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Annabel Karmel’s valuable insights into children’s healthy nutrition – Facebook Live

To celebrate Kids Club’s exclusive nutrition partnership with Annabel Karmel, we held a Live Q&A for our Facebook Community.

We’re very proud to have Annabel as our global nutrition partner and to bring her recipes to our children in all Kids Club centres nationally! 😊 🍽️

In the Facebook Live Annabel shared some valuable insights into healthy nutrition and healthy snacks. As well as some tips for, developing healthy eating habits with your little ones and fending off fussy eating!


In case you missed it…

Here’s the replay of Annabel’s answers to our listeners:

Annabel and Miss Shelli from Kids Club Clarence Street

Wait…there is more!

After the Live Q&A, all families that pre-registered were sent an exclusive Recipe eBook, created with Annabel’s most famous recipes!

We want to share it exclusively to the Kids Club Community, so go ahead and access your FREE eBook here!


We took questions from the audience in advance for Annabel to answer live on Facebook during the event, some of them we ran out of time for, so Annabel shared them with us after, see below for her answers:

Questions that we didn’t get to…

Q: I’d love to bake some healthy veggie based muffins, what’s an easy recipe? – Amy

A: Savoury muffins are my snacking go-to. I have a new Carrot & Cheese Muffin which is quick, simple and delicious. Perfect for a grab-and-go breakfast or pack them in the kids’ lunchboxes for a healthy snack option. 

Lately I have also been making egg muffin cups which are just like mini frittatas but cooked in muffin cases – you can get creative with nutritious fillings – from cauliflower, to spinach, pepper, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and cheese – the whole family will love these!

Q: My son refuses pasta and rice as a toddler, regardless of how it is served?? Never had any issues when he was a 6-12months old. – Emilia

 A: I assure you most parents out there will have felt your frustration! At least ninety percent of children will go through at least one lengthy phase of fussy eating. I went through it with my extremely fussy son and came out the other side.

Children have short attention spans and can get distracted at the dinner table. They will also quite easily like one thing one day and turn their nose up at it the next. You could try serving up pasta or rice in slightly different ways to see if this helps. Cook-up some mini arancini or risotto balls and see if these go down well, or find some similar alternatives such as orzo – it’s a great substitute for pasta and from experience, children love it. My One Pot Chicken, Tomato & Orzo is a fantastic recipe to try and one the whole family will enjoy.

Q: Dinner time can be challenging, especially on daycare days when both parents and kids are tired and time poor. What’s your recommendation for dealing with a toddler who just refuses to eat on these nights? Can we assume that since she’s eaten nutritious food throughout the day that sending her to bed without a full meal is ok? – Siobhan

Like you say, if she is getting nutritionally balanced meals throughout the day then you don’t have too much to worry about. Believe me, you won’t be the only parent out there thinking the same thing! Daycare centre menus are often very carefully developed to ensure that children, whilst in their care are getting their daily and weekly quotas of key nutrients to fully cater for, and support, their healthy growth and development. Strict guidelines are followed to ensure children are receiving the recommended servings of fruit, veg, fish and meat etc. to meet nutritional requirements. And, this can also make life slightly easier for parents such as yourself who are slightly more time poor, as you can feel confident that your child is getting all the nutrients they need whilst at day care.

If you know they are getting a well-balanced nutritious diet during the day then some finger foods might work well in the evening. And if you need to rustle up something quickly, I would simply make one meal for the whole family and then the stress is taken off if they just don’t want to eat it – at least it’s not gone to waste. Some good options here could be fish with roasted veggies, mini meatballs with a tomato sauce or quesadillas.

Q: Do you have any tips for getting the right nutrition into babies that seem to refuse meat meals – Wendy 

A: Meat (and red meat in particular) is such an essential source of iron which is needed in a baby’s diet from 6 months. However the texture can be slightly tricky for babies to manage so slow-cooking is a great option. You can make some really delicious flavour-packed casseroles or Moroccan-style tagines.

Often a hit of sweetness can also help. My Mini Meatballs have grated apple in for added appeal to those who perhaps aren’t so sure on meat. Babies also like to feed themselves so meat in a finger food form can work well.

