Partnership Content - Create independent eaters!

Annabel Karmel
Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Healthy eating is top of parents’ tick list when it comes to choosing a childcare setting. This can come with added worry if a child is a fussy or picky eater, says Annabel Karmel

How children interact with and consume food in your setting is pivotal. Children consume at least a third of their daily nutritional intake under your care. And when you consider that around 90 per cent of children go through at least one lengthy phase of fussy eating, there is a big opportunity for nurseries to support children and nurture healthy eating habits.

Yet coping with fussy eaters can be easier said than done.

My son, Nicholas, was the world's worst eater. Although if he hadn't been so fussy, I might not have built the career I have today! Even the most basic of foods were a struggle. But having lost my first child Natasha to a viral infection at three months (albeit unrelated to food), I knew I had to do everything in my power to nurture and nourish my little boy.

I dedicated my time to coming up with different food and flavour combinations, and these soon became a hit at my local playgroup. It was from there the idea for my first weaning cookbook came about, and after being turned down by over 15 publishers, I finally released The Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner. And to this day, my revolutionary cookbook for babies remains a global bestseller. And I’ve gone on to publish 48 further cookbooks, with six million copies sold worldwide. And it's all thanks to my fussy eaters.

My vision has always been to ensure every child gets the nutrients they need for their development and long-term health, and I work with lots of nurseries to help them develop menus that support and deliver on nutrition and taste.

So how can you support fussy eating in your setting? Building an all-round quality food offering and varied, balanced menu is just the first step. It's also about exposing children to new foods, tastes and textures in a fun and engaging way. It's about giving them the power to make food and flourish as independent eaters. Here are some practical tips:


Children need the opportunity to be exposed to lots of different foods, tastes and textures. They often need to try something up to 15 times to accept it.

Within your rotational menus, there is lots of scope to pack in variety. Use what's in season.

  • In addition to their main lunch, offer a side of something new.
  • Children love to eat foods they have grown themselves.
  • Don't confine fruits and veggies to main mealtimes. Make these a familiar part of everyday life. Read books, organise trips to markets and play food games.


Nursery staff are key to influencing children's behaviour.

  • Talk about all foods positively.
  • Even if a child tries a little of something, give them praise.
  • Don't give too much attention to food refusal. Focus positively on those who are eating well.


Get kids involved in:

  • washing produce
  • helping set the table
  • pouring and adding ingredients
  • stirring and whisking
  • mashing
  • sprinkling ingredients
  • kneading and rolling dough
  • cutting cookies
  • cutting soft foods
  • tasting!


With over three decades of food expertise and trust, Annabel Karmel can help support your nursery. From menu design and chef support, to raising the profile of your food offering, please get in touch to see how Annabel can help you.

0207 289 3808

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