You’ll find it slotted in beside the toaster, propped on a windowsill or stacked neatly on a bookshelf. As a mum, you’re almost guaranteed to own Annabel Karmel’s first book, and in those early days of weaning, purees and finger food, this grub-splattered companion has offered comfort and solid, sensible advice to millions of sleep-deprived parents. The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner is 25 this year and has sold over four million copies.
The book has been updated over the years but the message remains the same: feeding children healthy, nutritious food is essential, and not difficult. In the spirit of New Year resolutions, we turned to Karmel to find out exactly what is the secret to feeding a family properly.
“There’s no better time than January to shake-up what your family are eating. It’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut with mealtimes and chicken nuggets can be an easy way out when time isn’t on our side,” she says.
Karmel explains that the more colourful a food, the better it is for you. “I would stock up on lots of peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, salmon and sweetcorn to dish up a rainbow plate of food your family will love.
“I would also start by introducing eggs for breakfast as they’re high in protein. They will help to kick-start your family’s day and keep them feeling fuller for longer – meaning they’ll reach less for sugary snacks. Avocados and tomatoes are also great morning foods.”
For lunch, she says, make it carb-based, to give the kids a boost for the afternoon. “Try pitta breads with tuna and sweetcorn or bagels with cream cheese and salmon. A chicken pasta salad or salmon with rice are also great options.”
As for the imfamous fruits and veggies, it may be time to start getting tactical. “It’s getting them to eat their fair share of fruits and veggies, so if eating some peas or an apple is a battle, then try to disguise them in your dishes,” says Karmel. “Kids can’t pick out what they can’t see, so blend carrots, apples and oranges into a juice or onions, tomatoes and celery into a pasta sauce.
“Living a happy and healthy lifestyle is all about balance. As long as treats are in moderation and families are hitting their five-a-day target, then they’re on track to eating well for 2016.”
Kitchen table recipes
Karmel’s food empire started from her London kitchen, with her own children, Nick, Lara and Scarlett. “I sympathise with mothers,” she explains. “People say it is easy to get children to eat things. It isn’t easy.”
Karmel in the UAE
Obesity and early-onset diabetes are a big problem in the UAE. Karmel suggests keeping a food diary so you know exactly what your child is eating. “Often we are not around during the day when the child is being fed. Sometimes when the child is unhappy or crying, they will be given food. We need to know what they are eating during the day.”
As for Karmel’s own plans moving into 2016? “I’m looking forward to devising even more new recipes in my kitchen. I love to experiment with flavour combinations and helping mum out by offering tasty purées, snacks and recipes the whole family will love.
“I’m also planning to build a new community platform where parents can come together around the world to share their advice, tips and, of course, pitfalls – it’s how we learn best. I’ll also be at the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai in March giving a talk about my struggles and successes in the writing industry. Before my first book was published, I was rejected by over 15 publishing houses.”
Karmel is definitely not a ‘quitter’. Take her nutrition advice, stick at it, and we think your family will have a happier, healthier 2016.
Annabel Karmel’s healthy recipes
Keep little ones busy with Annabel Karmel’s family cooking app. As well as lots of simple, tasty recipes, it includes a special Kids Rule the Kitchen cooking course designed to feed young imaginations whilst teaching essential cooking skills. Available via the App Store or visit www.annabelkarmel.com.
Cajun beef and onion wraps
Red meat is a great source of easily absorbed iron – essential for children’s growth and development. Makes six wraps.
2 tsp olive oil
250g sirloin steak, thinly sliced
1 tsp honey
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp soy sauce
6 tortilla wraps
50g Cheddar cheese, grated
1 baby gem lettuce, shredded
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Mix the steak with the honey and fry until brown for two to three minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add the onion and pepper to the pan and fry for five minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic and fry for another two minutes, then return the steak to the pan.
Sprinkle over the coriander and paprika. Add the soy sauce and remove from the heat.
Warm the wrap in the microwave. Spoon some of the filling in the middle. Sprinkle over a little cheese and lettuce. Fold in the end of the wrap and roll up.
Keep your family in tip-top condition this New Year with cantaloupe melons. They’re packed full of beta-carotene which boosts the immune system against colds and flu.
Using cookie cutters, cut out flower shapes from the various melons and then cut out circles in the centre of each flower.
Using a small round cutter or a melon baller cut out small circles or balls of melon and insert them in the centre of each flower.
Push the tip of bamboo skewer through the flower and then cover with a straw and thread a couple of grapes onto each of the straws.
You can arrange the flowers by pushing the end of the straws through the skin of an upturned melon.
Prawn stir fry
Broccoli is one seriously healthy vegetable. It has one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin C, making it a great food for fighting infection in every child. Makes four portions.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
100g broccoli florets
½ red pepper, thinly sliced
175g baby corn, thinly sliced
250g raw large king prawns
½ tsp grated fresh root ginger
150g water chestnuts, sliced in half
Sweet and sour sauce
4 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 ½ tbsp vinegar
1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
1 ½ - 2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cornflour
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or work.
Add the vegetables and stir-fry for three to four minutes until they are nearly cooked. Add the prawns and ginger and fry for one minute.
Meanwhile, whisk all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl until smooth.
Add the sauce to the pan with the water chestnuts, bring to the boil, then stir until thickened and the prawns have turned pink.
Season to taste, then serve with rice.