A brief backstory for you all. I tried to eat a wide variety of healthy foods when I was pregnant because I wanted to give my daughter the best start at a diverse pallet, as well as excellent nutrition obviously! However, when the time came to introduce solids, I was so was incredibly anxious. I had no idea where to begin, what to start with, how much was too much food...? I found myself asking all my friends about it, and eventually my sweet friend Kyla gave me Annabel's Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner. I'll never forget opening her book, reading the introduction and feeling such an incredible wave of relief. I was instantly inspired, and felt my confidence building with each homemade meal I prepared from her book. I started to create my own recipes and my passion for eliminating the expression "kid food" in our home has been a huge success and quite an enjoyable challenge. Some of the most engaging posts on my Instagram are surrounding the meals I make for my daughter.
Annabel's story is complicated and beautiful, stemming from the loss of her first born daughter. Annabel wanted to create a legacy in her daughter's memory, and she has done that in spades. She is has pioneered the way babies and toddlers eat in the UK, and now you can find her products in countries all over the world as well.
So, without further adieu, let me introduce to you the one and only, Annabel Karmel.
WELCOME Annabel! Let's dive in, shall we:
Describe your personality in three words.
"Obsessed with Food!"
Your passion for cooking began when you were living in Holland. What was that experience like for you as an expat and a cooking novice?
A lot of people don’t know that I actually started working life as a musician. I was a talented harpist and studied classical music at the Conservatoire in the Hague, Holland. It was while I was living in Holland that I very quickly realised I had to fend for myself. Part of this meant that I had to figure out how to cook, and it was during this time that my love of cooking really began. Each week my mother would send me recipes which I would try out and by the time I returned home, cooking had become a real hobby of mine.
What is a day in the life of Annabel Karmel like?
No two days are the same! I definitely don’t ever sit still and I am extremely hands on. I like to be in the office as much as I can, so that's where you'll find me when I’m not out at various meetings with brands, retailers, suppliers, attending an event, filming or working on my next book! Our digital team, PR, marketing and sales departments are the eyes and ears of the business, so we regularly come together to discuss how we can continue to build the brand, act on our successes and share new ideas.
I still dedicate one day a week to developing new recipe ideas, so every Tuesday you’ll find me cooking up something new in my kitchen. I love having this day out of the office, away from my desk, to get creative and discover new foodie favourites – some of which can often spark the idea for a new book. I trial and tweak ingredients, texture and method until I’m happy.
I don’t ever want to stop this aspect of my job as it’s where it all began for me back in 1991 with the Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner. Evenings and weekends are all about family and friends and one of my greatest pleasures definitely has to be dinner with my three children – Nicholas, Lara and Scarlett. Now they are in their twenties! You really have to grab these opportunities when you can!
You have three beautiful children as you mentioned above. Were they picky eaters, and what did they teach you about motherhood?
Perseverance! Any parent out there with a fussy eater will appreciate the vulnerability and frustration you can feel.
When I started out, there were no recipe books out there that provided meals which tasted as good as the recipes I was preparing. My ingredient combinations were truly unique. Getting a child to eat well can be a real challenge (and utterly draining), but I kept at it, and it’s because of Nicholas’s fussiness that I am where I am today.
My children are now all grown up in their twenties, but if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have become such a celebrated author and a leading name in baby and children’s food. They are my daily motivation, and I couldn’t have taken on this journey without them. My passion for what I do seems to have caught on with my daughter Lara who joined the business in 2016.
What's the best piece of advice you could give to our postnatal readers?
If you’ve just welcomed a very special new member into the family, then – congratulations! It’s such an exciting time but your day-to-day is set to get a little bit more jam-packed! It’s important for you to continue to eat well both for you and for your baby.
Here are my top foodie tips for new mum "Kate" starting her incredible journey:
1. If breastfeeding, your fluid requirements increase dramatically so keep a close eye on your daily intake and remember to stay hydrated. Kate should be drinking lots of water, herbal teas or unsweetened fruit juices, and keep a bottle of water handy when she breastfeeds.
