Diet & Nutrition

A nutrition scientist shares how you can encourage healthy eating in your household

Getting children to eat healthy foods can be a task, but Dr Joanna McMillan has revealed how you can change this.

Nutrition scientist, founder of Voome's four-week Healthy Families program and mum of two boys, Dr Joanna McMillan, chats to Now To Love about healthy eating and how to get fussy eaters to try nutritious foods.

Hi Jo, what are some great dishes the whole family will enjoy that are actually healthy?

You can make most family favourite meals in a healthy way. I always grate or finely chop veggies to add to Bolognese, curries and casseroles, often throwing in a can of beans too.

That adds fibre, plant protein and nutrients, while also being budget friendly as it helps the meat to go further. On my Healthy Families Program you'll find recipes for nutrition boosted every day meals including mac and cheese, meatballs and stir-fries.

How can we encourage our kids to eat healthy foods when all they want to eat are potato chips and McDonalds?

I think the key is to make meals delicious! Kids will want familiar meals and so the more healthy meals you put on the table, and the less junk, the more they will want to eat the right stuff.

You can make them healthy chips at home, leaving the skins on and tossing in extra virgin olive oil – then either bake in the oven or use an air-fryer.

You can make healthy burgers with lean patties, a wholegrain bun and fresh salad veggies. Make healthy normal and the other stuff a rarity.

Dr Joanna McMillan with her two children.
Dr Joanna McMillan with her two children.

What are some quick and easy foods we can make or buy for our kids’ lunchboxes?

Buy wholegrain bread, rolls or wraps and then add a protein-rich food (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, cheese or tofu), a healthy fat (e.g. avocado or hummus) and veggies either in the sandwich or as a side – cherry tomatoes, carrot, capsicum or cucumber are all ideal.

Buy reusable screw top containers and mix Greek yoghurt with berries or other fruit. Homemade muffins are fabulous – I like to use a mix of wholegrain flour and a legume flour such as besan (chickpea) to boost protein and fibre.

Popcorn, wholegrain crackers with cheese or apple slices with a chunk of cheese are all good snack options for recess. There are also some good commercial wholegrain snacks and muesli bar options – read the ingredients list to know what you're getting.

Why is it so important to instill healthy eating habits in kids at a young age?

Because they need nutrients to grow and develop optimally, especially for their brain.

Plus you are setting them up for life. If they get used to a healthy diet and that is their norm, this is what they will default to later in life.

What nutrients and vitamins do our kids need to grow strong and healthy?

They need long chain omega-3 fats for brain development, iron for healthy blood and delivery of energy and oxygen around the body, zinc for strong immune systems, calcium for bone growth, B group vitamins for energy production and a diversity of fibres to support a healthy microbiome.

Plus a whole bunch more vitamins and minerals of course! The bottom line is that they need a real food diet with plenty of variety to give them what they need.

Designed specifically for families with fussy eaters, Dr Joanna's four-week Healthy Families program eases the strain of eating as a family and tackles the challenge of choosing healthy meal options that everyone will love. The program includes dinners for the whole family and breakfasts and lunches for two. There is a weekly shopping list with all ingredients, plus weekly educational videos from Dr Joanna, offering her expert advice and tools to encourage healthier food choices. Dr Joanna covers it all; time saving family kitchen hacks, advice on managing fussy eaters and adopting healthy eating habits, making family mealtimes more enjoyable and setting kids up for a positive relationship with food.