Pulses, beans, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables and dried fruit and contain sources of iron although you will need to serve these non-meat sources of iron with a small amount of Vitamin C (a few berries, slices of red pepper or a glass of orange juice) which helps with the absorption of iron.

Q: What to do when the toddlers stop eating? – Camillia 

A: Don’t panic – you’re not alone! We recently commissioned some research in the UK looking into what really keeps parents up at night – and it turns out that it’s fussy eating! We found that three quarters of UK parents are losing sleep worrying about what to feed their fussy eaters.

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 impacts their eating habits. 

Firstly, don’t insist on them eating a big portion as this can often be overwhelming for a small child. Instead, get them to try a few mouthfuls of everything and try not to make it into a big deal if they don’t.   

Any time you have success with one ingredient, replicate it somewhere else. For example, my son loved apple muffins, so I applied this sweetness to chicken to make chicken and apple balls and he loved them.  Packed with protein, this has become one of my most popular recipes.

Ultimately, perseverance is key here – if they don’t like certain foods or a certain dish, then they’ll come round in time. If not today, another.

Q: How can I feed my 1yr old when he refuse food or spits it out. – Annette

A: I realise this is easier said than done but the golden rule is to hide any frustrations, and instead give him lots of praise when he eats well. Yes, this may mean that you have to ignore some bad behaviour and instead focus your attention on their good behaviour, but by doing this, mealtimes are likely to be less stressful and more enjoyable. They will soon find there’s not much point making a fuss if you don’t react.  He is simply asserting his new-found independence and testing how far he can push this. However, I promise it is just a phase and he will eat when he’s hungry!

Q: How do I feed a fussy toddler that won’t eat – Jessica

A: The problems tend to arise when we as parents attempt to encourage them with just one more bite, or withholding pudding until they’ve eaten a negotiated part of their dinner. Often it is better to say ‘fine you are obviously not hungry’ and clear away once you have finished your dinner. A hungry child is a less fussy child so by doing this they will soon learn that mealtimes are there for a reason and that there won’t be food available later on.

I would also avoid grazing – it’s much better to have a meal – snack – routine and ‘close the kitchen’ in between times so that your toddler has an opportunity to listen to her hunger and fullness cues.

Children like to assemble their own food so lay ingredients out in bowls and let your child fill and fold their own wraps or choose their favourite toppings for their home made pizzas.

Many children, particularly toddlers also like eating with their fingers so serve vegetables like carrot and cucumber sticks with homemade hummus.

And try cooking with them! It’s amazing how being involved in the planning and preparation of a meal can stimulate a child’s appetite. Try a simple savoury muffin or some tasty banana bread.

Q: Tips on How to make my 8 month old baby become a better eater at breakfast – Helen

A: Looking at your baby’s daily food routine, a great way to start the day is to introduce eggs for breakfast as they’re packed with protein, iron, Vitamin D and essential omega-3 fatty acids, as well as lots more good stuff for your growing baby. You can serve some simple scrambled eggs and add spinach, tomatoes, avocado or cheese to up the nutrients further too.

Porridge is also a fantastic quick and easy option and will give your baby long-lasting reserves of energy thanks to the slow release of complex carbs. You can top with some lovely fresh fruit for added appeal and nutrient hit. 

Q: I struggle a little bit with portion sizes and how much to feed a 11month old. She’s of good weight but wasn’t sure if I was feeding her enough, I usually go a little bit smaller than your servings – Niki

A: I regularly get asked for advice on portion size but it’s so hard to offer advice when all babies are so different. There aren’t set portion size guides for babies under 12 months and instead it is key to follow a responsive feeding approach which loosely means going at their own pace. They will soon let you know when they have had enough.

One piece of advice I would give is that you may want to offer a larger portion size than you expect your baby to eat as she will want to explore the food, play with it and learn all about it. This is all part of weaning, as she is learning the foods’ sensory properties.

Q: At what age can you start introducing things like salt and garlic to baby cooking – Samantha

A: You can’t add salt to your baby’s food until they reach their 1st birthday – this is because their kidneys simply can’t cope with salt until this point. Even when they reach 12 months you will need to limit their intake and be mindful of hidden salt in ready-made sauces, bread, breakfast cereals, processed meats etc.

