Interview - Annabel Karmel, food expert

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Ms Karmel has been recruited to create bespoke menus for Fennies Day Nurseries, and will be answering Nursery World readers’ questions in a new online column from 18 January.

interview-annabel-karmel

Annabel Karmel

What will the new Fennies nursery menus look like?

Most children’s menus stick to classics such as burgers or chicken nuggets because they are popular choices, but I want to offer a menu that will get children trying new and exciting things.

My menus at Fennies will combine healthier alternatives to get children excited about different foods from all over the world. Most of us tend to think that children only like bland, simple flavours, but you will be surprised at the flavours they enjoy.

And when it comes to healthy ingredients, I like to sneak in foods like red lentils in a cottage pie and cover it with a potato and carrot topping, or a hidden veg Bolognese bake with carrot, pepper and onion.

Fennies has a talented team of chefs that will source and prepare the freshest ingredients every day, while following my recipes and tailored meal planners.

How is nursery food different from food prepared at home?

As long as children are eating fresh home-cooked meals at nursery and at home, then there shouldn’t be too much of a difference. It’s important that nurseries communicate their offering to parents so that they can plan their own meals outside the setting.

For nurseries, recipes need to be easy to prepare in bulk. Meals need to be tasty but low in salt, and the menus need to be popular and cater for fussy eaters. It’s also important to be able to easily create a vegetarian version of each recipe too.

Sometimes children eat better in the company of other children. They are great mimics and, if their friend is enjoying eating a curry, they may be more likely to try it at nursery.

What is the most important factor for child nutrition?

Children generally determine what they like and don’t like to eat by the age of five, so it’s important to introduce lots of variety. Often children are very fussy and parents end up giving a very limited range of foods. Offering only the foods that you are sure your child will eat can encourage extreme fussiness and may lead to an unbalanced diet.

Children don’t care how healthy food is, so it’s really important that meals are not only healthy but also taste delicious.

My menus cater to all children. We all know too well that having a fussy eater to contend with is hard enough, let alone adding food intolerances into the mix, so I wanted to focus on offering balanced and healthy meals with gluten-free, dairy-free and soya-free options too.

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