How many times have you stood staring into your fridge or pantry cupboard wondering what to give your babies or young toddlers to snack on or eat as finger foods that are healthy but also won’t make them choke?
It’s important that your little one starts practicing with finger foods and developing their chewing and swallowing co-ordination from 6 months. My twins had their chew and swallow skills mastered quite well by 10 months, but didn’t start sprouting their molars until they were 18 months. And so, I had to get creative…
Where to find it?
Here is a list of the tasty and nutritious finger foods my molarless munchkins loved:
• Steamed veggies (broccoli and cauliflower flowerets, carrots, courgettes, green beans, patty pans etc)
• Sautéed veggies (long thin carrot/courgette/bell pepper sticks) in real butter or coconut oil
• Rice cakes
• Shredded chicken from home made roast
• Flaked fish (hake and salmon are good to start with)
• Popcorn (can add a bit of Himalayan salt from 10 months)
• Cooked peas or corn (can be made from frozen)
• Roasted veggies (everything under the sun)
• Home made meatballs or fish cakes – these freeze well (see recipes on the website or the Raising Happy, Healthy Children book for more)
• Kale “chips” (wash well, cut out white stalk, chop finally, toss with a bit of olive oil and Himalayan salt (if 10 months+), bake on 180° for 8 min, stir and bake for another 5 – 8min until crispy) – I know what you are thinking, but it is surprisingly DELICIOUS and super moreish)
• Corn, rice or wholewheat pasta (with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil)
• Seeds: sunflower, hemp, chia, sesame
• Pumpkin seeds cut into 3-4 pieces each
• Crushed or slivered nuts: almonds, pecans, cashews, macadamia, brazil nuts etc
• Chick peas
• Sliced pitted olives
• Goji berries
• Dried cranberries (in SA, Nature’s Choice makes a Sulphur Dioxide and sugar free one with pineapple juice instead)
• Corn on the cob
• Full or double cream Greek yoghurt (No flavoured yoghurt!) – serve plain, or with home-made natural flavouring (apple/pear/strawberry/blueberry puree, cinnamon, organic cacao, vanilla extract etc Raw honey can be used from 12 months)
• Moist biltong slices very finely chopped (MSG free and low salt)
• Droerwors (MSG free and low salt)
• Cracker Bread, Corn Thins, Rice Thins
• Fresh rye bread “fingers”
• Scrambled egg or a flat “omlette” (with no filling) cut into slices
• Home made crustless quiches (use silicone muffin cups – these freeze well)
• Grated or cubed Cheese (Like Mozzerella or white cheddar)
• Kiri Cheese (Not processed cheese blocks!)
• Grated apple or peeled and sliced into paper thin slices
• Grated carrot
• Sautéd mushrooms
• Baby tomatoes cut into quarters
• French toast made with smooth wholewheat, sourdough or rye bread
• Egg “pancake” (Beat an egg. Grease the pan with butter. Pour the beaten egg in the pan and let it lie still to make a thin layer like a pancake. Flip over. Slice and serve,)
• Cucumber – cut off the hard outer layer and give the inner seeded layer in a holdable “stick”.
And here’s the grand finale – the absolute favourite of all 3 of my children:
Banana flapjacks: 1 small banana, 1 egg, 1-1.5 heaped Tbl gluten-free flour, dash of cinnamon – blend and fry flapjacks in coconut oil or real butter. No toppings needed. Great for breakfast, and the left-overs (if any) can be eaten cold as a snack later. Delicious!
Whenever I take my young twin toddlers to the shop with me, people always complement me on what angels they are – sitting so calm and content in the top row of the trolley. Here’s my secret: I bring with a bowl of homemade popcorn (made in coconut oil) for each, with a backup refill container and a bottle of water in my bag. It’s healthy and delicious, and takes a long time to eat. Perfect.
Remember that what you feed your children, not only effects their immediate health and brain functioning, but also effects their long term health and tendencies towards major diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart disease etc. So, because you love them so much, destroy the junk food in the house, and get them hooked on healthy foods from the very beginning.