Annabel Karmel's recipe for success

"I found myself wondering why we expect babies to like bland tasteless foods when that isn't what we enjoy as adults" ...
"I found myself wondering why we expect babies to like bland tasteless foods when that isn't what we enjoy as adults" ... Annabel Karmel  Photo: Supplied

How do you get a fussy baby to eat good food? It's a question faced by mothers around the world on a daily basis.

But Annabel Karmel's solution to that common parenting dilemma more than 20 years ago not only resulted in her son Nicholas devouring nutritious meals, it also lead to Karmel becoming a best-selling author and international authority on baby and toddler feeding.

"Nicholas was a very fussy eater and I wasn't sure what to do, and then I found myself wondering why we expect babies to like bland tasteless foods when that isn't what we enjoy as adults," Karmel remembers.

"So I came up with some tasty recipes that he enjoyed. Then while speaking to other mums at the the large playgroup I was running at the time I realised I was not the only woman dealing with a fussy eater, it was a very common problem."

That realisation resulted in Karmel sharing recipes with her fellow playground mums who were so impressed with their friend's delicious kid-friendly meals they encouraged her to write a book. 

For the next two-and-a-half years Karmel researched the most up to date information on child health nutrition in conjunction with UK Institute of Child Health.

She also continued to create taste combinations which had not been tried with baby food before such as avocado with banana and apple with sweet potato. She made chicken and apple balls in an effort to get Nicholas to eat meat and used dried apricots and prunes to add sweetness to savoury food.

The result of her research and recipe creation was her first book The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner, which despite initially being turned down by 15 publishers, went on to become the UK's second best-selling non-fiction hardback of all time.

Karmel has since published almost 40 more books which have sold more than four million copies worldwide making her the UK's number one parenting author.


Her interest in child nutrition and health wasn't purely due to her son's fussy eating habits - it was also prompted by the death of her first child at just three months old.

Baby Natasha tragically died of a viral infection in 1987, and the experience of losing her little girl is something which forever changed Karmel's outlook on life.

"Before Natasha's death I had a career as a harpist, but after her death I couldn't play music anymore it just seemed superficial and trivial," she explains.

"Then when Nicholas wouldn't eat, I was very vulnerable. I was a mother who had lost a child and now my second child wasn't eating and I was determined to find a solution."

Karmel went on to have two more children, daughters Lara and Scarlett, and continued to build her business while caring for her young family.

The now 51-year-old will be in Australia next month to attend the Essential Baby and Toddler show in Melbourne.·      

While here she will launch a frozen food range which provides quick and balanced mealtime solutions for parents. 

Karmel is very excited about the range, which is an international first, inspired by her popular cookbook recipes. It includes more than 30 tasty purees, toddler meals, finger food, and older kids meals.

"Creating a frozen range of baby, toddler and children’s food is very exciting because they are snap-frozen to lock-in all that nutritious goodness," she said.

"Even the fussiest of eaters will love my recipes, plus the range is free from artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives, with the meat and veggies sourced locally from Australian producers.”

The range includes mild butter chicken and rice, beefy sausages and sweet potato mash,·succulent lamb meatball tagine with rice and tender beef casserole with potatoes.

All meat and vegetables in the meals are sourced locally and the meals are made in Australia.

"These are quality meals and they will provide parents quick and healthy meal options for the children," Karmel says.

In addition to her recipe books, Karmel also recently released new book Mumpreneur: The Complete Guide to Starting and Running a Successful Business.

She was prompted to write the book because fellow mothers regularly ask her for advice on starting their own business while also caring for young children.

Karmel says in order to launch a successful start-up business women need to believe in themselves and utilise their networking skills.

She also says mums have to discover their "guilt threshold" when it comes to utilising childcare, and other help, in order to devote some time to their business. 

However, most importantly, Karmel advises mums to act on their idea and just get started.

"I believe the opposite of success is not failure, the opposite of success is not trying," she says.

Annabel’s new food range is available at Coles.

Annabel Karmel will be a special guest at the Essential Baby and Toddler Show from 10-12 April, Royal Exhibition Gardens Melbourne. She will feature on the seminar stage daily, sharing advice about nutrition for parents and children.