2. Try to up your all-important intake of calcium, iron and fibre-rich foods:
Fibre. Kate should aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and include plenty of fibre. She can get this much-needed dose from fruit and vegetables as well as wholemeal bread, pasta and whole grains. After childbirth, women can often suffer from constipation - soluble and insoluble fibre can help with this.
Iron. Red meat, dark green leafy vegetables and pulses such as lentils are all good sources of iron. If you’re a vegetarian then lentils are good, but should be consumed alongside a source of vitamin C which has been proven to help enhance iron absorption.
Calcium. Kate should be aiming for 4-5 servings of dairy or other calcium-rich foods each day. A great way to start the morning is with a bowl of granola topped with fruit and yoghurt or some delicious bircher muesli soaked in milk. Plus, it’s two for the price of one in the nutrition stakes - oats and bran are low GI foods, so they will help fuel your body through a busy morning.
We know that the healthy omega-3 fats contained in oily fish are important for your brain, nervous system and vision and they continue to be hugely important post-pregnancy. Try making my super simple Salmon Fishcakes to provide an important and delicious dose of the good stuff! Just remember that if breastfeeding, you should eat no more than two portions of oily fish a week.
What stars had to align for you to go from cookbook author to having your food stocked at Tesco, Morrisons, Woolworths and beyond?
I first gained the confidence to launch my own range of children’s food after learning about the retail sector when acting as an expert to retail giants Marks & Spencer and Boots in the UK. Marks & Spencer had wanted to launch a range of children’s food and, completely out of the blue, asked me to be their food consultant.
I spent nearly two years talking to focus groups and it was a complete education in building a food range from scratch: thinking about who the consumer was, working out the nutritional information, recipe choice, understanding packaging and the importance of pricing.
Three years later Boots asked me to work with them on a baby range that would be jointly branded Annabel Karmel and Boots. They wanted me to decide which products I thought would work in their stores. I designed a range called ‘Make It Easy’, which included both equipment and baby foods, and would be sold on the shelf alongside my books.
This experience was invaluable. Under the aegis of two major retailing companies, I was given the opportunity to listen, learn and become my own expert.
And it was during this time that I learned to tune in and listen to my own instinct. I knew I had it in me to produce my own food range under the Annabel Karmel brand – and it all stemmed from there.
A big part of my mission is to offer healthy meal solutions for busy families. So many parents want to cook healthy meals from scratch, but often hectic schedules get in the way. Busy days still deserve the best mealtimes, and that’s why I’ve created a special range of snap-frozen meals for babies and toddlers in Australia.
Babies will love my nutritiously balanced Peel & Pop Purees made with 100% real fruit and veggies which are snap-frozen to lock in the taste and goodness. I have also developed 15 delicious meals for children aged 1-4. A tasty way towards their 5-a-day, they make for the perfect freezer filler.
Best part about living in the UK is…
I love the food scene in the UK, particularly in London. Going out for dinner and catching up with friends and family over good food is one of life’s great pleasures. Since I love to cook, when I eat out, I want it to be special and food that I often wouldn’t cook myself at home. I adore Japanese food, and there are some incredible Japanese foodie spots here in London.
I also love the great British countryside. My dogs are a big part of my life, and spending time with them is incredibly therapeutic and important to me. If I’m in need of a boost, I’ll take Bono (American Cocker Spaniel), Hamilton (Samoyed) and Sabre (Golden Retriever) away for a weekend of long walks or off to the nearest park for a good dose of fresh air.
You’ve penned 44 cookbooks (and counting)! How do you keep inspired to keep creating year after year?
My vision today is the same as it was over 25 years ago. I set out on a mission to show the world that you can make tasty recipes for babies and children. I want to continue to empower and inspire mums across the world to give their families the best start in life and to raise their children on healthy, wholesome diets.
What, or who, inspires you above all else?
My three children are my inspiration and motivation – and Natasha. I started out on my food journey wanting to give some meaning to Natasha’s short life and my first book was a legacy to her. My passion to succeed continued to be fuelled by Natasha and my three children who are so supportive.
My mother is also a huge inspiration to me. She is a wonderful woman with an amazing work ethic. She is still busy working now as an architect and interior designer.
I absolutely love running my own business, and I still love what I do 26 years on!
