Bite size: Clever ways to turn your child into a veggie lover

FOOD TO GO: Author Aileen Cox Blundell, pictured with her daughter Jade, wants to help busy parents searching for fuss-free, healthy meals for their children. Picture: Chris Bellew/Fennells.

IT has just occurred to bestselling author Aileen Cox Blundell that the initials of her new book (Baby-Friendly Family Cookbook) are BFF, or ‘Best Friends Forever’.

She’s tickled pink because that is exactly what she wanted her second cookbook to be — a reliable, steadfast companion to any mother (or father) attempting to cook a meal with a baby in a sling and a toddler clinging on to a leg.

That was the litmus test for each of the recipes: could a parent with one or several children hanging off them cook this meal with ease? If the answer was yes, it went into a book that brings together more than 150 wholesome recipes that are baby and weaning friendly.

“I wanted to write something that would be a really good friend to parents. All I want to do is to see kids eating better food. I feel I can do something and make a change,” she tells Feelgood.

The mother-of-three started to make changes herself after being inspired by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s campaign to reduce sugar. She cut all refined sugar from her own diet and started to come up with ideas for sugar-free, homemade baby-food recipes for her youngest son.

She put the results on Facebook — photographs of Oscar, then one year old, eating everything from kale hummus to pesto with beetroot. In just four months, she had more than 10,000 followers. She has 10 times that number now.

Aileen Cox Blundell had clearly struck a chord.

Her awarding blog,, followed and then, two years ago, a bestselling book of the same name.

Since then, the author has spoken to thousands of parents who worry about a range of child-nutrition issues, from fussy eating to allergies. Somehow Cox Blundell still finds time to run a graphic design business in Swords, Dublin, but most of her time is spent listening to parents’ concerns and thinking of ways to address them.

She confides that sometimes, late at night, she surreptitiously gets out of bed to chat to a mother after she has promised her husband Conor that she has turned off the phone (“It’s OK, he knows about it now,” she adds).

All those conversations informed the content of her new book. She put parents’ food concerns and worries on a spreadsheet and began to cook up a solution.

The biggest concern among parents, she says, was that their children just wouldn’t eat vegetables: “Most children aren’t even getting two of the recommended five a day. It’s a huge worry for a lot of parents.”

She knows the difficulties first-hand. Her daughter Jade (now 16) just wouldn’t be spoonfed as a child, while Dylan (now 11 and a vegetarian) was a very picky eater. Now, however, she has three foodie children and she’s on a mission to help other parents.

As part of that, she developed a new vegetable-nugget product called Hidden Heroes which has just been launched in Dunnes Stores. Three nuggets are the equivalent of a portion of veg and they are designed to offer an alternative to other less healthy fast options such as waffles or chicken nuggets. A pack of 15 costs €3.99 and the cooking time is just 12 minutes.

She says bringing a product to market was one of the hardest things she has ever done, but she says it’s all part of her passion to make parents’ lives easier and to help them raise foodie, veggie-loving children.

Here are her tips to help create a veggie-loving child:

  • Get them to try just one bite of everything on the plate. Be really complimentary when they do, and ignore the veggies left over. Remember — it’s a long-term goal.
  • Eat together as a family. If you are eating vegetables and making a big deal about how delicious they are, your baby or toddler will be more inclined to try it.
  • Talk about vegetables and their benefits, especially when you are eating them.
  • Always make sure there are vegetables on the plate.
  • Don’t give alternatives.
  • Involve them in shopping and cooking.
  • Snack on vegetables.

The Baby-Friendly Family Cookbook by Aileen Cox Blundell is published by Gill Books, €22.99

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