Healthy Eating Series: Introducing Finger Food
Seeing everyone at home eating, babies want to try eating with their little hands. You can start them on the journey of eating independently by introducing them to finger foods. Eating tiny bits of food items is the first step towards your baby using his or her hands to eat. Finger foods help them develop their fine motor skills and the hand-eye co-ordination.
What are Finger Foods?
Easy-to-eat food items or tit bits that babies can pick up and eat by themselves are referred to as finger foods. Babies are always on the move and attempt to eat food by themselves as well. So, mothers generally give them finger foods to make them happy.
When Should You Introduce It to Your Baby?
Some parents introduce finger foods when the babies are six months old. However, you would know when your little one is ready by observing them. Typically, between 8 and 9 months, they start showing indications that they are ready to eat all by themselves. Initially, it will be challenging because finger foods for toddlers means a whole lot of mess with their limited hand-eye co-ordination and easy distraction. They will pick food in their hands and throw it around with very little going into their mouths. Eventually, they will learn to use their thumbs and fore-fingers to take the food. This is a fine motor skill and is referred to as pincer grasp.
How To Introduce Finger Foods to Your Baby?
To start off, you can use a highchair and give them a few pieces of finger food on a plate or in a bowl. Give them very little and you can fill their plates after they complete eating or ask for more.
What Are the Best Finger Foods for Infants?
Mothers must always aim to give healthy finger foods to kids. It is also advisable to give them food that is easy to munch, soft and well-cooked, and ones that can be made into tiny pieces. If you are concerned about food allergies, you can consult your doctor before your start with finger foods. Let us look at some of the best finger foods for infants:
- Fruits make very healthy finger foods. You can use slices of banana, mangoes, papayas, muskmelons, watermelons, sliced grapes, kiwi slices, and apple slices. You can add all these fruits together or give them one at a time
- They would love steamed or boiled vegetables like green peas, cauliflower florets, beans, carrots, and pumpkins with a pinch of salt
- You can also bake vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes, and sauté them in ghee to enhance the taste
- Thin tomato wedges and very thin cucumber pieces will give them a taste for raw vegetables
- Boiled corn and tiny pieces of steamed baby corn can be given too
- The little ones would love to munch soft vegetable flatbreads, which can be cut into tiny pieces.
- They would also love to nibble lightly toasted bread
- Small cubes of tofu help them chew easily
- Well-cooked pasta spirals cut into small pieces will be easy to handle for the tiny tots
- Hard-boiled egg or scrambled eggs can be made into tiny pieces and given. Note: It is advisable to check with your doctor regarding allergens. Egg yolks can be introduced at 8 months while egg whites shold be introduced after 1 year.
- Tiny pieces of cooked chicken, turkey, or other soft meat to give them a taste of non-vegetarian foods
- Mashed stewed prunes
- Steamed or broiled fish is an interesting finger food, but remember to skip fish with high mercury content.
- You could also try boiled well-cooked beans, which are full of proteins and other nutrients.
Additionally, you can try home-made healthy nuggets and fries made with vegetables.
Finger Foods to Avoid
Although you can try varieties of food for your baby, it is good to avoid some foods that cause choking and some that are unhealthy. Following are some of the foods that you must avoid.
- Pieces of raw vegetables must be avoided, while it is safe to give boiled vegetables.
- Large chunks of fruits and vegetables must also be avoided as it can get stuck in the throat.
- Remove seeds from plums, peaches, and watermelons before you feed them to the baby. Avoid feeding seeds like pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds as They can get stuck in the windpipe and cause serious problems.
- Avoid feeding nuts to babies.
- Avoid popcorns and pretzels.
- Avoid chewing gum and other jelly-like food items.
- Avoid marshmallows and candies.
- Peanut butter can be hard for the baby because of its sticky consistency. The peanut is an allergen which should be introduced in later years.
- Avoid raisins.
- Unroasted bread can also cause choking in the throat.
- Avoid sweet items because once they get used to it, they would avoid healthy items.
- Avoid fatty items like potato chips and other savouries.
What Steps Can You Take While Feeding Finger Foods?
- Ensure that you make your baby sit on a high chair. It is good to sit down and be present while the baby is eating. It is also good to sit down and eat with the baby. Here are some pointers:
- Initially, self-feeding is sure to be a mess with food scattered everywhere. However, they will slowly learn to put the food in their mouth. So, have patience, and to minimize waste, give them less food. The amount can be increased depending on how hungry they get.
- Ensure that you remove all seeds and also peel the fruits.
- Avoid hard foods that cause choking.
- Prepare foods that have little or no salt or sugar.
Coming up with finger foods for 1 year old can be relatively easy because they begin to eat many other food items that everyone in the family eats.
Although it’s quite a challenge to come up with interesting finger food recipes for little ones, you can get creative and try to get innovative items to give your little ones the experience of a variety of tastes.