What do you love about your work?
Everything! I always say that if you choose a job that you love you will never have to work a day in your life. What you do for yourself dies with you, but what you do for others lives on. I hope that my recipes and the work that I have done in the field of children will continue.
The knowledge in my books and food products makes it as if I'm there every stage of a child’s life, helping to look after them (and mum and dad too). Success in my eyes starts by eating well while pregnant to feeding babies, toddlers and families.
The most famous person I’ve ever cooked for is …
I have cooked for many celebrities and indeed chefs. Although I'm best known for baby & toddler food, I also make delicious food for adults. I'm especially pleased when cooking for well-known chefs as it's a challenge and I think they probably expect carrot puree... but get a gourmet meal that could stand up to a Master Chef grilling!
Your new book Real Food Kids Will Love has just been released! I love scratching the term “kid food,” and your book seems to do just that. What age do you think babies are ready to join their parents at meal time?
Home-cooked family meals are often the best meals. It’s not about spending hours slaving over the stove, it’s about finding solutions that work for your family, and often that means quick, balanced meals which are simple to prepare and taste delicious.
My advice is to try and introduce tasty, healthy alternatives early on. My new book Real Food Kids Will Love brings together delicious recipes for kids aged one to five. It includes all the things mums want such as 15 minute favourites, making your own healthy fast food, and one–pot batch cooking. There is also dairy free and egg free recipes, vegetarian and vegan recipes.... as well as a collection of dishes that young children can make themselves.
2018 / 2019 will be epic because…
I want to continue to innovate in the children’s food sector with even more flavour-fuelled, ready-to-go recipes based on my much-loved trusted cookbooks. We’ll also be working on making our products available for many more parents in even more territories.
We are also heavily investing in our digital channels, so we will be developing even more content and helpful advice for parents. We are also currently working on a number of exciting education initiatives which will equip parents with even more useful tools to be able to give their baby the very best start. Watch this space!
We sure will Annabel! x
If you have any particular questions for me, or about Annabel's books, comment below!
My daughter just turned 13 months and she has already taken 18 flights! In that time we've only had one bad experience, which is amazing considering we've taken three international flights, and fifteen domestic trips. In terms of the flying component; I believe a lot of it comes down to luck and having a healthy baby (a good temperament doesn't hurt either).
I did an Instagram poll asking who might be interested in learning a few of my tips for stress free flying as well as how to travel smoothly with kids in general. There was an overwhelming YES response, so I've accumulated a few of my techniques to share with you. I'll touch on traveling, what I pack and tips for healthy eating while on the road.
(ATTN: These are tips for flying and hotel accommodation- not road trips as we have yet to do one! We will take out first family road trip in July, so I will document that as well. Also, I know that some of these tips might not be appropriate for your child depending on their age, but here are my tricks of the trade nonetheless.)
I know what you're thinking, DUH! This seems like a given. What kind of snacks you bring is key in my opinion. Obviously sugary snacks that will make your kid peak and then crash in a fiery inferno are not ideal. My daughter is only 13 months old, so in the last few months I've been giving her foods that are small to help her practice and improve her motor skills. It takes her a bit of time to pick which berry she wants, master that pincer grip, and then pop it in her mouth. Before I travel, I stock up on fresh organic blueberries and have them ready, washed and packed in my carry on bag. I buy organic berries because non organic berries are known to be highly sprayed with pesticides. To save some cash, buy organic frozen blueberries from Costco in bulk, which are handy and only coast about $12 AUD from memory. Otherwise, plain frozen blueberries from Wollys or Coles work too. Just take them out of the freezer before leaving to catch your flight.
2. Travel Wise:
I've had the most rewarding travel experiences with Qantas. Each time I've flown with my daughter, they've always exceeded my expectations ten fold (even more so when I'm flying solo without my husband's help). The flight attendants are always eager to help and have a cuddle so I could use the bathroom with ease. They continually made sure I was well fed and watered, much like a prize stallion.
Also, did you know you can sign your baby up for frequent flyers with Qantas? Probably didn't, hey? Check out this link to see what the Joey Club has on offer, and to create their Joey Frequent Flyers account so you can start building their flying credit.
