Sunday, May 3, 2015

A chat with inspiring mumpreneur and best selling author Annabel Karmel

Last week, I had the chance to sat down at The Four Seasons Jumeirah with Annabel Karmel, the Queen of Children's Nutrition. I was honored to be offered the opportunity to meet the inspiring lady. She's UK’s number 1 and worldwide recognize children’s cookery author and expert on delicious, nutritious meals for babies, children and families. Mother of three children, she's a mumpreneur: founder and chief executive of Annabel Karmel Group Holdings, a company that includes her book royalties, her “Make it Easy” kitchen equipment range and branding rights for her various food ranges sold in many supermarkets.

Annabel's food philosophy and nutrition expertise came into our life when Luella (now 6) was a toddler. I loved looking into her books for ideas and inspiration - she made it look easy, yummy and healthy. Now with an 8 month old baby, I am all into weaning and introducing new food group and setting up healthy long term habits. Thanks to Annabel first best seller The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner, I should be on the right track. Her new range of baby purées and snack available in Dubai supermarket will make lunch of the go a convenient and nutritious option.

Firstly we talked about her visit to the Middle East and her interest in Dubai. Annabel visited the UAE  during the Literary Festival a few years back, she discovered that the region has the second highest rate of diabetes in the world, and wanted to help mothers of diabetic children here. Getting to the problem early with children, by teaching them to eat healthy is the best way to control the issue of diabetes and obesity. "If you target children, that’s the best way to try to beat this: get kids to eat well early on, because it is very difficult to break habits ­after the age of 5." Annabel new range of food available in Spinney’s like baby pasta, food crisps & a whole range of products for babies & children will help busy mums provide an healthy food choice. It's also a great way to control what's given to your child if you are not the one looking after your child during the day.

As a successful author with a catalogue of 37 books published in the last 20 years, I asked her which of her book she would recommend as initial purchase? For a new mom, she would definitely say the Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner which was her very first book. Since launching the book in 1991, it has stood the test of time as it is still the UK’s number one best-selling book on feeding babies and children after more than two decades. It includes nutritional guidance on how to give your baby the best start in life with easy recipes for babies and toddlers and lots of time-saving tips and meal planners.

I started the weaning process with Josefin, couple of months a go. I was interested to ask Annabel about mums common concern when time comes to start solid food / puree. Allergies are a common concern. Annabel says: "There’s this theory that one of the reasons there’s a higher instance of allergies is because we’re bringing up babies in a very sterile environment." She believe it's harmful to not stimulate a baby's immune system properly. She recommend to introduce eggs or peanut butter from six months (provided that there’s no history of allergy in the family). "A lot of parents avoid really important foods like eggs - which are actually very nutritious - because they worry about allergies, but by avoiding these foods they’re probably doing more harm than good. For example, well-cooked scrambled eggs are packed with iron and important nutrients," Annabel says.

I asked annabel about fussy eaters and what's her best advise. Let them be hungry she replied! Fussy eaters tend to stick to four things, but if you allow your child to be hungry and don’t give them an alternative, they will eat different things. Also, the way that you present the food to your child is very important, because very often they will say something is ‘yucky’, but that’s just because they don’t like the look of it. Another good idea is to get the  kids involved in cooking. It's fun, but it’s also highly educational.

We talked about the connection between the habits mums bring in when their children are young and the habits and attitudes to food when adults. The first few years of a child’s life dictate their diet in the future. In the first few years their eating habits are formed. There is a window of opportunity between six to 12 months to make sure your babies preference in taste leans more towards healthy food rather than the junk food.

An easy tip for busy mum? Freezing! Annabel recommends: “Make purees for your baby in big batches which you can freeze in little individual portions and then defrost for mealtimes.”

With three children herself, I was interested to know how did she manage juggling the work-family balance"I made a conscious effort to ensure I was organised and prepared so that when we all came home from a busy day, there was a good, wholesome meal awaiting my family." Annabel suggest a one meal rule; so many parents end up cooking separate meals for the children. Try making a large fish pie or lasagne and pop small individual portions in ramekins for the children. Wholesome meals needn’t be expensive either; frozen fruit and vegetables can be cheaper than fresh, but just as nutritious. Dried and canned lentils and beans are also great as they’re full of nutrients; ideal for bulking up meals and inexpensive.

Annabel has been very open about why and how she started this incredible journey and became the queen of children's nutrition after the death of her baby girl. So I asked Annabel the mumpreneur, what was the best advise she received when she started? Of course choosing something that you love and do some research - to find a gap in the market. Her recently released book Mumpreneur is a great tool for mum start-ups. I  am currently reading it and feel confident it will be inspiring and loaded with tips and advice on taking a personnel business to the next level. She describe women as individual with entrepreneurial spirit (and military multitasking skills) who have passion and strength to transform their passions into thriving businesses.

It has been an honor to bring Dubai our Sandbox readers this exclusive interview with Annabel Karmel. We look forward to welcome her again soon in Dubai. 

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