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 is healthy but also won’t make them choke?
My twins had the chewing motion 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?
From around 11 to 12 months, babies tend to start refusing to be spoon fed and want to feed themselves finger foods. So you need to make sure that they get in all the nutrition they need in foods they love, that they are able to gnaw on with their “grandpa gums”. Now, Sally-Ann Creed (Clinical Nutritionist) recommends that you keep dairy and wheat out of your child’s diet until 12 months so that their guts can mature before being exposed to these high-risk allergens. But everywhere you look in the shops, they keep offering baby finger food products that are full of, not only wheat and dairy, but colouring, flavouring, sugar and other additives. So what do we do?
Here is a list of the tasty and nutritious finger foods my molarless munchkins loved (keeping in mind that anything with dairy or wheat was only given after 12 months):
• Rice cakes
• Bean sprouts
• Seeds: sunflower, hemp, chia, sesame
• Pumpkin seeds broken into 2 – 3 pieces each
• Crushed or slivered nuts (from 12 months): almonds, pecans, cashews, macadamia, brazil nuts etc (No peanuts until 24 months)
• Chick peas
• Shredded chicken from a home made roast
• Popcorn (home made, with Himalayan Salt)
• Peas, corn (made from frozen)
• Roasted veggies (everything under the sun)
• Home made meatballs or fish cakes (see Raising Happy, Healthy Children book for recipes)
• Carrot/baby marrow/butternut/red or yellow pepper etc fried in coconut oil or steamed
• Kale “chips” (wash well, cut out white stalk, chop finally, toss with a bit of olive oil and Himalayan salt, bake on 180° for 10 min, stir and bake for another 5 – 10min until crispy) – I know what you are thinking, but it is surprisingly DELICIOUS and super morish)
• Corn pasta (with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil and Himalayan salt)
• Rice pasta (with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil and Himalayan salt)
• Whole wheat pasta – from 12 months (As above)
• Sliced 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 after 12 months (A small tub of flavoured yoghurt has 4 – 7 teaspoons of sugar, colouring and flavouring in it!) – serve plain, or with home-made natural flavouring (apple/pear/strawberry/blueberry puree, cinnamon, raw honey, organic cacao, vanilla extract etc)
• Moist biltong slices chopped (MSG free and low salt)
• Cracker Bread, Corn Thins, Rice Thins
• Fresh rye bread “fingers”
• Scrambled egg – from 12 months
• Grated or cubed Cheese (Like Mozzerella)
• Kiri Cheese (Not processed cheese blocks!)
• Grated apple
• Grated carrot
• Sautéd mushrooms
And here’s the grand finale – the absolute favourite of all 3 of my children:
• Banana flapjacks – from 12 months (1 small banana, 1 egg, 1 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.