3. Interactive Toys:
Bringing toys also seem like a no brainer. I find that toys which can be fun, yet discreet, are key. I'm not going to bring her little drum set on the plane, now am I? There are really neat toys out there now, not like the ones we grew up with.
Books are my go to. I love small, palm sized board books that can be chucked around, get wet and wear well. The ones that have peek a boo flaps are particularly good.
Teethers are fantastic. Flying can aggravate babies ears, so chewing and sucking are great ways to help combat that build up of pressure. The nice thing about tethers is that they don't make any noise, and yet still provide relief and soothe gums.
These insanely gorgeous teethers from Grey and Gingham. They're stylish and functional for littles. G+G also sell teething bundles with a drool bib AND a matching teether if you're about keeping that outfit on point!.
A small plush rattle is good for young babies, and so are wooden blocks. I usually only travel will two or three blocks for the sake of easy. Whether I'm traveling or not, I'm always looking for toys that will expose her to a variety of shapes, sounds and textures.
3. I always try to anticipate roadblocks when we travel, so I try to prepare for everything. For example, we have two types of nappys in our home, one for daytime and another for nighttime. If I'm traveling, I'll put her nighttime nappy on before the plane departs because I know it's more absorbent. I've found that even little adaptations such as these can make a world of difference.
Let's get you organized:
1. Try to book a hotel or accommodation with a kitchenette. Being able to make your own food and meal prep is a sure fire way to keep a healthy, well balanced diet in action.
2. Toiletries: I always travel with our own body wash, face wash, moisturizer, and shampoo. Knowing exactly what's in the products we use is a great way to keep healthy and free from toxic exposure to things like Parabens, SLS, Phthalates and Parfum. I recommend Black Chicken Remedies, Dr. Bronner's and Beauty and the Bees if you are on the hunt for clean body care alternatives.
3. Bedding: I like to pack my daughter's own cot sheets if room allows. They remind her of home and the familiar smell would be comforting.
4. Routine, routine routine: I always bring her sleeping bags - the one she naps in and the one she sleeps in overnight. I try to keep her routine the same, even though we are in a completely different place. I also travel with our iPad which has a white sound app called Sleep Pillow. It's a free app that we use daily to play her lullaby on a 15 minute timer before every nap and bedtime. It might seem a bit like Pavlov's dog-esk, but when she hears the song, she knows it's time to sleep.
5. Bath Time: I've given my daughter a number of baths in the hotel bathroom sink. It's cramped, no doubt about it, but it gets the job done and it's cleaner than a hotel bath tub in my opinion.
Maintaining Healthy Habits
1. Utilize Your Bar Fridge: When we went away to Cairns recently I didn't know we would be without a kitchen. I made the most of it by heading to the shops and topping up with a few staples. I got natural yogurt and kefir which I kept in our little bar fridge. I also bought chia seeds by weight from the local shops, so each morning she would have a breastfeed, followed by a small bowl of yogurt with chia seeds and a piece of fruit. It made for a quick, easy, healthy (and cheap!) brekkie.
2. Heat It Up: I also bought some instant, plain oatmeal as well. You can add water and microwave it in your room for a quick breakfast or snack. If you don't have a microwave in your room, just head to the hotel reception and they will heat it for you. This can be said for bottles of milk, formula or heating a pouch of baby food.
3. Head to the Local Farmer's Market: I like to keep healthy food easily accessible in my hotel room and diaper bag (I'm a notorious snacker), so I went the farmer's market and bought a bunch of yummy fruit. I love shopping at outdoor markets because they support local farmers, the produce is insanely fresh, and it's also more competitively priced. Some of my go-to items from the farmer's market while on the road are: kiwi, paw-paw, apples, bananas, plums, and mandarines. I know fruit can have a lot of natural sugar, but by consuming the whole piece you're getting a big punch of fibre. In my mind, grabbing some fruit to go is better than diving into a bag of processed food, chips or a candy bar.
4. Be a Side Chick: If you're like me and don't enjoying eating out a lot, vacation can be tough! On our most recent trip to far north Queensland we were eating out twice a day, everyday. That was hard to do myself, let alone with a 12 months old in tow.
