Annabel Karmel's advice on feeding fussy children
- Toddlers tend to be quite difficult eaters. Making food fun helps; if food looks attractive, children are more likely to eat it. For example, it's much more appealing to serve dishes such as shepherd's or fish pie in individual portions, rather than as a dollop on a plate (see mini fish pie recipe).
- Offer plenty of variety, eat as a family when you can and give children small portions so they don't feel overloaded. Try to make sure meal times are happy times, rather than battle times.
- It's no accident that most junk food is eaten with your fingers, so another tip is to give vegetables like corn on the cob cut in half and served with melted butter, steamed broccoli florets or baby carrots. You can also make tasty mini veggie burgers with grated carrot, leek, mushrooms, Gruyère, soy sauce and thyme. Some children prefer their veggies raw, so carrot, sweet pepper and cucumber sticks with some hummus would make a nutritious snack.
- If your child throws a tantrum when presented with anything with traces of visible onions or green bits, you can create recipes that vegetables can be blended into, so that they disappear, such as a hidden vegetable tomato sauce for pasta or a creamy tomato soup made with carrots and onions. You can also hide vegetables in other popular dishes such as wraps, enchiladas or lasagne or hide vegetables under grated cheese on a pizza. What children can't see, they can't pick out.
- Have a lowshelf in the fridge filled with healthy snacks - carrot sticks, cooked chicken, pasta salad or cut-up fruit - which children can help themselves to when they are hungry. A brilliant time to get them to eat something healthy is when they arrive home from school; after all, it only takes 10 minutes to make a wrap or cut up some fresh fruit. They are likely to walk past fruit in a fruit bowl, but cut it up nicely and thread it on skewers and it suddenly becomes much more appealing. Again, it's often the way you present it that counts.
- From the age of three or four, encourage children to get involved in the kitchen and they will tend to eat better. Just remember to pick something that is within their capabilities (so you don't have to help too much) and that doesn't take too long to prepare: things like pancakes, scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes are all ideal.