Encouraging children to eat more healthily – by Annabel Karmel

Annabel Karmel

Food is the fuel that powers our children. It makes them grow strong, gives them energy and plenty of opportunities to wind up their parents. If you struggle to get your children to eat healthily, don’t let frustration take over, try not to respond to bad eating habits. Your child will soon find there’s not much point making a fuss if you don’t react. Let your child be hungry sometimes. A hungry child is often a less fussy child.

Try to avoid letting children graze between meals on unhealthy snacks.  Avoiding snacks will mean they are more likely to try new foods come mealtime. However for occasions such as after school when kids come home starving, having things ready-prepared and to hand, such as raw vegetables and a dip, a pitta pocket filled with tuna, or cut up fruit, means you don’t fall back on the easy option of an empty calorie snack such as biscuits or crisps.

Remember food is not just sustenance, but can also be fun. Making food more appealing is a great way to get children trying new healthy food. It is good to be a little inventive in how we present our food. Mini portions of dishes such as cottage pie in a ramekin dish looks far more appetising than a dollop of food on a plate. Noodle or stir fry dishes are a great way to up the intake of vegetables and get them to use child friendly chopsticks. When it gets warmer you can puree fresh fruit to make your own fresh fruit ice lollies.

A great way to get your children eating healthily is by getting them in the kitchen helping you. This is quality time with your children and can make them much more interested in trying new things. Once children are a little older give them the responsibility of cooking the family meal one night, give them a simple recipe that you help them with first time round, then let them make it once a week for a month and by the end they will know how to make one dish really well and be proud of their achievement.

Annabel’s recipe for Rainbow Ribbon Noodles - makes 2 toddler portions


Annabel's Rainbow Noodles

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 egg

1 tsp soy sauce


1 tsp water

Small clove garlic, crushed

Half tsp grated fresh ginger

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Quarter yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into matchsticks

Half skinny courgette cut into matchsticks

75g medium rice noodles (pad Thai type) prepared according to the packet instructions or 150g ready to use noodles

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp sweet chilli sauce

Half tsp sesame oil

Chopped fresh coriander (optional)

METHOD: Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a wok. Beat the egg, 1 tsp soy sauce and water together and add to the wok. Cook the eggs until just set and brown underneath. Break or chop into pieces and transfer to a bowl. Set aside. Heat the remaining oil in the wok and add garlic and ginger. Sizzle for 30 seconds, then add the carrot, peppers and courgette and stir fry for 3 to 4 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the noodles and spring onions and stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes until the noodles have heated through. Stir in the soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and sesame oil, followed by the omelette pieces, then remove from the heat and transfer to bowls. Garnish with chopped coriander if you like.


Annabel Karmel is the UK's best-selling author of seventeen books on baby and children's food and nutrition. Her 'Essential Guide to Feeding your Baby and Toddler’ is available on iTunes for £3.99 with 120 recipes and 'how to' videos. For more information visit www.annabelkarmel.com


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