How To Feed Your Fussy Eater & Other Advice For Healthier Diets
- Parents Only
By: Serina Hajje, ellaslist with Annabel Karmel
It’s a daily ritual: you cook a meal that you’re sure will finally win over your child. But your gourmet kiddie creation is met with only disdain and pursed lips. You turn your back for a moment and it’s chucked on the floor with vigour. What now?
Occasionally you’ll come across a snack or veggie that they love one day. Yay! Small victories. But try it the next day and they hate it. You’re faced with the almost impossible task of coming up with something different to feed the kids everyday and inspiration is running short.
Annabel Karmel, an expert of 25 years on kids’ food, healthy recipes and fussy eating and the UK’s number 1 parenting author, is here to help. We’ve asked her all about our biggest issues with feeding our kids and Annabel has answered!
Q: I spend hours cooking in the kitchen for my kids (aged 1.5 -3.5 years) and they generally won’t even try it, not even a little taste! It’s so frustrating! What can I do?
Annabel: 90% of children go through at least one lengthy stage of fussy eating. It’s so easy to feel frustrated and powerless when your child simply refuses to eat certain foods. But the key is not to give in or give up. Day in, day out, I persisted with new healthy foods, new recipes and different flavours. In fact, it was coming up with these new and novel recipes that inspired me to create my very first book – The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner.
While it can be frustrating when a child rejects the food we give them, it’s actually the way that we deal with the situation that impact on their eating habits. It’s not ideal to let your child get away with not eating certain foods in order to keep the peace. Giving your children a limited number of foods will only escalate their fussiness, and deprive them of the essential nutrients they need to grow and develop.
To help get your kids eating, dig out their aprons and get them involved in preparing and cooking a meal. Ask them to crack an egg, pour out juice, put toppings onto pizzas or fold up fajita wraps. If they’ve been involved throughout the cooking process they will have much more of an interest in wanting to taste the food they’ve helped to prepare.
Q: Hi Annabel, I love your recipes but some of them contain butter and sugar and I’m constantly told that I shouldn’t give these to my kids. Is this true?
Annabel: It’s OK to use these ingredients but it has to be in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. It’s essential that alongside these occasional treats we teach children the importance of knowing about the food we eat; where it comes from and why we need a variety to ensure we get the right balance of nutrients, especially for growing bodies.
Q: How do I get organised with my kids’ meals for the week? I get home from work and I have no idea what to make and I end up giving them toast and vegemite or pasta. Do you have any favourite easy prepare ahead / freezable recipes?
Annabel: Batch cooking is definitely a great way to ensure you have something to hand on those busy days. Try and vary your meal offerings per week so that kids can try new foods and the whole family can enjoy something different.
Some of my favourite quick and easy recipes are my Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry, Vegetable Quesadillas and my Mini Muffin Pizzas which are fun for kids to create. If you’re looking for freezable recipes then I would suggest my Chilli Con Carne or my Chicken and Apple balls which you can serve with a fresh side salad or spiralized sweet potato.
Kids won’t wait when they’re hungry so if you’re in need of something quick and tasty then my toddler meals found in the frozen aisles at Coles and Drakes are a good option. I’ve produced 33 meals for every age and stage, including 11 toddler meals which have been snap-frozen to lock in all the goodness. This includes Beautiful Bolognese Pasta Bake, Comforting Beef Cottage Pie, Cheeky Chicken and Pumpkin Risotto, and Scrummy Chicken Vegetable and Rice.
The best thing about these toddler meals is that they are low in sugar, with no added artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and contain at least one portion of veggies. Also available are snap-frozen nutritious purees, bite-sized snacks and little toddler treats, perfect for busy families that even the fussiest of little eaters will love.
Q: My kids love any kind of fast food. I buy chicken nuggets from the supermarket and they yum them up. But I then try and make nuggets at home from scratch and they won’t touch it. What am I doing wrong?
Annabel: The secret to making tasty chicken nuggets at home is to coat them in Rice Krispies. If you can marinate the chicken before you coat it, it will add a delicious flavour to the chicken. My favourite marinade for this is ½ tsp dried oregano or thyme and a little paprika. You could add cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce if your family like a little bit of spice. My kids loved my Krispie Chicken Nuggets so it was very hard to go back to shop bought frozen nuggets after these.
Q: What are your top tips for getting my kids to eat vegetables? All they want to eat is toast and vegemite.
Annabel: If children fear their gruesome greens, create recipes that vegetables can be blended into such as a tomato and vegetable sauce for pasta, mashed potato with carrot or hidden veggies into casseroles and meatballs. What children can’t see, they can’t pick out. Getting together and eating as a family can really make a difference too. Taking the focus off your child’s eating and refocusing on social chit chat at the table could help.
For me the secret to getting my kids to eat more vegetables and salads was a tasty salad dressing which they would then put on everything! It has 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp runny honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice – this is a winner that can be poured on pasta salads, green vegetable salads – pretty much anything.
Whether I’m devising meals for my recipe books or the supermarket shelves, I always think about how best to ensure that veggies get eaten. In my delicious new frozen range, for example, I’ve paired the best quality vegetable with the tastiest of meals to ensure that there nothing left on a child’s plate.
Q: My son is such a slow eater. He can take over an hour to eat his dinner and it drives us all crazy. I just think he’s not that interested. Can you please give me some tips on how to make his meals more interesting for him?
Annabel: The way your child’s food is served up can make the difference between your child accepting food quickly or refusing it. Cutting up fruit and popping it onto skewers or straws or making mini portions in ramekins immediately becomes more appealing. My jacket potato mice and my snake sandwich are good examples.
Whenever possible, get the whole family eating together as this can really make a difference. Take the time to chat, rather than focusing heavily on what is on the plates. This will help to take the pressure off children who may feel that what, how much and when they eat is being scrutinized.
Short on time? Pick up one of Annabel’s tasty toddler meals, older kids dishes, purees, bite-sized snacks or toddler treats from the frozen aisle at Coles. With lots of delicious flavours to choose from there’s something to tempt even the fussiest of eaters. Find out more about the Annabel Karmel range.