Annabel Karmel has become the UK’s leading name in kid’s nutrition with 37 books covering everything you could ever want to know about eating well during pregnancy, weaning, dealing with fussy eaters and cooking with kids. We caught up with her at the launch of her new kids food range in Dubai to learn more.
So tell us, where did this all begin for you?
I had never wanted to work with kids at all, it just never crossed my mind as I had trained as a musician playing the harp and piano but I was always one of those women who had just always wanted to have children – that’s all I had ever really wanted. After meeting and marrying my husband, it took me a long time to get pregnant, nearly two years, so when I finally did fall pregnant I was absolutely overjoyed.
Tragically, my first born, Natasha died suddenly from a viral infection at three months old in 1987 and it just turned my world upside down. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to conceive again and my son Nicholas was born in 1988, but it didn’t seem right to play music anymore and I started a local playgroup so I could meet other Mums and spend more time with Nicholas. Nicholas was a very fussy eater so I started making my own recipes and to my surprise, they seemed to work. Through my work at the playgroup I began passing round recipes to other Mothers who were also facing the same issues and got a great response. People started to say I ought to write a book on my recipes - it seemed like a good idea, and I liked the idea of dedicating my first book to Natasha.
Why are you so passionate about kid’s nutrition?
Because it’s important to give kids good, nutritious food and although my books couldn’t help with the pain of my loss, they seemed like a fitting tribute to be able to help other Mothers keep their children healthy. All my books are written straight from the heart and the recipes go through rigorous taste testings – they have to be nutritious and taste good.
How do you manage to juggle family and work?
I started off slowly and only worked full time when the kids were older. I’m actually writing a book about that subject now, on successful ‘Mumpreneurs’.
Why did you decide to bring out a food range and how do your ranges differ to others on the market?
I brought out the food range because there was nothing else like it in the market. The problem is once you pasteurise foods, often it tastes bad! I wanted a food range that had quality, healthy ingredients and tasted good. I found that you can have pasteurised baby food that still tastes good if you stay focused on what’s important and don’t compromise on that. Genuine care and love goes into making my meals a reality.
At what point did you realise you were onto something special?
In terms of my first book, word just kept spreading through word of mouth. After the first year, then the second year, then the third year of it still being so popular I realised that this just wasn’t going to go away!
It’s very difficult to get nutritious kids products into the Middle East as of course everything has to be halal. My organic baby purees and sauces are great for the region as they can form a meal on their own or as a base for a meal - it’s very easy to add a small amount of locally bought meat to the sauces if you want to.
Annabel’s organic baby purees and wholesome Disney snack range can be found in select locations across the UAE including Spinneys and Waitrose. www.annabelkarmel.com.
Annabel’s top tips when it comes to fussy eaters
• Don’t give in! It’s too easy to fall into a rut.
• Offer a rewards system like a sticker chart for good eating and don’t give them attention for bad habits.
• Hide your own frustrations and give your child lots of praise when they eat well or try something new.
Annabel’s top tips when it comes to weaning
• Don’t get hung up on allergies, actual incidents of allergies in babies is small so don’t remove food groups without real reason.
• It’s important for babies to explore lots of different tastes - don’t be put off by facial expressions. If your baby makes a strange face when trying something new, he may be reacting to the novelty of the experience as much as the flavour.