5. Make Time for Mama: There were many nights when my daughter went to bed at 7pm, which meant that I was stuck in our hotel room for 12 hours! Carve out time for yourself when you can to keep your cup full! Most evenings I covered half of the cot with a blanket to block out light so I could watch TV. I also used the few hours before bed to do some work, blog and snack on some popcorn while doing a face mask. There is no reason to resent your kids on the road, make it work for you! I highly recommend some yoga or mediation during nap time too because it's a quiet exercise that's great for your mind and body.
When I was pregnant I made a lot of plans, because that's what you do when you try to imagine what your life will be like when you have a small human to look after, feed and keep alive. You have no clue what you're getting into, so you daydream about what your baby will look like, what YOU might look like postpartum, and the state of your home while trying to juggle a family growing in size.
I imagined that I'd have an immaculate house that always had classical music on, no TV in the background, and my daughter would only have eco friendly wooden toys scattered around the floor. I certainly would not feed her from a pouch and I would make everything from scratch.
Ha. Ha. Ha. Haaaaaaaa.
Let me tell you something about expectations. The secret of happiness is: to have low expectations. Ok, I'm joking, but let's get one thing straight. You don't get a medal for being the hardest working mum. You don't get a medal for having an immaculately clean house while having a baby either. Why put yourself through the wringer if it's going to make you miserable, and consequently, make your family unhappy too?
My sister in law had recommended Bellamy's baby rice cereal when the time came to introduce solids. I didn't want to make my own rice cereal, so I knew whatever we chose had to be high quality, non- GMO and organic (duh). Bellamy's porridge and rice cereal ticked all the boxes and my daughter loveddddd it. We mixed the baby rice cereal with breastmilk for a week and a half or so, before I started to introduce her to more variety. The best thing about the rice cereal (and the porridge) was that I always had it on hand to mix with any puree to thicken it up and increase the iron content. There is no added sugar or salt and it's made in Australia, which is another huge win in my books.
Easy As Brekkie for a 4+ Month old
Bellamy's Organics baby rice cereal or porridge (follow instruction on the packet)
+ Breastmilk or H20
Mash the banana and avocado with a fork. Add the rice cereal and mix with breastmilk or water until you reach your desired consistency
When my daughter's sleep routine changed I decided to make the most of her time awake. This meant heading out to run errands (or just live life outside the house) between her naps. I didn't always have the time, or the equipment, to heat, warm, and carry my homemade baby purees. I faced a bit of a conundrum. It was around this time that we had truly established hearty solids, which was a smoother transition than I thought I might add, and I stumbled across the range on offer from Bellamy's Organic at Chemist Warehouse.
I had thought, for God knows what reason, that I would be a "bad mom" if I fed my baby from a pouch. Not only is that ridiculous, but it's Mom Shaming - of myself! "
I gravitated toward the pouches with protein and veggies, over the fruit filled options. Our favourites are as follows:
Organic chicken sweet potato and cous cous
Organic broccoli beef and brown rice
Organic pumpkin and tomato risotto
My daughter enjoys them immensely and they have saved the day on more than one occasion. My daughter is like me, and when HANGRY sets in, she needs to eat, like five minutes ago. I'm so happy to have found these and had them on hand when we needed that extra hour out and about or simply to take the edge off when I had my hands full or was unable to breastfeed.
I had thought, for God knows what reason, that I would be a "bad mom" if I fed my baby from a pouch. Not only is that ridiculous, but it's Mom Shaming - of myself! These have been a great supplement to her diet when necessary, and so handy for traveling or simply on-the-go #momlife. I always try to have a few in the cupboard and stock up when I'm at Chemist Warehouse or Coles.
For those of you with older babies,I would also recommend their pastas! These can be blended directly into your homemade purees in the early stages of solids, or you can keep them whole, adding them to your own creations to change the texture. I would defrost and warm my daughter's purees and then spoon a tablespoon or two of the Organic Veggie Alphabet Pasta in and mix it well. This was a great way to teach her how to chew, safely I might add, and I loved that they used beetroot, tomato and spinach to make the pasta.
