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Annabel Karmel's Tips For Your Fussy Eater

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

How the festive season can help get fussy toddlers trying new foods

By leading children’s cookery author Annabel Karmel, MBE


Good news! The fabulous festive season can work to your advantage in encouraging those fussy eaters in the family to explore their more adventurous side.

Christmas is such a magical time for children, with lots of new experiences and a constant sense of excitement in the air (understandably so – Santa’s nearly on his merry way!) So, if you have a picky eater on your hands, you can use this festive feel-good factor to encourage them to try new foods.

A Brimming Buffet

The ‘terrible twos,’ as they’re known, can be a challenging time for parents, and sadly, food can be one of the main tantrum triggers. They start trying to assert their growing sense of independence, and food is one of the easiest ways for them to take control: point-blank refusing what you’ve cooked up and put in front of them.

But the Christmas buffet could be your secret weapon! Allowing them to serve themselves (with some help from mum and dad for younger children), foodie spreads offer a more relaxed, informal setting, which can be empowering for fussy eaters. You get to choose a selection of healthy, nutritious foods, and your toddler gets to make the big decision about which ones to eat. Cold turkey, poached salmon, crudité and dips, and clementines are all great options.

Christmas Canapes

Kids often love to eat with their fingers, so canapes are the ideal bite-sized meal for tiny hands. More manageable mouthfuls are also less overwhelming for a small child. Serve some toddler-friendly canapes with your pre-dinner drinks, such as my fun Mini Veggie Christmas Shapes.

Give Food a Merry Makeover

If there’s ever an occasion to make food look as good as it tastes, it’s Christmas. Kids eat with their eyes, so why not decorate baked potatoes or mini burgers to look like Rudolph with a cherry tomato for the nose and pretzels or twirly crisps for the antlers? They can help you with this, too!

It goes without saying, but decorate the table with whatever looks bright and colorful – the more interesting the spread looks, the more your toddler will be drawn to it.

Get Crafty in The Kitchen

Christmas is a time for crafting lots of festive creations in the kitchen, so why not get them to join you? Getting children to take an active interest in what they’re eating is essential for their general health and well-being; they’ll be more tempted to give something a try if they’ve helped prepare it.

Make a Game Out of Trying New Foods

‘Tis the season for Christmas party games! Why not try a bit of festive food trivia with your little ones? Try playing a game and blindfold each child before introducing a food and ask them to guess what it is. Giving them facts is likely to make them more interested in what they are eating. Give them hints with a festive twist, e.g., if the carrot is part of your trivia game, you could give them a hint of ‘this is Rudolph’s favorite snack’ or clementine segments could be ‘Santa brings this in your Christmas stocking.’ Making trying new foods fun will work wonders.

Finally, we all know that at Christmas, there are lots more tempting treats around, and children will likely favor a chocolate Santa over a piece of fruit, for example. Treats are allowed (it is Christmas, after all!), but make sure you have a good range of different foods on offer and a supply of healthy snacks on hand. And why not try my Banana & Strawberry Santas, which offers a bit of festive fun but with a healthier take on the Christmas treat?

Happy Holidays!



These festively fruity lollipops are utterly adorable and are sure to impress little ones. Quick, easy, and a healthier festive treat option, they’ll be a party favorite.


2 large bananas

6 strawberries

3 large white marshmallows

6 mini marshmallows

6 wooden skewers

6 red M&Ms

Edible eyes

White writing icing


  1. Slice the bananas into three pieces to make the Santa faces.

  2. Insert a wooden skewer through the middle of the bananas so that there is a little poking out the top.

  3. To make your Santa hats, slice each large white marshmallow in half. Push one marshmallow on top of each banana using the top end of the wooden skewer. Put one large strawberry on top, followed by a mini marshmallow.

  4. Using writing icing to stick into place, decorate the faces with edible eyes and add red M&Ms for the noses.

*Be careful to remove the wooden skewers for little ones before tucking in.



The ultimate Christmas canape suitable for the whole family (baby included!) This is one fun and festive finger food fussy eaters won’t be able to resist…


100g sweet potatoes, peeled and grated 100g potatoes, mashed 50g Cheddar cheese, grated 2 spring onions, finely chopped 25g Parmesan cheese, grated 1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped 2 eggs, beaten 4 tbsp self-raising flour 20g dried cranberries, finely chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C Fan

  2. Put the grated sweet potatoes into a tea towel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

  3. Place small Christmas tree and star cookie cutters onto a baking sheet. Spoon the mixture into the cutters and press down to fill the space.

  4. Repeat with the remaining mixture to make about 12 shapes, leaving space in between them.

  5. Place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until pale golden and set in the middle.



Even the breakfast staple porridge can be given a festive flourish this Christmas! Task little ones with decorating their own reindeer face!


40g porridge oats

250ml milk (or dairy-free alternative)

1 banana


Pomegranate seed

2 mini croissants


  1. Put the oats and milk in a saucepan and then heat, stirring until bubbling. Simmer for 2 minutes.

  2. Mash half of the banana. Add to the porridge and stir. Spoon into a bowl. Slice 2 rounds from the banana and place on top of the porridge to make the eyes.

  3. Slice one croissant in half. Cut out an oval shape and place under the eyes. Put 2 blueberries on top of the banana to make the eyeballs. Put the pomegranate seeds on the croissant to make the nose.

  4. Insert the croissants on each side of the face for the antlers.



Ho-ho-ho! As the countdown to Christmas is underway, it’s time to start morphing your jacket potatoes into Rudolph. Perfect at keeping the kids happy at dinner time; plus, they contain hidden broccoli for extra green goodness.


2 baking potatoes

50g broccoli florets

Knob of butter

2 tbsp milk

25g mature Cheddar cheese, grated

20g cooked turkey, finely diced


2 cherry tomatoes

Large pretzels

Cocktail sticks

Edible eyes


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C Fan. Prick the potatoes and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.

  2. Cut a hole at the top of the potatoes. Remove the top and scoop out most of the potato. Mash the scooped-out potato in a bowl with the butter and the milk.

  3. Cook the broccoli in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and finely chop. Add to the potato with the cheese and turkey, mix well, and season to taste. Spoon back into the potato shells.

  4. To decorate, break the pretzels into pieces and insert into the potato to make the antlers. Insert a cocktail stick into a tomato. Add to the potato to make the nose. Finish off by adding the edible eyes.

*Be careful to remove the cocktail sticks for little ones before tucking in.



Annabel’s #1 rated recipe app is filled with over 750 simple and delicious ideas, PLUS new recipes every week. You’ll also have exclusive access to meal planners, shopping lists, an allergy tracker, and a popular listen-along weaning guide. It’s a kitchen essential for happy, healthy mealtimes. Visit the App Store or Google Play and start your FREE trial today!


Global expert in baby and children’s food

With expertise spanning over 30 years, Annabel Karmel reigns as the UK's no. 1 children’s cookery author, bestselling international author, and a world-leading expert on devising delicious, nutritious meals for babies, children, and families.

From kitchen table to global stage, Annabel has raised millions of families on her go-to recipes. The most trusted name in supporting families with practical, tasty ideas and advice, she has just launched her 50th cookbook. Visit and follow on Instagram and Facebook.

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