Now that your baby is starting to experiment with food, you might be keen to give him a little more independence. Don’t worry, it’s not time to hand over the car keys just yet, but perhaps he’s ready to take control of what he eats. Finger foods allow your baby to feed himself and decide what and how much he eats from his tray.
What are the benefits to finger foods?
Your baby knows when he’s full, and giving him control of the food he eats reduces the risk of overeating. Babies are tiny scientists and are constantly learning about and exploring their environments. Using finger foods allow your baby to discover not just the taste, but the texture and color of different foods. Try not to worry about how much your baby eats at mealtimes. At this stage, lunch is about much more than just eating. After all, what kind of scientist would your baby be if he didn’t smush carrot into his eyebrows, throw some on the floor and hide some in his diaper? Exactly, he’d be a laughing stock.
Fun & Easy Finger Foods
If you’re used to pureeing, the switch to finger foods might have left you lacking in inspiration. Fear not, there are plenty of nutritious and delicious finger foods out there for your baby. Here are just ideas for you to try:
Fruit is easy, delicious and packed full of vitamins. There are lots of different fruits so there’s no need for your baby to tire of eating fruit. Melon, banana, and mango can easily be cut into small slices that will fit perfectly in your baby’s palm. Fruits such as blueberries, cranberries and pomegranate seeds are great for helping your baby to develop his pincer grip. Some fruits pose a danger of choking, especially grapes, apple and pineapple, so always chop up food correctly before giving it to your child. Grapes must be cut in half lengthways to avoid choking.
You can’t go wrong with vegetables. In fact, if you give your baby the freedom to explore and play with vegetables now, you may find you have less ‘eat your vegetables’ battles in the future. Vegetables can be cut into chip shapes and steamed. Steamed vegetables contain more vitamins than boiled or fried vegetables. For a change, you could also try roasting them. Carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, butternut squashes, broccoli and courgette are all good vegetables for finger foods. Be careful with raw vegetables, like carrots, as it can pose a danger of choking. Always chop up food correctly before giving it to your child.
Using dips can also add some extra nutrition into your baby’s diet whilst allowing him to improve his hand-eye coordination. Hummus, salsa, baba ganouj, and lentil dips are just some of the dips you can offer your baby. Be wary of shop bought dips which may contain high levels of salt and added sugar. It’s always best to whip up a healthy dip at home if you can. Steamed vegetables, rice cakes and cooled slices of pitta bread are good for dipping.
- Smaller foods
As your baby’s hand-eye coordination improves and he masters his pincer grip, it’s worth experimenting with smaller foods. Black beans, chick peas, peas, sweetcorn and blueberries are small enough for your baby to pick up once he’s got the hang of using his thumb and index finger to grab small objects. It might take a while for your baby to get hold of them, but remember it’s good practice and will aid the development of his fine motor skills.
Pasta always makes for a great photo opportunity, though you should expect your baby to be covered from head to toe in pasta sauce before the end of the meal. Run a bath in advance so you can clean your baby straight after the meal. Pasta comes in all shapes and sizes, giving your baby ample opportunity to develop his skills. Fill the pasta sauce with vegetables and your baby will be getting plenty of vitamins and minerals too.
Some parents choose to avoid strong flavors thinking they will be too much for babies, but in fact, babies have quite adventurous palettes. He might not be ready for a vindaloo just yet, but you could try him with a gentler curry. Lentil dahls, mixed vegetables curries and kormas are all great options. Make sure there are plenty of vegetables in the sauce so your baby is enjoying a varied diet, and opt for whole wheat rice.
- Sugar free fruit flapjacks
You don’t need to add sugar to make flapjacks taste good. Coconut oil is high in fat which is great for brain development, and will add a sweet flavour to the flapjacks. Add in some mushed up banana, raisins, dried cranberries and oats and you have yourself a simple, healthy flapjack.
To avoid choking, always chop up food correctly before giving it to your child. It’s advised to cut food lengthways in small strips. Cut soft food into thin slices or small pieces—no larger than one-half inch (1⁄2”). Cut soft, round foods, like hot dogs or string cheese, into short strips rather than round pieces.
What are your baby’s favorite finger foods?
Written by Fiona (@Fiona_Peacock), mother, writer and lover of all things baby related.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.