Fantastic Finger Foods for Toddlers
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Right around 9 months, your baby is finally ready to start eating finger foods. Like me, I think most parents are relieved they can finally offer different forms of foods and no longer have to be a slave to the blender and spoon. However, I know it is easy to get into food ruts of offering the same finger foods over and over.
I often find myself offering the same fruits, crackers, and veggies because they are convenient and easy. But offering a variety of finger foods is a great way to get extra nutrition into your toddlers and babies. Good nutrition early on in life will set the stage for healthy eating through adolescence and adulthood. And eating with the hands is good for toddler development.
Between 12 and 24 months, babies need up to 6 servings of grains a day. Make half of these whole grains for extra fiber and to reduce the risk of chronic disease. Some of my favorite whole grain finger foods include:
- Whole wheat crackers, pasta, shredded wheat cereal, whole grain tortillas, and Cheerios
- There are lots of processed baby and toddler biscuits, puffs, crackers, and bars that include whole grains.
- Polenta Cookies- I like to cut shapes out of leftover polenta.
Most kids love fruits and will eat a variety of them. They make great finger foods because they travel easy, are served raw, and are naturally sweet. Most fruits are high in vitamin C and antioxidants.
- Soft fruits like banana, melon, berries, pear, and peaches
- Homemade Popsicle made with 100% fruit juice
- Dried fruit also makes a great finger food
It is best to vary the veggies especially for picky eaters. Kids need to learn early to love their veggies. Serve them with a dip or cut them into fun shapes. A few of my favorite veggie based finger foods include:
- Frozen peas, soft carrots, shredded zucchini and squash, and halved cherry tomatoes
- Sweet Potato Fries- Lightly spray sticks with oil and add a little cinnamon for a tasty twist
- Veggie Chips- Slice root veggies super thin, coat with a little olive oil and bake until crisp
- Spinach- I love to give my kids raw baby spinach. You will be amazed how much they eat
- Kale Chips- Yum!
Proteins are another food group that make great finger foods. Many protein foods are high in iron, which is an important nutrient in young children.
- Strips of deli meat, soft cooked pieces of meat, and fish sticks
- Eggs- Hard-boiled eggs can be kept in the fridge for 1 week. I make 3-4 at a time.
- Beans- Kids love whole beans and chickpeas. They are high in protein and fiber.
- Tofu- Young kids love tofu because it is soft and easy to chew.
Mix It Up
- Coat cut up bananas, berries, melon, or tofu in wheat germ or crushed Cheerios. The powder makes it easier for little hands to grab.
- Quesadilla- Try the classic bean and cheese, or go sweet with peanut butter and banana, or cream cheese and mashed fruit.
- Broccoli Cheese Nuggets- Both my 9 month old and my 3 year old love these.
- Banana Pancakes- I usually freeze leftovers from the weekend to serve as finger foods. Really adding any fruit or veggie, even peas, is great.
- Muffins- Muffins are great bases for fruit, nuts, seeds, and even veggies. They are much healthier to make yourself. Many store bought brands are high in fat and sugar.
- Loafs- Lentil loaf, meat loaf, and tofu loaf. Mix proteins, veggies, and breadcrumbs, bake, and cut into strips.
When offering finger foods to young children remember that many foods we eat can be choking hazards. Avoid whole nuts, hard foods, thick peanut butter, popcorn whole round fruits, and candy to prevent toddlers from choking.
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