Finger food weaning ideas to get you started?
Ready to embrace full-on baby-led weaning? Or easing yourself in with a combined approach to weaning?
Either way, finger foods have a lot to offer you and your baby.
Benefits for your baby include:
- Improved motor skills and coordination
- Development of oral muscles that they’ll need later for speaking
- Ability to control portions sizes and regular food intake
Benefits to you include:
- Ease- it’s quite easy to adapt family foods for your baby
- Convenience-it’s more straightforward to head out and about with a few steamed carrots and some grated cheese than a chicken casserole!
- The possibility that it may reduce fussy eating. Although this is often suggested we don’t have enough evidence to say for sure that this is the case
Ready to start?
First Finger Foods
Keep it simple! Finger foods are just regular family foods that your baby eats with their fingers! In saying that, at first your baby can only grasp foods in their fist ‘palmar grasp’ so make sure first foods are bigger rather than smaller. For safety, make sure that foods are soft enough to squash between your thumb and forefinger. As a parent on my Baby Weaning Class put it ‘cook the veg like your mother-in-law cooks them!’
Here are a few examples:
- Frozen- nutritionally these can be just as good if not better than fresh versions, and they also tend to have a soft texture when cooked. Try cauliflower, broccoli and green beans. Frozen avocado is really handy, although it can be a bit slippery. Roll in some Ready Brek, ground almonds or milled chia seeds to give some grip.
- Greens- it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of ‘vegetable-first’ weaning and especially of starting with mostly greens. Veggies like tender stem broccoli and asparagus are the perfect shape with their own in-built little handle. These can be cooked in minutes as can courgette.
- Root vegetables- a favourite in many homes. Cut into a thick chip shape and steam, microwave or boil. Later on, you can even roast, but in the early days, this makes them a bit tough. Choose from carrots, turnip, sweet potato. regular potato, parsnip, beetroot or celeriac.
- Fruit- I recommend offering more vegetables than fruit in the early days but fruit is a convenient and nutritious first finger food. Make sure whatever fruit you choose is soft and ripe. You can leave a little skin on for grip but make sure you wash it first. Kiwi, banana, orange, melon and pear are all great choices.
Moving on with finger foods
So, now you and your baby are comfortable with first finger foods, it’s time to explore further.
Again, choose foods that form part of your regular family diet or that you’d like to be part of your diet in the future.
Here are a few examples to add to those you’re already offering:
- Foods giving other foods a ride-toast, toasted bagels (choose the lowest salt content product), plain rice cakes, breadsticks and cucumber sticks are perfect vehicles for smooth nut butter, hummus and yoghurt.
- Iron-rich foods-fruits and veggies are great, but your baby needs an iron-rich food at each meal too. So, make sure you don’t forget about offering flaked fish (carefully removing the bones), meatballs, mini burgers, slices of hard-boiled egg (strips of omelette or frittata), and sliced beans
- Grated-grating foods is a safe and straightforward way of serving foods which are otherwise considered choking hazards, like raw apple and raw carrot. And who doesn’t love grated cheese?!
- Finely chopped foods- once your baby has mastered their ‘pincer grip’ at about nine months you can also start to offer smaller pieces of food. Remember to always chop round foods like grapes and cherry tomatoes lenthways first. Cooked rice and pasta are great for pincer grip practice.
Taking finger foods to the max!
If you want to raise your finger food game even higher there is no shortage of finger food or baby-led weaning recipes online. If baking and cooking are your thing and you have the time, go for it and have fun experimenting with mini-sized meals and snacks. But if you’re not that way inclined, that’s fine too, your baby won’t miss out if you just stick with the basics.
If you are searching for recipes online, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Try to go for more savoury than sweet recipes. During weaning you want to develop your baby’s taste buds, and they already have a preference for sweet tastes.
- Avoid recipes that contain sugar, maple syrup and fruit purees. These are all forms of ‘free sugars’ which your baby doesn’t need
- Continue to offer regular foods. A diet centred around muffins and pancakes is no better than one reliant on 100% purees. Your baby needs a variety of tastes and textures during weaning. And they also need to learn to like regular family foods.
Here is a round-up of a few of my favourites!
Pancakes and Fritters
Iron-rich (burgers, patties, cakes, meatballs)
Other savoury snacks
I hope that this has taken some of the mystique about finger foods away. Remember they’re just foods that your baby can eat with their fingers!