A QUESTION OF LOOKS

Whether it's showing who's in charge or just lack of interest, some children won't eat. Annabel Karmel suggests solutions; PART 2: THE EATING BATTLE
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The Independent Culture
Blessed is the mother who has never encountered the iron will of a child who will not eat. Battles over the dinner table are one of the more dubious pleasures of parenthood. Refusing food is one of the first ways young children can flex their muscles and assert their independence. It won't take your child long to realise how easy it is to manipulate their anxious parents when it comes to eating. A little saint can undergo a Jekyll and Hyde transformation at the mere sight of a highchair.

The majority of children will go through a stage of faddy eating at some time and while it is increasingly encouraged to grant them their rights, nobody wants to end up like the mother of Craig Flatman, the seven-year- old boy who would eat nothing but jam sandwiches.

Many a mother is initially lulled into a false sense of security as babies have a growth spurt, generally doubling their weight by six months and tripling it by their first birthday. In the second year a child's growth rate slows down, and it is quite normal for a baby to gain only a few pounds. But there are some useful tips if you find yourself with a child who really won't eat.

n Don't be drawn into fights at mealtimes and try not to show when you are upset. This is hard, but failing to provoke a reaction from you will go a long way to dampen your child's enthusiasm to play up in future.

n Without going to unnecessary lengths, it is important that your child's food not only tastes good but looks good too. Try to make food colourful and give small portions. Too much on a plate looks unappetising and children are not shy to ask for more if they enjoy their food.

n Eating between meals often spoils appetites and leads to trouble at mealtimes. Cut out empty calories like biscuits, and offer healthy alternatives like raw vegetables and fruit instead.

n Be consistent about your rules for mealtimes. For example, do not offer lots of alternatives to a meal one day only to insist that your child must eat what's on their plate the next.

n Food is more than just a biological need, it expresses love and caring. Whenever possible let your child enjoy the warmth and pleasure of family meals. Children are great mimics, and if they see their parents enjoying their food ....

SOMETHING'S FISHY

Attractive presentation can help stimulate your child's appetite. Sandwiches like the ones pictured below will only take few minutes to pre-pare, but could encourage a fussy infant to eat.

a long bread roll

a little butter and mayonnaise

some soft lettuce

1 hard-boiled egg

1 tomato

2 blueberries

some sliced cucumber

Cut open the roll just below the middle and spread both halves with butter. Put some lettuce, sliced boiled egg and a little mayonnaise on the bottom half. Position two slices of tomato on one end so that they protrude a little over the edge of the roll. Cover with the top of the roll and fix two blueberry eyes into position with toothpicks (these will also hold the tomatoes in place). Cut a shallow groove along the middle of the top of the roll and insert some half slices of cucumber to make the fins.

SUPER SATAY CHICKEN

Children often adore peanut butter, so they will like the flavour of this chicken satay. Food on a stick also seems to go down well and you can add vegetables like mushrooms, onions or sweet pepper to the satay sticks if you like. I prefer to make this using boned chicken thighs as they are more moist and tender than chicken breasts. If you want to use chicken breasts, add half a tablespoon of oil to the marinade.

8 chicken thighs or 2 small chicken breasts

For the marinade:

2 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon runny honey

12 tablespoon mild curry powder

1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter

vegetables of your choice

Trim and cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized chunks. Mix together the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken for at least two hours or overnight. Soak four skewers in water to prevent them from scorching. When ready to cook, thread the chicken on to the skewers with the vegetables of your choice and cook under a pre-heated grill for about 10 minutes or until cooked through, turning and basting occasionally.

! Annabel Karmel's cookbooks are available by post and can be ordered directly on 0171 355 4555

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