In 1990, Freedom Foods decided it was time the world was provided allergy-friendly, wholesome, tasty foods. This was the start of the “free from” food movement, which has now exploded throughout Australia and expanded to the rest of the world. Their commitment to this standard of cooking and eating led them to supporting supermarkets in creating dedicated health sections and even going as far as establishing the top allergy-testing facilities in the country. It is no surprise that they were eager to have Accredited Practising Dietician and Registered Nutritionist, Dr Joanna McMillan on board as their Nutritional Advisor. Dr Joanna shares a bit about herself and why she is proud to represent Freedom Foods in such a powerful way.
yum. gluten free: Hi Dr Joanna! Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in the country in Scotland and was fortunate to have a mum who was (and still is!) a great cook. She was also a home economics teacher and so had a good knowledge of nutrition. I was always interested in science and so after an initial university start studying psychology and sociology, I moved into nutrition science. I completed a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Nutrition and Dietetics in Scotland and then once I came to Australia in 1999, I completed a PhD in Nutrition Science at the University of Sydney. I was also a fitness instructor for 15 years and this combination of studies has proved fruitful in now being able to talk about lifestyle change from a holistic perspective.
ygf: Where does your passion for health stem from?
From knowing what a difference our dietary and lifestyle choices make to health. It is estimated that up to 80% of chronic disease could be avoided if only we collectively changed a few very key things. The power of prevention is strong and we are seeing the shift from a model of ‘cure’ to one that gives much more attention to prevention. That is really what lifestyle medicine is all about. I find it compelling, not just for the effect on long term health, but how it changes the way you feel today. That is why I have made it my mission to make healthy living easier for people, to help them get the right information about what to do and to inspire and support them to keep it up.
ygf: What does a normal day in your life look like?
Well I’m writing to you from my home office at lunchtime still wearing my pajamas! That’s not uncommon on days where I don’t have to do the school run or have a meeting. Both a hazard and benefit of working from home is that I usually get started at my computer while eating my breakfast and sometimes find myself still here at lunchtime. Oops.
But I do endeavour on most days to get myself out to exercise. I have an energetic dog and so it’s a rare day that we don’t walk together or I head to the gym. Then it’s back to work and I might be writing, creating recipes in the kitchen, filming an interview or an online video, attending meetings with my corporate clients or working with my website and App developers. My evenings are spent either at home cooking a meal for my family and then watching something together, or I’m out seeing friends and socialising. That’s just as important for your health as what you eat or how much exercise you do!
ygf: Tell us about your relationship with Freedom Foods.
I have worked with Freedom Foods for a year or two on their bars and cereal range. We have just stepped up our relationship so that I will now be involved across their entire product range including all of their brands. It is important for both of us that this is not merely an ambassadorial arrangement – I am their Nutritional Advisor. My job is to advise on what’s good, where they could do better and what changes need to be made to improve their existing products, while consulting along the line of new product development. I’ve been impressed with their commitment to creating the healthiest food possible and since my mission is to make healthier eating easier for Australians, our philosophies are nicely aligned.
ygf: Are all of Freedom Foods products gluten free?
All products under the Freedom Foods brand are gluten free, including the new Crafted Blends products. This is always clearly indicated on the package to make things easy for the gluten free consumer. The Freedom Foods Group does however have several other brands, produced in different factories to the gluten free ranges, and these are not always gluten free. For example, Crunchola, Goodness Superfoods range and Arnold’s Farm mueslis, so always check the packaging for “gluten free”.
ygf: Why is Freedom Foods passionate about being allergen-friendly?
Because they understand the importance of this in the modern world where the incidence of allergies and intolerances to food are increasing. Consumers need a company that they can trust and Freedom Foods fulfills that need and takes it most seriously. Their testing procedures are rigorous to ensure quality control and so consumers can have confidence they truly have a gluten free product – essential for those with coeliac disease.
ygf: Why is Freedom Foods a brand you stand behind?
They genuinely want to make tasty, truly healthy foods and have shown me their commitment to do so. I believe in working with the food industry to improve the foods available to all of us, rather than standing on the side lines complaining about what food companies do. This is a company that stands out as a leader in improving food product manufacturing with health as their priority. That makes it easier for all of us to eat better.
ygf: Any exciting new products you can share with us?
I’m not sure what I’m allowed to share just yet! But now on shelf, look out for the Crafted Blends range of breakfast options (crunchy, delicious clusters – these do contain nuts but are gluten free) and bars. The latter are some of the most innovative I’ve seen and just love that they incorporate ingredients such as chickpeas and spinach.
ygf: What’s your #1 health tip?
Just eat real food. That means whole food ingredients for meals you make yourself, and also whole food ingredients in the meals and products that you buy. By being judicious in choosing the best quality packaged food, along with plenty of whole foods, especially plant foods, you really are 80% there to achieving a healthy diet.
ygf: How do you keep yourself accountable?
I see a healthy lifestyle as always a work in progress. My Get Lean program incorporates 6 steps – food, drink, exercise, activity, sleep and stress – all underpinned by a foundation of joy. I think of those things as a graphic equalizer and each one needs a little adjustment at times. So I stop and make an assessment every so often of where my life is and consider if anything is out of whack. Sometimes I note that my exercise levels have slipped, or I’m not getting enough sleep, or my stress levels are rising. Then I come up with what I need to change to realign myself. I don’t always get it right but that’s real life!
ygf: Any final details you would like us to know?
Don’t get confused or side tracked with all the latest or competing theories about nutrition and health. We really do understand the big picture of how to feed ourselves well and how to live a life that keeps us as healthy as possible. There are several ways to put together a healthy diet, but the foundations are the same. Eat real food, including lots of plant-based foods whether or not you also choose to eat animal products, and in appropriate quantities to meet our energy needs.
ygf: How do we stay in touch?
I’d love readers to join my online lifestyle change program Get Lean. There is no end date to this, it really is about permanent diet and lifestyle change to deliver long term results. You can find more details at drjoanna.com.au. You can also follow me on social media.
Facebook & Instagram: @drjoannamcmillan
Follow Freedom Foods