Although your baby can’t have salt, you can season their food with garlic, herbs and mild aromatic spices from 6 months. It’s good to experiment with basil, dill, sage, cumin and turmeric for example to liven-up their food and slowly introduce them to interesting flavour combinations. You’ll soon stumble upon your own winning flavour combinations! It’s surprising how these ingredients really pack in a punch of flavour and often it’s a taste your baby will love.

Q: How do I get my one year old to eat fish? I know how important it for brain development but my daughter doesn’t like the taste. – Sarah

A: The importance of fish can’t be overemphasized. You’re right – the healthy fats (EFAs) contained in oily fish such as salmon encourage growth and are essential for your baby’s brain development (a baby’s brain triples in size during the first year) and important for the development of the nervous system and vision.

Salmon is one of the best sources of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Low levels of these fatty acids are linked to lower levels of the hormone melatonin, which can help your baby to sleep better too!  Studies show that increasing omega-3 can enhance length and quality of a youngster’s sleep.

I do understand you concern as fish can be one of those prime ‘fussy foods’ so why not try and serve it in a slightly different way. Try flaked salmon with baby pasta and a light cheese sauce. Or my Cod & Salmon Balls with a hint of soy sauce, sweet chilli and ginger might be a new winning take on the taste of fish for her.

Q: How to make meals interesting for kids – Jeffery

A: I love cooking-up seasonal themed recipes such as fun (and tasty) ideas for Easter, Halloween and Christmas for example. What’s more, these are often recipes that the kids can get involved in helping out with too. I always encourage parents to get their own mini helpers in the kitchen as it will help to instil an understanding (and love) of good food.  Getting them to help you decide what’s on the menu for dinner one night a week is a great idea – you can take them shopping with you to get the ingredients (and at the same time teach them a little about where they come from and why they are good for you).

We want food to be fun for the kids! Sometimes it is the most simple of ideas which are the most effective – whether it’s having their own individual portions in ramekins, including kids chopsticks when serving noodle or rice dishes or even just putting your create hat on to make their food look extra special – try my Baked Potato Mice  for an alternative to jacket potatoes, my Melon Flowers for a healthy take on dessert or liven up lunchboxes with star sandwiches.

Q: What is the best cooking pot and pans material to use? Thanks Isabelle

A: I would invest in a good set of non-stick baking trays, small and large stainless steel saucepans and glass or ceramic baking dishes as well as a non-stick frying pan.

Here are some other pieces of kitchen equipment you might want to consider:

  • Knives. You really only need three knives: a serrated knife, a 9- to 10-inch-long chef’s knife and a paring knife are good basics. A little tip; buy the best knives you can afford—they will last for many years.
  • Cutting Boards. Have two cutting boards – one for raw proteins and one for cooked foods and produce—to avoid cross-contamination when cooking. Cutting boards made of polyethylene plastic are inexpensive, durable and easy to clean. Look for ones that are dishwasher-safe.
  • Bowls. A set of 3 stainless-steel mixing bowls that fit inside one another is a space saver. They are inexpensive, versatile and will last a lifetime.
  • Measuring spoons and jug. Make sure they are dishwasher safe, and durable as you’re likely to be using them every day.
  • Utensils. Heat-resistant non-stick spatulas, vegetable peeler, rolling pin, a slotted spoon for draining, a wire whisk, tongs, a few wooden spoons, ladle.
  • Colander. Choose one that is big enough for the number of children you are catering for on a daily basis. Also make sure it will fit in your sink.
  • Storage Containers. Do not underestimate how many you’ll need! They are great for unused ingredients as well as leftovers.  You will also need them for outings
  • Slow Cooker. Plug it in, leave for the day and come home from being out and about with the children to a dinner like a stew or Goulash. It makes inexpensive cuts of meat meltingly tender and you can pick one up fairly cheaply.
  • Electric hand blender. This is easy to clean and ideal for making small quantities of sauce, soup or baby puree.
  • Food Processor. This is good for blending larger quantities when making batches for freezing.
  • Steamer. Steaming food is one of the best ways to preserve nutrients. It is worth buying a multi-tiered steamer but a basket over a saucepan with a well-fitting lid is a cheaper alternative!

