Exclusive! Annabel Karmel answers your questions

Want to know how to handle fussy eaters, the best way to introduce your baby to new tastes and textures or what to do if your 12-year-old just won’t eat?

Annabel Karmel, leading expert in children’s recipes and nutrition has got together with goodtoknow to answer your questions about cooking for your kids. You sent us in the worries and challenges you face as parents trying to feed your children well and here are Annabel’s answers, exclusive to goodtoknow.

Question 1

I have an 11-month-old child and I want to know how can I make food look more appealing so he’s more likely to eat it?

Lisa McKay, Suffolk

Annabel says: Some children don’t like the look of lumpy vegetables so you can disguise them by blending vegetables like carrot, sweet pepper and courgette into a tomato sauce and mix with tiny pasta shapes. I make a range of tiny organic pasta shapes especially for babies which is sold in Tesco which is a great way to introduce texture gradually to your baby.

11-month-olds like picking up food with their fingers so finger foods like mini meatballs or my chicken and apple balls or mini goujons of fish are popular. It can be a good idea to make individual portions of foods like cottage pie or fish pie in ramekins and put some aside in the freezer so that you don’t need to be cooking every day. A dollop of food on a plate can look pretty unappealing so their own little portion is more attractive.

Colourful foods appeal to children so a plate of mixed brightly-coloured fruits cut into bite-sized pieces makes a good snack for an 11-month-old.

Question 2

As a baby, my son ate most things but became really fussy about his food as a toddler. I’ve spoken to a number of medical ‘experts’ over the years but received little or no help. My doctor says he is bordering on ‘food phobic’ and there’s nothing I can do to help until my son decides he wants to do something about it himself.

He’s now 12-years-old and showing no signs of altering. He already refuses to go for tea at most of his friends’ houses because he finds it stressful. He’s thin but not medically underweight and his diet is fairly balanced although very restricted. This is mainly because there are as many unhealthy foods he dislikes as healthy ones.

I’ve tried all the obvious techniques to encourage him but nothing works. He ‘eats with his eyes’ and won’t try anything that looks, smell or feels different to what he usually eats. He is definitely becoming more aware of the fact his eating habits are different from his friends but this makes his clam up about it, rather than want to change. I feel that as a parent I should be doing something, but I don’t know what.

Worried Mum

Annabel says: Fussy eating is normal, in fact about 90% of children are fussy eaters at one time or another – it’s often just a phase that children go through. However some children have a more extreme fear of food and for these children they need expert help. Usually the doctor or psychologist tries to give the child the tiniest amount of a new food and praises him excessively when he swallows it and does not focus on the negative. At least your son has a fairly balanced diet and he is not medically underweight. I think from what you write that maybe you do need expert help and one place to try would be Great Ormond Street Hospital where they have an eating disorder department.