BESTSELLING cooking author Annabel Karmel is one of those exceptional people who managed to turn the awful tragedy of losing her first child at just 13 weeks into something positive.
Although her daughter Natasha died of a viral infection rather than a diet-related illness, her death prompted Karmel to focus on nutrition when her second child Nicholas was born.
The fact that he was a fussy eater was a blessing as it inspired his mother to write The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner, which is now the second bestselling non-fiction hardback of all time (The Secret is number one).
That was 25 years ago and, since then, Annabel Karmel has written 40 books which have sold four million copies.
She’s talking to Feelgood about her latest book, Busy Mum’s Cookbook, which is designed to help mothers cope with everything from time pressure to fussy eaters.
“It’s flavour without the ‘faff’,” she says, explaining that some of the recipes can be done and dusted in 20 minutes flat.
And speaking of ‘faff’, she is adamant that mothers should try to avoid it at all costs.
“You don’t have to run a café where everyone is having something different,” she says.
She knows only too well what it’s like to have a child who refuses to eat.
Her son, now 26, was a very poor eater. When he was a toddler, she looked around for baby cookbooks, but found they were all terribly bland.
So she started to adapt healthy family foods into child-friendly dishes and testing them.
But there were no takers for her first book. It was turned down by 15 publishers before Simon and Schuster finally took a chance on it. It sold out in three months.
Parents were looking for healthy food for their children and advice on how to get picky eaters eating.
That advice is still in hot demand today and Karmel says the top three favourites with children continue to be: lentil purees, chicken and apple balls and fish pie (topped with potato and carrot so that it includes one of your five a day.)
You have to be a bit of a psychologist when encouraging a child to eat, she says.
“Give them attention when they try something new, not when they don’t eat,” she says.
“Bribery works very well too,” she says, with a laugh.
“Even if they try just one mouthful, give them a treat.”
She says children have a clean palate from the age of six to 11 months but after that “it all goes horribly wrong”.
Part of the problem, she believes, is the confusion around what you should be feeding babies and when.
“At six months, it’s not enough to give them just fruit and vegetables. They need nutrient-dense food, such as meat and fish.
"A lot of children are iron-deficient, so make sure that they are getting it in their diet along with Omega 3s.”
It’s also very important to introduce variety.
“If your child refuses to eat anything except spaghetti and cucumber, for example, don’t give up.
"Change the food around and persist. Adding grated apple is a great trick,” she says.
Spiralising vegetables is another great way of adding “oodles of child appeal to everyday vegetables”.
It is also great to cook with your children, she says.
Although the way Annabel tells it now, she seems to be cooking for her children.
Her two daughters Scarlett and Lara still live at home and often she cooks for them — and all their friends.
“There could be ten people in the house.”
Somehow, though, she doesn’t mind as cooking is part of the legacy that makes sense of the grief of losing a child.
“Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to any woman. Cooking was somehow a way of leaving a legacy to make some sense of her life.”
Now, she is heartened to see that some of the children who were raised on her recipes have started to cook them for their own children.
“It’s going on to the next generation. That is wonderful.”
* Busy Mum’s Cookbook, published by Ebury Press (€26.99), is out now, and a 25th-anniversary edition of The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner is due out next month.
WE’RE a nation of sleepy heads: 40% of us would prefer to push the snooze button for a few extra minutes in bed rather than get up and have a healthy breakfast.
A further 27% of us don’t have breakfast regularly despite an increased awareness of its benefits on physical and mental performance, according to a Pharmaton Active Life survey.
Nutritional therapist Elsa Jones said: “We are encouraging people to get into the routine of eating breakfast to ensure optimum physical and mental performance throughout the day.”
GET planting now and you could be in with a chance to be crowned Ireland’s biggest spud lover.
Bord Bia has teamed up with GIY (Grow It Yourself) to launch a nationwide competition to find Ireland’s top tuber.
GIYers and budding spud growers are invited to sow their potatoes now and join in ‘SpudLove 2016’, an initiative to encourage people to fall in love with the spud all over again.
GIY founder Michael Kelly, above, said: “Potatoes are my absolute favourite thing to grow. They are one of the world’s healthiest foods.”
For nutritional recipes, see potato.ie. For more competition details, see www.giyinternational.org/spudlove
IF you’ve been recently diagnosed as coeliac and find shopping tricky, then you’ll find the Coeliac Society of Ireland’s series of instore events at SuperValu invaluable.
Running until April 19, the events are designed to raise awareness and inform those suffering from coeliac disease of the support available.
The society has also compiled a food list, which lists all gluten-free products available on the Irish market.
Coeliac Society CEO Gráinne Denning said: “One in 100 in Ireland has coeliac disease and it can be challenging to figure out what they can eat, as gluten is a common ingredient in food.”
DON’T cut healthy fats from your diet if you’re trying to lose weight.
A study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that a diet rich in walnuts and olive oil can work as well as other diets.
Researchers assigned 245 overweight women (aged 22-72) three separate diets over 12 months: low-fat, high-carbohydrate; low-carbohydrate and high-fat and a walnut rich (1½oz each day) high-fat and low-carbohydrate.
All three diets led to an average weight loss of eight per cent.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved