Healthy Food Swaps All Year Round – by Annabel Karmel

21st January 2019
Annabel Karmel

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Forget New Years; you can make positive changes for you and your family at any time. After all, every day is a new day. Every day is a chance for a fresh approach, especially when it comes to introducing new healthy food swaps.

Why not make today the day you shake-up what your family is eating. Pick recipes bursting with vibrant colours, filled with flavour and packed full of nutrients to give your child.

When daily life is busy, it’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut at mealtimes, serving the same handful of meals week in, week out.  Chicken nuggets, chips and pizza often end-up being easy go-to foods when time isn’t on your side. And unfortunately, that means that nutritional quality often ends up coming a sad second to quickness.  After all, children don’t want to wait when they are hungry.

Did you know that more often than not, the more colourful a food, the better it is for you? And there are lots of easy wins such as peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, salmon and sweetcorn which provide a rainbow of colour and are packed with goodness.

Scrambled egg muffins Looking at your daily food routine, I would start by introducing eggs for breakfast as they’re packed with protein, iron, Vitamin D and essential omega-3 fatty acids, as well as lots more good stuff for your growing family. They will help to kick-start your little one’s day and keep them feeling fuller for longer – meaning they’ll reach less for sugary snacks. Try my Scrambled Egg with Salsa on English Muffins. Avocados and tomatoes are also fantastic highly nutritious morning foods so if you can add these in, then do.

The subject of ‘healthy snacking’ regularly crops up and I often get asked for post-nursery and after school snacks or playdate recipe inspiration. The good news is that snacks needn’t be public enemy number one.

I’m a firm believer in the age-old saying of ‘everything in moderation’. I don’t believe we should be shunning treats altogether. It’s all about striking that healthy balance. As long as your child isn’t having sugary snacks and puddings every day, they are active, and they are getting a good mix of nutritious foods at mealtimes, there is nothing wrong with a treat every once in a while.

Children consume a third of their daily intake at nursery or at school, so practitioners have an important role in feeding children as well as promoting a healthy lifestyle.

It sounds obvious but we need to avoid empty calorie snacks such as bars of chocolate, sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks as these don’t offer any nutritional value and will do a lot more harm than good. That being said, I know healthy snacking can be an example of one of those ‘easier said than done’ scenarios, particularly when out and about.

If you can make your own, then do, as it’s a good opportunity to get the kids involved in the preparation too. Not only is this a great way to spend some quality time together and an opportunity to teach them new skills, but it will also do the job of making them understand that treats are not readily available to have every day.

Here are some of my top picks for snacking healthier:

  • Cheese muffins A delicious homemade savoury muffin makes for a delicious snack and will help top up your children’s energy levels mid-afternoon. You can experiment with lots of different and fillings and toppings. A particular favourite of mine is a combination of spiced apple, squash and carrot or my Cheese & Cherry Tomato Muffins are always a hit!
  • My Mini Energy Balls are free of refined sugar and packed with oats, seeds, nuts and dates. Containing lots of good-for-you ingredients – dried fruit contains fibre and iron, nuts provide all-important omega 3s and oats help release energy slowly throughout the day, these are ideal to take out and about with you and a healthy snack the whole family will love.
  • It’s obvious, but vegetables are a smart way to snack, however sometimes they need a little livening up to appeal to hungry tots. Interestingly, children who don’t like cooked veggies will often eat them raw. Cut up some batons of cucumber, carrot and red pepper or some naturally sweet sugar snaps and add some tasty dips such as guacamole, fresh tomato salsa or hummus to the mix. Even the most ardent veggie hater will be back for more!

Melon flowers

  • Chopped, bite-sized pieces of fruit threaded onto straws are a quick and healthy option. Or you could try getting a little more creative win the presentation – my Melon Flowers will go down a treat, or, it’s no secret that kids love pizza so transform watermelon into slices of ‘pizza’ complete with toppings of berries, yogurt and fresh mint. Try out my recipe below.

Remember that living a happy and healthy lifestyle is all about balance. We should absolutely be mindful of sugar, salt and added ingredients but it’s about educating our children from a young age on where food comes from, the nutritional value and importance of a balanced diet.

Don’t miss Annabel Karmel’s seminar about how Early Years Practitioners can help ensure children stay fuelled on all the right foods at Childcare Expo London on Friday 1st March at Olympia London! Register today to save your seats!

For lots more recipe inspiration visit and join the AK Club for free.


Watermelon pizza

Prep: 10 minutes

Makes: 1 watermelon pizza


1 watermelon

300g natural yogurt

A selection of fresh berries such as blueberries, strawberries and redcurrants

Mint leaves, for decoration

Honey or maple syrup, to drizzle


  1. Cut a thick slice of Watermelon, roughly 1 inch thick.
  2. Dollop yogurt onto the slice of watermelon then top with fresh berries, mint and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Cut into pizza slices and serve.

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