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Got a baby, toddler or older child food question? Annabel has the solution

Is he really full?
My four-year-old son says he’s full when he’s barely finished half of what’s on his plate. Is there something wrong with him or should I just try to give him less food but more often?
Angela Weston, 36, Birmingham

Annabel replies: Too much food on a plate can be off putting. Keep portions small and give second helpings if requested. It’s a good idea to make individual portions of food like shepherd’s pie in ramekin dishes. It is much more appealing than a big dollop of food on a plate.

Mealtimes are social occasions so set a good example by eating with your child as often as possible. You can’t expect your child to realise that meal times involve sitting down in one place for some time unless he sees you and the rest of the family doing the same thing. Try to avoid distractions at mealtimes like television.

Avoid giving your son empty calorie snacks like crisps or soft drinks and keep a supply of healthy snacks on hand – maybe have a low shelf in the fridge with cut up fresh fruit and other healthy foods. When children are hungry, they won’t wait. Timing is important when a child comes home from school as he is usually very hungry so this is a good time to give healthy food. Instead of whole fruit in a fruit bowl cut up a selection of colourful fruits into bite sized pieces. Have healthy snacks like mini cheeses, dried fruit, a bowl of salad with a tasty dressing on the table so that your child eats these rather than crisps or chocolate biscuits.

See my book Annabel Karmel’s After School Meal Planner (pictured below left) for lots of quick and easy after school snacks and suppers.

Hard stools
My ten-month old has very hard stools that are painful for her to push out. Is there anything I change in her diet to help her feel better?
Beverly Simmons, 28, Bournemouth

Annabel replies: Check how much fluid your child is getting – lack of fluid especially in the summer months can be one of the commonest reasons why children have hard stools. Encourage your child to drink water, it’s far more hydrating than sweet drinks. Give your child raw vegetables to snack on like cucumber sticks. Soft, ready-to-eat dried fruits are also good. Try soft, plump prunes, dried apricots or dried figs a. Try to avoid giving junk food – sweet and fatty foods tend to have a constipating effect. Breakfast cereals are also a good source of fibre. Try giving high fibre cereals like Weetabix and some fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast.

Is bottle-feeding okay?
Our two-year old asks for his bottles of milk constantly throughout the day and we end up giving in, just to get some peace and quiet. He eats well at meal times so he doesn’t need them. But I’m seven months pregnant and would love for him to be bottle-free by the time our new baby arrives. Can you suggest any techniques?
Miriam Davies, 40, London

Annabel replies: Sucking from a bottle is simply a comfort thing. I would give him milk during the day in a beaker or cup. He will soon get used to it and maybe reserve a bottle for the night-time feed and then gradually wean him off that too. Find something else to comfort him like a comfort blanket: see or a special soft toy. Another technique would be to put water instead of milk in his bottle. You may find then that he won’t be so keen to hang on to the bottle.

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