Healthy Finger Foods For Babies and Toddlers | When To Introduce Finger Foods
When Can Babies Eat Finger Foods- Dr. David Hill
Babies between the ages of 6-9 months may want to begin trying various finger foods. Not only do they enjoy the new textures, they very much enjoy bringing the food to their mouths and experiencing this new independence. After months of breast milk or formula and pureed baby foods, they enjoy a new sense of discovering foods.
Finger foods also are excellent for developing their fine motor skills and strengthening hand to mouth coordination. It is a wonderful time for the young baby to develop more self awareness as he realizes this connection of fingers to mouth can deliver satisfaction in the form of nourishment. It’s important that parents and caregivers are educated on the kinds of finger foods that are best for the health and well-being of their child.
The Transition From Baby Food to Finger Food is a Gradual Process.
Very often in the preschool/daycare setting, a baby/toddler entering the one year old room must be able to eat finger foods for the ease of meal times with numerous children. The transition from baby food to finger food is a gradual, time consuming process, be patient. It’s best to begin weeks before a child is to enter the one year old/toddler classroom.
Parents and teachers/caregivers need to work together to make the process the best experience for the child. Often parents can get recommendations and suggestions for their child from their pediatrician who has a history of the childs health and nutritional requirements. Teachers often make suggestions also or may have a list of suggested healthy foods. If a parent needs ideas and resources, a teacher/caregiver should have information available. The internet can be a great start, as well as the library. Dr. Hill (video) instructs us that beginning finger foods should be able to be mushed by gumming and to avoid any choking hazards.
Healthy Babies Eat Healthy Food
Babies Develop Taste By Trying Different Kinds of Food
Something to remember is that a baby develops taste by trying different kinds of food. It is best to limit salty and sugary foods. A breakfast full of sugar laden finger foods is not the best way for anyone to begin their day, but especially for a young baby with developing taste buds.
Never leave a child unattended while feeding, nor overwhelm the child with a plate or container full of food. It’s much easier to introduce the foods one at a time. Slicing part of a banana into small wedge chunks is a great start. Allow the child to finger the food, many will squish it between their fingers before bringing it to their mouth. It’s nice to face your baby so you can help when necessary. Make the chewing movement with your mouth and make ‘yum’ sounds. It helps the baby know what to do. Remember, this is a new experience! It will be messy at times. This is fine! Simply place a plastic cloth or paper underneath the high chair for easy clean-up. It’s best not to force any food. Maybe try it at a different time if a certain food is not eaten.
Babies Love Fruit
Fruits, Veggie and Legumes Finger Foods
Fruits are full of water and vitamins and are excellent, healthy finger foods. Try bite size slices/chunks of melon, berries, peaches, pears, apples (skin removed), banana, mango, avocado, kiwi, grapes (skin removed, cut in half). With a baby under one year of age, it’s best to slice blueberries so they’re not a choking hazard. Keep in mind, many fruits are high in pesticide residue. It may be best to buy organic for certain fruits, and always wash thoroughly any fruit before feeding it to your child. They love fruits and they are full of vitamins and easy for the child to eat.
Veggies are also high in vitamins and a healthy way to introduce finger foods. Chunks of sweet potatoes are delicious. Cooked (soft) broccoli trees and cauliflower are easy to eat and full of vitamins. Try cooked squash, carrots and other root veggies. Cherry tomatoes (wedged), and sliced tomatoes, asparagus are nutritious alternatives to offer your child.
Legumes are nutrient rich and add protein to the diet. Legumes include fully cooked black beans, black-eyed peas, green beans, cooked peas, edamame. Beans are soft and easy to eat. Small chunks of lentil loaf are excellent for this age group.
Meats, Poultry, Fish and Other Protein Finger Foods
Meat and poultry and other proteins includes chicken (cut across the grain), chicken nuggets (sliced), deli ham/turkey if not too high in sodium, scrambled egg (or egg yolk if under one year), sliced hard boiled egg (or egg yolk). Try a small chunk of tofu or frittata. Cooked or chunked salmon is also safe and healthy. Older toddlers can eat nut butter and jam sandwiches cut in squares or fun shapes. Babies under one year should not eat any nut butter or white bread.
Baby Specific Cereal is Recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics
Breads, Cereals, Pasta and Rice Finger Foods
Breads and cereals are an important source of fiber and B vitamins which aid in digestion and supply necessary energy for an active baby/toddler. Whole grain pancakes/waffles can be cut up into bite-sized pieces. Skip the syrup and butter. Your child will not miss it if it's not introduced, nor is it nutritionally necessary. Whole grain toast cut into squares dissolve easily in the mouth. Bits of a croissant/bagel are fine as long as the crust is not too hard. Cheerios, rice cakes, Rice Krispies, small sections of graham crackers and zwieback are all low in sugar and easy to eat.
Cooked noodles, macaroni, tortellini, ravioli, farfalle are good introductions to pasta. Some babies like the texture, some don't. Sticky rice is messier, but can be served as finger food. It's best to limit sauces if too high in sodium, use sparingly or not at all. Many toddlers love the taste of macaroni and cheese. Check the sodium content! Babies and toddlers can experience high blood pressure if too much sodium is in their diet. (6 mo- 1 yr. - less than 1 gr., 1-3 yr.- 2 gr. daily)
Safe Silicone Storage Containers
Dairy Finger Foods
Many babies and toddlers like the taste of soft cheese (real cheese, not processed cheese). Small strips are easy to handle rather than the entire slice. Shredded cheese, and strips from string cheese, bite-size wedges are all acceptable. Cheese and fruit make an easy, healthy snack.
Foods can be combined such as bite-size portions of quiche, grilled cheese sandwiches and tuna or egg salad sandwiches cut into squares. Banana and zucchini pancakes are delicious. Breads/mini-bagels with hummus spread, quesadillas, small pieces of pizza with ricotta/mozzerella cheese are healthy choices. The goal is a healthy child. Healthy foods are necessary.
Make Mealtime Enjoyable
Meal time should be an enjoyable experience for you and your child. Talk to your baby while he is eating and let him know what he is eating. Smile. Music can be softly playing in the background or family chatter. It's better to enjoy the process rather than allow it to be frustrating if the child is not eating the presented food. Be patient. Discuss any concerns with your pediatrician and make sure you and your teacher/caregiver communicate daily about the childs food intake. Enjoy.
Additional Finger Foods and Healthy Food Information
- Baby Food Options: Vegetables, Eggs, Organic, and More - Watch WebMD Video
New information changes some old rules about first feedings. More options and healthier choices help babies switch to solids.