healthier?
We are hard wired to seek out pleasure and things that bring us joy fire up the reward centres of the brain, encouraging us to repeat the behaviour. That can be to our detriment of course, but also for our health. If you repeat healthy behaviours that bring you joy, you gradually shift towards a lifestyle that is not only healthier but happier. This is why extreme diets and exercise regimes that we ultimately can’t keep up fail. We have to instead adopt a realistic lifestyle change that brings joy and is doable for life.
What are the main differences (mentally and nutritionally?) between a ‘fad diet’ and making actual lifestyle changes?
One brilliant study showed that even being told you are going on a ‘diet’ tomorrow makes people eat more today. Diets conjure up words such as boredom, restriction and hunger. Ultimately going ‘on a diet’ means one day you will come off it. Lifestyle change on the other hand is about the changes we can make for life – or at least the long term. It’s less about instant gratification and more about long term satisfaction. In the end it means long term results instead of a merry-go-round of losing and gaining weight, getting fatter and more despondent with each attempt. Nutritionally it is also about health and not weight loss at any cost. So many diets are not at all about health and only about the kilos lost on the scale – that loses sight of the bigger picture and sets many up to fail. Lifestyle change is weight control (and there is a broad range for this) and health.
A lot of us know we should be eating better, what are your top 3 tips to get on the right track?
Don’t make it complicated – get back to the basics of eating real, wholesome food.
- Cook more – preparing more of your own food allows you to be in control and generally we eat less and better when we cook at home. I hope the recipes in my book inspire you here!
- Don’t eat after dinner until breakfast the next day. An overnight fast is good for us and improves sleep, whereas snacking into the evening is usually the wrong foods and not the time are bodies are wired to process and metabolise food.
- What is the most common mistake you see people making when they’re trying to improve their health?
They go too hard too soon, only to fall down at the first hurdle and feel like a failure. To me lifestyle change is a work in progress and that’s why my program has no end date. It’s about stopping to evaluate your lifestyle every so often and resetting your short and long term goals, adjusting things as you go. Small changes add up to big results when you’re in it for the long run.
What is your personal mantra and how do you live by this?
We don’t know how much time we have, so be sure to make the most of it! Health is not about restriction, it’s about embracing good food, vital movement, valuable time with friends and family, and giving as much to life as you take. I try to be there for my friends and family, never feeling guilty that I’m having a coffee or a wine with a friend or standing on the sides of a soccer field cheering on a son instead of working. I try to achieve a balance where I work hard as ‘Dr Joanna’ but switch off to enjoy the life where I am simply ‘Joanna’ or ‘mum’.
What can people expect to learn from you when you present the GMHBA health seminar?
They can expect straight talking, common sense, balance, a bit of science and I hope a bit of fun!
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Macadamia chicken with green pea and broccoli mint smash
This one is sure to become a family favourite. The crunchy nut and seed topping is divine with the chicken, but the real winner is the smash.
Serves 4 Time 45 minutes GF
- 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
- 1 garlic clove
- Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon tarragon, finely chopped
- 200 g broccoli, chopped
- 100g frozen peas
- 2 handfuls mint, leaves roughly chopped
- 6 basil leaves, finely shredded
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 2 x 200g skinless chicken breast fillets
- 40g goat’s cheese (or labne)
- 400g small potatoes in their skins (chat or kipfler are ideal)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (see note)
- 40g raw macadamia nuts
- 30g raw almonds
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- Pinch of salt flakes
Preheat the oven to fan-forced 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Cut the potatoes in half, toss them in a bowl with the extra virgin olive oil and spread out on the prepared baking tray. Roast for 30–40 minutes until a lovely golden colour.
Using a food processor or Vitamix, use the pulse setting to gently grind the nuts, seeds, garlic, lemon zest, spices, tarragon and parmesan until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs—don’t over-blend or you’ll end up with a paste.
Cut the chicken breasts horizontally to give you 4 chicken fillets. Place the chicken fillets in a casserole dish or on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Spoon the crumb mixture over the chicken, pressing softly to form a crust topping, then scatter over the rosemary. Pop the dish into the oven alongside the potatoes to roast for 15 minutes or until golden on top and cooked through.
Meanwhile, to make the pea smash, bring a saucepan of water to
the boil over high heat. Put the broccoli and peas into a steamer, cover with the lid and place on top of the pan. Cook for 2–3 minutes, or until soft enough to mash. (Alternatively, place the peas and broccoli in a microwave-proof bowl with a little water, cover and cook on High for 3 minutes.)
Strain any water from the vegetables, then mash roughly with a fork. Mix through the mint and basil, crumble over the goat’s cheese and stir to just combine. Season with a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper and serve warm with the crusted chicken and roast potatoes.