The experience of introducing finger food to babies is an exciting one. However, many a times it can be nerve-racking as well, because the thought of all the mess that is going to be made, or the possibility of allergies or even worse still choking hazards might really make you anxious (When the mind starts spiralling with these thoughts, you know no good ever comes out of it). So while there is a good reason to exercise caution, the good news is that there still are a lot of baby food options that your child can enjoy.
So let’s start with the basics first:
Generally, any food that is bite-sized and easy to eat for the baby (the kind that he can just pick up and put up in his mouth to eat) is classified as finger food. Not only is eating this way fun for your baby, but it is also a really important step, that helps him in developing motor skills and understanding co-ordination.
Although there is no hard and fast rule to this, generally around the 8-9-month mark, it is okay, to begin with, foods that your baby can eat by himself. In fact, many a time your little one will himself gesture to you via subtle hints (like grabbing the spoon you’re trying to feed him with) that he is ready to take on the world of bite-sized foods. Once your baby is capable enough of sitting on his own that's a good enough clue that they ’re almost ready to start exploring a whole new territory.
Even when your baby nears the age of being allowed to pick up foods and try eating on his own, breast milk and formula would still be their primary source of nutrition, followed by pureed food. Spoon feeding your child should be continued side by side and you can let him try to feed himself too (Okay, so this process gets a little messy, but hey you know that already, don’t you!)
Beginning with thicker and ticker purees, with a little bit of added texture to them, will help in a smoother transition to finger foods. Apart from this let your child be the guide, and observe his cues, you don’t want to be forcing him to eat when he really doesn’t want to (Nobody likes a cranky baby!)
One point of caution is that you should never leave your baby unattended when he’s eating and always keep a lookout for any signs of choking. No matter how ready your child is, the fact that he has little to no experience of eating bite-sized foods, sometimes may end up causing an accident (prevention is better than cure remember!)
1.Soft Fruits: Fruits that are quite ripe and naturally quite soft, making them some of the best options out there when it comes to starter food. Fruits like, ripe bananas, peach, watermelon (without the seeds of course), cantaloupe etc. when cutting up into small pieces are all great options that your child can indulge in.
2.Cooked Vegetables: Though it will be a while before your child can look at a platter of let’s say crudités, cooked vegetables make excellent finger food. To make sure that you get the most of the nutritional value, you can steam or roast them as a cooking method, until they become soft enough for your little one to eat. Chop them up into smaller pieces and only then offer them to your little one. You can try vegetables like sweet potato, carrots, cauliflowers, beetroot, broccoli etc. Once your baby gets older you can give him little bigger foods like carrot sticks or sweet potato wedges (roasted not fried!)
3.Rice Puffs/ Dry Cereals: Rice Puffs or O shaped cereals (the softer kinds) are actually quite popular as finger foods for babies. Not only do they let your little one practice grasping things by picking up one puff/cereal at a times, but they also mix well will the saliva, making it easier for your baby to swallow them without choking!
4.Bread: Soft bread, cut up in small pieces (ideally cut off the chewy crust when your baby first starts finger foods) is a great starter food as it tends to soften very quickly. As your baby gets older (let's say roughly 9-12 months of age) you can serve him larger pieces of bread topped with other toppings like mashed bananas, avocados, a very thin layer of hummus or other spreads etc. (sounds delicious already doesn’t it!)
5.Scrambled Eggs: There was a time when doctors used to advice to hold off on the eggs for just a little while because the might have an allergic reaction with some babies. But recent studies have shown that introducing potentially allergenic food at an early age, helps build immunity. This, to be honest, is great news because scrambled eggs are actually a great baby finger food option. Just make sure that you cook the egg thoroughly and cut it up in small pieces, generally avoid adding salt or add minimal salt.
6.Avocado: Now that the exotic fruit has become a common sight in the country, avocado, is actually quite super for your baby. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, that help in boosting your baby’s brain development. Just like puffs, they are perfect for your baby, even when he has no teeth, our only grievance is that it can get messy quite fast (the price to pay for the creamy texture) but for the benefits this finger food packs for your baby, it might as well be worth it.
7.Tofu/Paneer: Be it cooked or uncooked, Tofu and Paneer are good sources of protein for your baby. While Tofu is a plant-based derivative, you need to be a little cautious before introducing paneer, just to ascertain that your little one does not have any dairy allergies. Hence, it's better to not introduce both of them as finger food at the same time. Also, another pro tip would be to use firm tofu instead of silken tofu, as the silken tofu might collapse when your child tries to pick it, which might frustrate him (a frustrated baby, is an unhappy baby and an unhappy baby means you definitely can’t be happy isn’t it!)
8.Beans: If you’re looking for a protein-rich plant-based finger food for your baby, Beans are a very good option (And we all know how much every Indian one loves a good Rajma!) Of course the traditional preparation of beans can be a little too much for the baby, but if you take Kidney beans and chickpeas cooked and mashed a little bit, your baby will take to them instantly.
9.Homemade Baked Goods: Baked goods like muffins are the way to go, instead of going for store-bought options which are loaded with sugar when it comes to baby finger food. There are enough healthy muffin recipes that you can go by. You can substitute with healthier ingredients like whole wheat instead of regular flour or sweeten with coconut sugar instead of regular white refined sugar. You can even add healthy ingredients like a mashed banana in it. Once baked, just break up into small pieces and let your baby have some healthy deliciousness.
10.Potatoes: Nothing beats potatoes in versatility and taste. And when you count the amount of nutrients it naturally appears to be the first choice for a variety of delicious recipes for lil ones. Boil and cut potatoes into small pieces and give it to babies with a bit of salt and butter. You can also make small potato balls with boiled and mashed potatoes. Bake these balls and then let your baby have fun playing and gobbling these. You can simply make a thousand potato dishes by baking, boiling or shallow frying potatoes.
So there you have it, our top 10 list of the best finger food options for your little one. This stage in your little one’s life is such an exciting milestone to growing up, and before you know it he’ll be eating completely on his own, making you wonder how quickly did the time fly by. So spend some quality time with your little one with his journey of exploring foods and in the meantime subscribe to our Kidmish newsletter.
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