Q&A with Annabel Karmel

What’s for dinner?? I’m hungry! I don’t like that! Why do we always have pasta? I’ll only eat it if it’s not green….

We know that feeding the kids can sometimes be pretty challenging!

Our Frugi Family asked the very lovely Annabel Karmel for some advice on feeding the kids, from fussy eaters to what to cook for children with allergies, there are some absolute gems here!


How do you persuade a three-year-old to try new things, especially vegetables? My daughter doesn’t like sauce either, including hummus or ketchup. So many people suggest giving her something to dip her veg in. But that makes it worse! – Jo


Picky eaters at whatever age and stage can certainly test us! First and foremost, it’s important to make mealtimes an adventure, and whilst this sounds idyllic when you’ve got a jam-packed schedule and a ‘to do’ list as long as your arm; sometimes it’s the simplest of ideas which turn out to be the most effective:


Preparing foods in different ways can make a huge difference – for example, most kids I know wouldn’t eat boiled cauliflower, but roasting it completely transforms the flavour and opinion of a fussy tot!

Big portions can be overwhelming for a small child so offer them a taster of something new in the form of a ‘grown-up’ starter – a little teacup or saucer of vegetables that they could try in addition to their main meal.


A good trick I found is to prepare my children’s dinner with them. Lay out ingredient bowls (full with lots of different colourful veggies) and let your little one fill and fold their own wraps or get creative using veggies to create faces on their homemade pizzas – it’s a proven tactic to get them to try new foods that they would usually shun. And if they’ve been involved in the preparation, you’ll have another food evangelist at the table urging everyone to try it.


By preparing simple meals together from scratch, you’ll stand a good chance of instilling a love of good, healthy food. Of course, it’s good to bake a few fun treats along the way, too. But these can have a healthy twist.  For example, my Carrot & Apple Muffins are a big hit with kids and they are perfect as a quick snack or as a lunchbox filler.


My kid’s used to get so excited growing cress in egg cups. Growing your own doesn’t require a huge garden or equipment. Get your kids growing their own herbs or sprouting seeds in little pots on window shelves. Doing this can get them really excited about food.


My son will only eat beige food ? And also just coz I’m a mum, doesn’t mean I like cooking (or that I’m good at it). Any easy to follow recipes with not too many ingredients?  Rachael Anne


I completely agree – 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.  Let’s be honest, to be ‘good food’, it’s also got to be something the whole family will want to devour.

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.

Beige food always seems to be a firm favourite with children  – and green food the arch-enemy!  But, the good news is you can make some quick, easy, nutritious (and colourful) swaps. It’s no secret that kids love chips but why not swap for some baked sweet potato wedges with a sprinkling of parmesan instead? You can pair with my Quinoa Baked Chicken Fingers from my new book Real Food Kids Will Love – these are so easy to prepare and packed with goodness.

In this book I have also dedicated a whole chapter to quick and easy 15-minute meals with recipes such as Tortilla Pizzas, Butternut Squash Carbonara and my delicious Instant Chicken Curry – and all can be on the table in 15 minutes!


Are there easy alternatives to tomato, mainly in sauces, I used to cook with tomato all the time and now I’m totally stumped because my 22 month old son is allergic to tomato (and banana, random!) am I missing something obvious? – Jessica


 A light cheese sauce is a nice alternative using garlic, diced veggies, crème fresh, vegetable stock and Parmesan. Pesto is also always a good alternative for pasta sauces, homemade pizza toppings, mini tartlets and sandwich fillings.


My question is what’s your favourite all time recipe? Mine is nursery fish pie.- Hazel


 That’s such a difficult question!  I adore Japanese food so if I was cooking for myself possibly my Teriyaki Tuna with Rice – I simply marinate the tuna in soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, a little honey, sesame oil and grated fresh ginger for 30 minutes and then sauté in a frying pan or griddle  for about 2 minutes . It’s incredibly simple but utterly delicious and I serve it with rice mixed with diced vegetables, edamame and a little sweet chilli sauce. Fresh tuna is a fantastic source of omega 3’s and so quick to cook.

However, if I’m cooking for my family it has got to be my Pot-Roast Chicken which I’ve actually included in my latest book – it’s a delicious, easy, all-in-one meal.  Just chuck in all the ingredients leave it to cook in the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes whilst you get on with other jobs or spend time with the kids. It’s a no fuss tasty meal that feeds the whole family.


Any ideas for school lunch boxes that don’t need to be refrigerated? Rhiannon


 There’s nothing worse that worn withered sarnies, so my top tip is to create their very own ice pack with a frozen water bottle. By the time they unzip lunch, the water will be thawed, and their food will be cool and fresh – without the soggy bottoms!

Chopped-up fruit such as blueberry portions frozen in sandwich bags are a great idea and you can also wrap sugar snap peas, carrot, pepper or cucumber sticks in damp kitchen paper to stop them drying out.

Snacks such as mini energy balls or a homemade savoury muffin make for delicious snacks, don’t need to be refrigerated and will help top up your children’s energy levels mid-afternoon.


My family and I love the recipes but my 7-month-old has a milk allergy – is there a substitute for milk and cheese in your recipes? Particularly the cod and spinach purée as that’s a fave!- Joanne


 It’s easier than ever to accommodate free-from and specialist diets and a diet without dairy needn’t be dull! There are lots of tasty ways to bring mealtimes to life and there are some great dairy-free cheeses available in supermarkets nowadays to replace Cheddar or Parmesan in recipes for example (including with my Cod & Spinach Puree!) which means it’s easy to still enjoy your favourite recipes. You can also find some really good dairy-free formula milks for under 12 months (or you can use almond milk for over babies over 12 months).

Check out my Baby & Toddler Recipe App which has 50 + dairy-free recipes and why not give my Tuna & Orzo Pasta a try – it’s delicious and one my favourite dairy-free hits!


My question is do children usually go on and off food… my son used to eat cheese now won’t.. he’s 4 years old?- Natalie


 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 cheese in different ways to see if this helps. Try a cheese sauce with pasta, grated on mini pizzas, in an omelette or savoury muffin, or try some halloumi kebabs on the BBQ.

However, 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.


Thanks Annabel! 


Annabel’s brand new Real Food Kids Will Love cookbook (Bluebird, £16.99) is packed full of advice, top tips and over 100 simple and delicious recipes which the whole family can enjoy together – from 15 minute meals to healthy fast food favourites, cooking with the kids, lunchbox snacks and more. 

Many recipes include handy swap-outs to cater for those with food allergies, intolerances or particularly fussy eaters! There is also a range of meat-free and vegan meal options too, meaning mealtimes can be made healthy and fun for the whole family whatever your family’s foodie preferences.



Why not get the kids involved with cooking and use our handy Recipe cards!- Download them here;

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