Easy as Lunch or Dinner for a 6+ Month Old
STEAM 1 bunch of asparagus, 100 grams of green beans(ends trimmed), and 1 head of broccoli florets
Add some of the hot water from the steamer and blend
(makes 4-5 servings)
To serve a single meal: spoon the green puree, like a sauce, over 2-3 tablespoons of the alphabet pasta
- Full Recipe -
I remember what it was like embarking on this journey of weaning. I felt so overwhelmed when it should really be a time of exploration and excitement.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
Baby products are some of the most toxic out there believe it or not, and we wanted to make sure that everything touching our daughter was going to help, not hinder, her skin, body or endocrine system.
The baby product market is a multi-million dollar niche that attempts to convince you that your baby needs shampoos, lotions and soaps. I firmly believe that less is more in this case. I was even told by a nurse at my daughter's well check that children don't need soap until they're about seven years old! SEVEN! Imagine if you could save your child seven years worth of harmful chemical exposure.
Eliminating fragrance was at the top of our list because fragrance can trigger allergies, interfere with the immune system, and irritate the lungs. We also wanted to eliminate and avoid: talc, parabens, and SLS.
Here are a few of our go-to items that I'd like to share with you.
Thankyou nappys (or diapers for the Americans out there), are unisex nappys.
Why do I like this product?
The main reasons are because they don't have any chlorine, fragrance, or latex. They are also hypoallergenic, affordable and can handle a sloppy newborn poop pretty well. Using metal and lead free ink for their unisex designs was a bonus, and the fact that they use sustainable products to make the nappies was a neat fact to learn. The nappies are about 40% biodegradable at this stage, but they do offer a modern cloth nappy for those of you that are interested or want to be more environmentally friendly.
They are available at Baby Bunting, Coles and Woolworths.
Every 103 seconds a mother dies in childbirth. Globally, 2.7 million babies don’t make it through their first month of life every year because they don’t have access to basic health care.
I love products that give back, and this is the entire premise of the Thankyou company. You can use the unique Tracker ID on your Thankyou product to see the exactly what project your money funded. How cool is that? If you are keen to know more, watch this.
These are the only wipes that contain 99.9% water and a drop of grapefruit seed extract – a natural skin conditioner. The wipes are quite thin compared to others on the market, such a Huggies. I find they worked really well with the newborn poops because they were so wet. We are so happy to have found these, so a big thank you to my friend Marina for recommending them to me.
Why do I like this product?
There are only two ingredients, and I can pronounce both of them, so you know I'm all in. Chemical free is what we like to hear when striving for low tox living.
You can buy them at loads of places across in Australia. A pack of four sets you back $25 from Chemist warehouse. Not bad at all, and they last us ages (I use 1-2 wipes per nappy change).
Dr. Bronner's Magic Baby Balm
I call this the everyday balm for every day maladies. It provides instant relief for dry skin, which we have been struggling with of late.
Why do I like this product?
This baby balm isn't scented and everyone in the household can use it. Mum, Dad, bub, anyone. I love versatile products that can be used by all members of the family.
This Magic Baby Balm has no synthetic ingredients and is made from a soothing blend of organic beeswax, organic coconut, organic avocado oil, organic jojoba oil and organic hemp oil. All of which are super nourishing for the skin.
Hevea natural Rubber Soother 3 Months +
100% natural rubber soother.
Why do I like this product?
These soothers are BPA, phthalate and PVC free. They have an anatomical style, and the duck shaped holes on the front offer added ventilation. There are loads of different patterns to choose from if baby ducks aren't your thing.
Calendula Nappy Change Cream
A nourishing nappy change cream that is free of propylene glycol, surfactants and triclosan.
Why do I like this product?
Skin friendly lanolin and zinc oxide provide a protective barrier against excessive moisture. Organic almond oil, organic calendula and chamomile extracts help to soothe the skin as well.
Upon further research I discovered that there were trance amount of parfum (fragrance) in this product, so we are no longer using it.
What are your favorite baby products? Please share and comment below. I'd love to expand my knowledge about suitable baby friendly products!
This little corner of the internet is for non yoga topics like motherhood, low-tox living and products I love.