Q: How do you manage toddler eating with older siblings (balancing healthy food with snacks they prob wouldn’t otherwise get)? – Virginia

A: There are so many meals you can cook for the whole family – from tot, to toddler to teen. Family cooking shouldn’t mean spending hours in the kitchen slaving over the stove. It’s about finding solutions that work for your family, and often that means quick and balanced meals which are super-simple to prepare and taste delicious. 

Some of my best loved dishes, such as my Chicken Karmel and my favourite Frittata with Cherry Tomatoes are incredibly simple, yet can be prepared in under half an hour but they are super tasty.

Snack-wise, as long as the snacks you are offering are healthy and nutritious, your toddler can join with older siblings too but simply with a smaller finger food version – savoury muffins, mini energy balls, hummus and crudities or fruit with full fat natural yoghurt are all good options. With any type of snacking for any age, I would advise leaving at least two hours before meals so as to not affect their appetite.

Q: What are appropriate amounts of sugar per 100g in snacks for a toddler to consume? – Amy

A: In the UK there is no guideline sugar limit for children under the age of 4 but you do need to be conscious of the amount of sugar in your child’s diet. It’s also important to note that there is a difference between naturally occurring sugars from fruits and vegetables and sugars found in snacks and convenience foods which hold no nutritional value whatsoever.

We need to educate parents on the dangerously high levels of obesity among children and I try to equip families with simple food ideas and solutions.

I’m not a purest and I do think it is all about striking that healthy balance but where possible try and avoid empty-calorie snacks such sweets, chocolate bags of crisps or sugary soft drinks. If children are offered these regularly as a go-to snack or drink then this will start to become the norm for them rather than the treat they should be seen as.

It’s more about educating our children on where food comes from as well as the nutritional value. Cakes and bakes should indeed be considered as treats but as long as your child isn’t having sugary snacks and puddings every day and they are getting lots of nutritious foods at mealtimes then this should be fine, it’s all about striking that healthy balance.

You’ll find me in my kitchen cooking-up new recipes every Tuesday and as part of this I have been developing healthier versions of sugar-laden favourites such as fibre fuelled muffins, carrot and banana cookies and mini energy balls which are free of refined sugar and packed with oats, seeds, nuts and dates.  What’s more, these are often recipes that the kids can get involved in helping out with too. I always encourage parents to get their own mini helpers in the kitchen as by making their very own treats they will understand that they’re not readily available and something you have every day.

Q: Which meal do you think is most important for young toddlers why and what do you recommend the meal to be? – Ana

A: At this stage toddlers should be joining in with family mealtimes so it’s about preparing delicious and nutritious recipes that are ideal for toddlers and adults alike.  It’s important to get children eating ‘grown-up food’ as early as possible; as children tend to get fussier as they get older, it’s easier to make this transition sooner rather than later. It also saves on you having to cook different dishes. Obviously, levels of salt and spice will need to be reduced.

Many toddlers like much more interesting flavours than you might think: mildly spicy food and meals like stir-fries, egg fried rice, chicken satay and a tikka masala are often very popular.

Children under the age of five need more dietary fat than adults, so avoid giving low-fat varieties of foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese. High-fibre foods are also inappropriate, as they can hinder the absorption of vitamins and minerals.  They will also need all-important iron (red meat, leafy green veggies, egg yolks, fortified breakfast cereals, pulses etc) and omega-3s (oily fish such as salmon, nut butters, flaxseeds, chia and soya beans) so make sure sources of these feature in meals.

All meals are important but as the old saying goes ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. It’s essential to start the day with a nutritious breakfast, to keep us energised until lunchtime. Wholegrain cereals like porridge and granola release sugars slowly, avoiding the highs and lows of refined cereals, and are ideal for children. Unfortunately, many of the cereals designed for children contain more than 30 per cent sugar so read the labels carefully. Eggs, such as scrambled eggs and boiled eggs with soldiers, also make a great breakfast as they are so nutritious.

All of Annabel’s answers and tips can be heard in the video above!