Wednesday, 22 May 2013
An expert at devising tasty and nutritious recipes, Annabel offers family mealtime advice and tasty teatime tips to make mealtimes delicious
I’m about to start weaning my six-month-old baby. Could you tell me the best fruit and vegetables to start with and whether I should mix them or stick to one new taste at a time?} It’s best to stick to one new taste at a time. The best ‘first vegetables’ to give your baby are: carrot, potato, sweet potato, butternut squash and pumpkin. These are easily digested, unlikely to cause an allergy, and babies like their sweet taste. Best ‘first fruits’ are: apple, pear, banana, papaya and avocado. It’s easy to make fresh baby food as some fruits like banana, papaya and avocado don’t need to be cooked and can simply be mashed.
My three-year-old and 18-month-old have very different likes and dislikes when it comes to food. As a busy mum I find this difficult. How can I get them to eat the same things? Finger foods are good. Try making mini chicken burgers and meatballs. For the burgers I mix minced chicken with sautéed onion, grated parmesan, fresh breadcrumbs, fresh sage and grated apple – they are delicious and the perfect size for little fingers. It saves time to make a batch and freeze them and then you can simply take out as many as you need. Fresh fruit lollies made of something like sieved strawberries or orange juice with a touch of icing sugar are popular with little ones, too.
How should I naturally sweeten my eight month old baby’s food? I don’t want to use sugar and my mum said she shouldn’t have honey. Is this true and what other options are there? It is true that babies shouldn’t have honey before they are a year old, this is to prevent infant botulism. I find the best way to sweeten food is using fruit. Adding fruit, such as apple, makes chicken or green vegetables more tempting for babies. A great combination is puréed chicken, sweet potato and apple. Dried fruit, such as apricots, are a good source of iron and beta-carotene, and can be added to porridge or are delicious with a beef and root vegetable casserole. Baking sweet potato caramelises the natural sugars. Baked sweet potato wedges make great finger food for little ones.
My four-year-old daughter’s fruit and veg intake comprises apples, bananas, celery, clementines, sweet red pepper and raw carrot. Is she getting enough vitamins from these? I would suggest introducing some green vegetables, like spinach and broccoli if her diet does not consist of much red meat or pulses, such as lentils, as they are a good source of iron. Try mixing green veg with sweet root vegetables such as sweet potato in a soup, or add them to a lasagne or stir-fry. Adding some teriyaki sauce often makes vegetables more appealing, too. Berries are good too, as these are packed full of vitamins, including vitamin C which aids iron absorption. If she doesn’t like them in their natural state you could try puréeing and sieving them with natural fruit juice to make ice lollies or smoothies.
My three-year-old loves raw fruit and veg, but refuses to eat cooked vegetables unless he can have them with ketchup. How can we persuade him to eat them on their own, or shouldn’t we worry? The good news is that your son is probably getting all the nutrients he needs from the raw fruit and vegetables he is eating. As he will eat cooked vegetables served with ketchup, try mixing them with a sweet and sour sauce. In a small pan, simply blend tbsp cornflour with 1 tbsp cold water and add to 150ml vegetable stock. Mix in 2 tsp soft brown sugar and tbsp soy sauce. Bring to the boil, stirring, and then simmer for a couple of minutes. This goes well with a mixture of broccoli, carrots and sweetcorn. You might also like to try serving cooked vegetables that he can hold – for example corn on the cob cut in half, or steamed carrot sticks. Courgettes sautéed in a little butter and oil are nice too.
My toddler is allergic to eggs, but would love a cake for her birthday. Is it possible for someone scared of baking (me!) to create something presentable and egg-free?
Can you recommend a really good, balanced lunchbox for a three-year-old. I’m running out of ideas! And what exactly constitutes ‘healthy’?
Getting inspired with lunchboxes is so hard, and finding healthy food that you know they are going to eat is even harder. It is all about trying to get a good balance in your child’s lunchbox. Peeling or chopping fruit or vegetable sticks, such as carrot, and wrapping it in cling film or putting it in a little box with a dip like hummus or their favourite yoghurt, will make it far more likely to be eaten. Here’s a great muffin recipe which is a delicious home-made treat you can make with your toddler in advance – and is much better than a chocolate bar.
I’d love a recipe for a child-friendly smoothie. Could you also explain the nutritional value of the fruit used?
Put the fruit in a blender with the yoghurt and honey. Blend until smooth and it’s
a lovely deep purple colour.
Recipe from Annabel’s You Can Cook, £12.99, Dorling Kindersley
I’ve read that you’ve launched ready-made meals for toddlers. Like most mums I worry about getting into the habit of prepared meals. What do you think about this?} I can understand your worry on this subject and it is important to be fussy when it comes to choosing food for your little ones. Some ready meals do have levels of saturated fat and salt that are unsuitable for toddlers. You need to choose meals that are specifically designed for children under four, as these will comply with the Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) of salt and fat that a child of a certain age can have, such as my range of chilled meals you refer to. Busy parents want to spend some precious time out with their children, so convenience helps with this, but they need to choose trusted meal alternatives. A mixture of healthy ready meals and fresh, quick meals you can make yourself, offer a balanced approach for you and your family.
Any idea for an animal-themed recipe that’s not too sweet?
How about my cute and cuddly bunny biscuits? Kids will love to nibble on them at breakfast or teatime.
For the glaze:
Annabel Karmel is a leading writer of books on nutrition for babies and young children. She is an expert at devising tasty and nutritious recipes to make family mealtimes delicious.