As you child moves from exclusively breastfeeding, to spoon fed solids to finger foods, you may be wondering what to serve your baby’s budding appetite. This early stage of eating “real” food is a wonderful time to solidify a diverse and healthy diet. What your child eats as a baby and the habits he picks up will likely stay with him throughout his life. When parents make good choices for their babies, children will grow up to be healthier adults.
The key to appropriate finger foods for new eaters is ensuring they are small and soft so your baby won’t choke. It’s crucial to supervise new eaters at all times to ensure they are not silently choking on their food. Also, the act of self-feeding is an exciting milestone for your baby so let him explore food with his hands. Yes, this means that things will surely get messy around your kitchen, but it’s all part of the process. Place a mat under your child’s highchair to catch flying food and be prepared to clean up a mess after every meal. Set a good example for your baby by sitting at the table and eating some of the same foods that you serve him. This concept of social eating is an important life skill, plus it’s more fun for everyone.
Here are our favorite finger foods for new eaters:
Avocado Chunks: Packed with healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids, avocado is a fabulous brain-boosting food for your baby. It is rich and creamy in texture, a fun shade of green and does not have a pungent taste – a winning combination for a baby. Cut avocados into small chunks and let your baby enjoy popping them into his mouth. Oh, and they are thrilling to mash up too!
Veggie Pasta: Whole grains mixed with vegetables in a fun pasta shape; what could be better? You may need to half twirly pasta or bowtie pasta to make it the right size for your tot. This is an easy on-the-go food that travels well and can remain unrefrigerated for a few hours.
Sweet Potato Squares: Bright orange sweet potatoes are filled with vitamins, minerals and essential antioxidants that will help strengthen your baby’s immune system. Steam a sweet potato and let it cool. Then cut it into small squares that will be easy for your baby to grasp. You can also experiment by adding butter, nutmeg or other spices to broaden your baby’s palette.
Hard Boiled Egg: Eggs are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals and they are relatively easy to prepare. Hard boil several eggs at a time and refrigerate them – they’ll last for a week. Slice eggs into small pieces for your baby. The rubbery whites may take some getting used to but eggs are a terrific way to add protein to your baby’s diet. *Note, eggs are not appropriate for children under one.
Beans: Canned, frozen or self-cooked beans are super simple finger foods for babies. They contain a fair amount of protein and lots of iron, vitamins and minerals that will support your baby’s blood. Try black beans, kidney beans, great northern beans, edamame or a variety of others you find in the grocery store.
Cheese: This squishy food is delicious and packed with calcium. You can serve it in small pieces or shredded. Your baby will probably enjoy the tangy taste. But be careful, cheese can cause constipation so limit cheese to one or two servings a day.
Soft Fruits and Veggies: Of course some of the healthiest foods in the world are fresh produce, many of which are appropriate for babies. From the fruit categories, try chopped peaches, bananas, strawberries, mangos, grapes and blueberries. For your baby’s fill of veggies, go for peas, broccoli, cooked squash, cauliflower and cooked carrots.
Soft Meats: Your baby’s palette may be more sophisticated than you think. Cut chicken, turkey, salmon and other cooked fish into small bites for your baby. Some meats and fish have mellow flavors while others are more distinct. Find out which suit your baby’s individual taste.