Children's food expert Annabel Karmel has been a busy bee of late. She's got a new book of pasta recipes coming out in May, her links with Nestle have been causing much online discussion, and now she's developed a new range of healthy snacks for toddlers with Disney. Does she ever sleep?
I tried out Annabel's new snack range on a group of children, who gave them all a thumbs up. They liked the colourful packaging, decorated with Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh. The strawberry and peach flavour raisins were a bit of a shock to the senses, as they looked like raisins, but smelled like fruit juice. But children get so bored of raisins as a healthy snack, so this is a good way to ring the changes.
The range also includes dried apple and banana 'crisps', and rice and corn snacks in tomato or cheese and onion flavours. These are a good size for toddlers' hands and a great no-mess way to give your child a snack on the go. Suitable from age 12 months upwards.
Here are some expert tips from Annabel Karmel on the importance of snacks for little children, and how you can dish them out in a healthy way:
• Snacks are an important part of a toddler's diet as they need to keep up their energy and are usually very active. They have small stomachs and cannot eat enough at mealtimes to get them through the day. It's important to include a wide range of wholegrains such as rice and oats or wholemeal bread. Complex carbohydrates like these satisfy the appetite for longer and provide the body with a more sustained release of energy.
• Whole fruit in a fruit bowl tends not to get eaten but if you thread bite-sized pieces of fruit on to a straw to make a fruit kebab, your toddler is much more likely to eat it.
• In the summer fresh fruit ice lollies make wonderful snacks. Simply blend fresh fruit with fruit juice or yogurt and then freeze in ice lolly moulds. Sucking on something cold also relieves sore gums. Pureed watermelon with a little icing sugar to sweeten if necessary makes a refreshing lolly.
• Many young children prefer raw vegetables to cooked so it's a good idea to have some carrot and cucumber sticks or strips of sweet pepper with a tasty dip. Try mixing together 2 tbsp of Greek yoghurt and mayonnaise, 2 tsp ketchup, half a tsp lemon juice and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce to make a Thousand Island Dip. Alternatively buy a dip like hummus which is very nutritious. If you want to take raw vegetable sticks out with you, then wrap them in damp kitchen paper to keep them fresh
• Avoid empty calorie snacks like crisps or chocolate biscuits and keep a supply of healthy snacks on hand. Maybe have a low shelf with cut up fruit and other healthy foods. When children are hungry they won't wait.
• Children like to assemble their own food, so you could put ingredients in bowls and let your child fill and fold their own wraps. Keep left over roast, grilled or barbecued chickens. Spread a tortilla with a little mayonnaise and fill with combinations like slices of grilled chicken with strips of tomato and shredded lettuce.
• The trick to good sandwiches for toddlers is not to have too much bread or too much filling. It's a good idea to flatten the bread slightly by rolling with a rolling pin. Try mixing tuna with a little mayonnaise, tomato ketchup and sliced spring onion. Cream cheese and cucumber or peanut butter with mashed banana are popular fillings. For toddlers it is best to cut the sandwiches into bite sized pieces but as your child gets older it's fun to cut the sandwiches into shapes using cookie cutters.
• Often big pieces of fruit are easier for your toddler to hold than small pieces. Try giving wedges of canta loupe melon or mango. Dried fruits are good too. Organic dried apricots are delicious and they are also a good source of iron as are raisins.
• If your little one is teething, he may be off his food. It's a good idea to put a little petroleum jelly around your baby's mouth and chin as this will prevent soreness if he dribbles. Pop some cucumber sticks into the fridge as biting on the cool cucumber will soothe sore gums
• You can bake your own healthy mini muffins that are the perfect size for little fingers. Flavours like Apple and Carrot or Courgette and Raisin are delicious and easy to prepare. You can also bake healthy mini cookies like Oat and Raisin or Cranberry and oats. Even children as young as two can help in the kitchen by mixing ingredients or flattening small balls of the mixture to make cookies.
Disney and Annabel Karmel have teamed up to launch their brand new healthier snacking range using Disney's popular characters Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh. Available nationwide from Waitrose, Asda and Morrisons. More information on the range can be found at this link.