Do you have a fussy eater? At some point, most of us will and when your little ones are at their littlest it can be super stressful. So we spoke to baby weaning expert Charlotte Stirling-Reed, author of the amazing new book “How to Wean your Baby”, about her tips and advice on some of those tricky food issues. She even shared some of her fab recipes.
Have you always worked in child nutrition?
Yes, ever since leaving university. I've tried other areas of nutrition at the same time, such as adults or working with older populations, but I always come back to children. You can have such an impact working in this field I find. Not just now, but for future generations too.
Parents often panic if their child is a fussy eater, what advice do you give them?
So much advice! I regularly run webinars on this topic as it's just so common but really, just try to remember that it's a very normal part of children's development and that periods of food refusal is to be expected. I also like to say that it's no one's fault, BUT there are plenty of things that parents can do to help ensure it's just a fleeting stage, rather than long lasting.
What are your top tips if a child refuses to eat any fruit or veg?
- Avoid pressure. it sounds counter intuitive, but pressure at mealtimes can often have the opposite effect.
- Role model, try and take some time out to sit and eat with your baby/child whenever possible, it really can help!
- Keep offering regularly, children like what they are familiar with.
Every baby is different but is there anything you'll never not have in your fridge/cupboards?
Oats - such a staple in our house. And also, frozen veg!!!
Tell the truth, do you ever just feed your children fish fingers and beans?
Raffy loves beans and sometimes we have fish fingers, for sure. However, I'd always try to team it with some extras too. Some broccoli, peas, chopped tomatoes or get him involved and make the fish fingers ourselves if we have the time.
And what about party food? Can a parent ever throw a tempting birthday bash for kids without the sugar…
Absolutely - you don't have to mind you - but I've done it for Raffy for his first and second birthday. There is never going to be "no sugar" but you don't have to have huge amounts of high sugar options all the time, there is more to kids food than just sugar!
Check out three of Charlotte's fab recipes:
Quick Quesadillas – a new idea for lunch you can both eat!
"I love this recipe and actually make it lots for my kids. It’s an easy way to use up leftovers by making the middle in advance and it’s also really tasty. You can also vary the veg and flavours you use loads too."
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Serves: 1 baby, 1 adult
tsp olive oil
40g (about ¼) leek, well chopped
60g (about ¼) aubergine, well chopped
1 large beef tomato, well chopped
100g tinned butter beans,
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp paprika
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 large or 4 mini wraps
40g Cheddar cheese, grated
- Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and, once hot, add the leek and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add the aubergine and tomato and cook for a further 5 minutes, until softened.
- Add the butter beans, coriander and paprika, and stir it all through nicely. Cook for another 2 minutes or so.
- Put the tomato puree in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of water to make a more liquidy paste. Put a large wrap in a frying pan and evenly spread some of the tomato puree mixture over, like a pizza.
- Add a large spoonful of the veggie mix to half of the wrap and top with a little grated cheese. Fold the wrap and squash it down really well. Pop it under a hot grill for a few minutes to brown the top and melt the cheese. If using mini wraps, pop 1 in the pan, put the tomato puree, veggies and cheese in the middle and put another wrap on top. Repeat with the remaining wraps and ingredients.
Avocado Pasta – great for dinner for all the family
"Such a quick option for baby when you’re in a rush. Also a great alternative to tomato sauce on top of pasta if you’re looking for something different. I’m always after quick meal ideas and this is definitely one of them.""
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Serves: a family of 4
150g penne or fusilli pasta
1 ripe avocado, destoned and
20g mixed nuts or pine nuts
juice of ½ lemon
2 garlic cloves
dash of olive oil
1. Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions.
2. Put all the other ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
3. Toss the avocado sauce with the cooked pasta and serve.
Carrot Oat Bars – fab as a finger food or light bite
"My kids love an oatcake or a flapjack as an on-the-go snack or out and about lunch option. These are pretty quick to bung together and taste great too. They offer a nice sweet kick but have nowhere near the sweetness of your average flapjack!""
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Makes: 8-10 bars
olive oil or butter, to grease
½ carrot, peeled and grated
½ small apple, peeled and grated
2 bananas, mashed
1 tbsp smooth, 100 per cent
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a baking tray.
- Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix together with your hands or a spoon.
- Press the mixture into the greased baking tray.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Leave to cool before cutting into 8–10 bars.
For more recipes and advice from Charlotte check out her book here