Around the 9-10 month mark of a baby’s life, finger foods are generally introduced. Other than a handful of “no-no’s”, the possibilities on his or her dining menu are endless! This is our chance, as adults, to introduce a wide variety of foods to our little ones tastebuds, before they start demanding a strict diet of Mac n cheese and chicken fingers.
Being told all food is a “go” can feel slightly overwhelming. Where do we start? Which foods would be safest? How small should the pieces be? How can they chew without teeth?? That’s the biggest wonder a first time mom may have. Trust me, those little gums can chew up a lot! In addition to learning how to now eat food, this is his/her opportunity to learn how to feed him/herself. I’ve always encouraged my babies to be as independent as possible. Encouragement is key, even though more times than not they’ll need some assistance. Being able to grab their own food (hence, “finger food”) encourages not only independence, but strengthening the pincer grip. These are the muscles used for fine motor skills needed to grip small objects or hold a crayon.
Now to answer the “where to start” question. Below I’ve listed out my top 10 go-to beginner finger foods. These are not only nutritious, but easy to form into smaller bites for baby to grab.
1. Organic Shredded Cheese: I really love the shredded cheese as oppose to other cuts because of the ability to squeeze a pinch of this into a ball. Forming the shreds into mini cheese balls makes for a great snack or add-on to a lunch. Not only is it soft and easy to chew, but baby will be getting in some quality protein and calcium. **On the “organic” note, many people can not afford to buy everything organic, and frankly I don’t think everything needs to be organic. However, when it comes to any type of milk product, I always go organic. There are too many hormones added these days to animal products that I simply rather not have my child (or myself) be ingesting that.
2. Sweet Potato: A vegetable rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, a very healthy and sweet carb source for your little one. Once baked, I scoop out a small amount with a baby spoon and form it into little balls to be picked up and devoured!
3. Banana: This fruit is my “grab-and-go” snack due to the obvious ease of carrying it around without needing any type of storage. If you’re not comfortable handing this one over to your little one to bite off the top, it’s an easy one to pinch off pieces and place down to grab with little fingers. Bananas are rich in many vitamins and potassium, making it a household favorite for growing little boys/girls.
4. Avocado: “Nature’s Perfect Food”. A fruit rich in not only fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, but healthy fats needed for growing healthy brains! The creaminess and softness of this makes it an easy one for baby to chew and fill up on.
5. Blueberries: A favorite of my little guy, blueberries are easy to cut in half and throw down to pick at for a sweet treat or add to breakfast. A fruit rich in antioxidants, blueberries are one of the more nutritious, low calorie snacks that you could offer your little one.
6. Peas: These tiny, fiberous and nutritious legumes are an easy to chew add on to any meal. Soft, small and sweet, peas make a great beginner finger food that can be worked into bigger dishes in the future.
7. Fish: Shred up some Salmon or Tuna for a deliciously healthy meal filled with healthy fats and protein. These fish, filled with Omega-3, are an easy to grab, chew and digest food that can be fun to mix with veggies as well.
8. Rice balls: A nutritious grain and easy to chew, rice can be fun to eat as well as rolled into balls for baby to grab and take a bite out of. Knowing the rice will simply fall apart into smaller pieces is a comfort to know choking is of little worry!
9. Cooked carrots: Rich in Vitamin A (from beta-carotene), which helps in eye development, along with other antioxidant properties, carrots make a deliciously sweet dish for your little one. Steam them until soft for an added bonus of chewing comfort! Cut up in small circles or let your little one hold the full carrot and take a bite off the top, they’ll love the feel of holding a vegetable on their own!
10. Broccoli : Finally, a fibrous, green veggie filled with B vitamins, broccoli can be steamed and shredded to small bites for your little one to enjoy. They’ll love the different texture of the “leaves” and have no problems chewing up this great starter veggie. Letting them grab the broccoli at the stalk and biting off the top is a great way to also introduce “taking bites”.
It’s important to note, when introducing any new food to your baby’s diet, you want to follow the “3 day rule”. This is, giving only ONE new food for 3 days to rule out the possibility of an allergy. If you introduce more than one at a time and theres an allergic reaction, you won’t know which food it came from. Three days is enough time to give his/her body a chance to react if it were allergic. Once they’ve gotten through 3 days, go on to the next new dish :)
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