Is your child a fussy eater? Try finger foods

Let’s face it, one of the biggest challenges parents face every day is ensuring that their children eat healthy food. Force-feeding a child can backfire in the long run; it’s best to have a smarter and more effective approach when it comes to feeding him wholesome food. One of the best ways to make sure that your child eats well is by introducing finger foods. Finger foods are little chunks of healthy snacks that your baby can pick up and eat quickly.

Why does it become more important to introduce finger foods to little ones?

Starting on finger foods can be an exciting and overwhelming experience. It’s best to introduce finger foods early; soon after solids. It has many benefits to a child’s overall health, these include:

  • Improved hand-eye coordination
  • Development of gross and fine motor skills
  • Better chewing skills
  • Increase in the variety of tastes and textures 
  • Improved sensory processing 
  • Encourages self-feeding 

When is the right time to start finger foods?

All babies are different and grow in their own time; there is no perfect age for introducing finger foods. Your baby is ready for finger foods when she grabs food and starts putting things in her mouth, maybe at 7 or 10 months old.

Points to remember while preparing or choosing finger foods for babies:  

Finger foods can be introduced during the growing phase when the baby does not have teeth. It can be soft enough for the infant to break and chew with their gums. Yes, it can get messy but it is a learning process for the mother as well as the kid. 

Before giving your child a finger food try to take a bite yourself first, and make a note of the following points:

  • Can the baby hold it in their tiny hands? 
  • Is it soft enough? Is it soft enough that the baby can mash it with their gums but not too soft that they can’t hold onto it? Maybe try having a bite to check 
  • Can it be gulped? Ripe fruits like papaya, banana, or well-cooked noodles pasta can be quickly swallowed.

Make sure that your child sits on a high chair before eating. Whenever possible, sit down with the baby to avoid uncertainties. To reduce waste, start with small amounts of food, and offer more later if she’s hungry.

Finger Foods to avoid:

Parents need to be careful while choosing finger foods; some have minimal or no nutritional value while others can cause choking. Parents and caregivers need to make sure that a child does not have any episodes of choking by supervising her at all times. Here are a few foods that can cause choking and need to be avoided:

  • Pieces of raw vegetables or hard fruits or fruits with seeds
  • Whole grapes, pomegranate seeds, raisins, peanuts, nuts, and seeds
  • Popcorns, chips, candies (hard to chew, gummies)
  • Fish (Needs to be deboned properly)
  • Meat with bones, take care to remove small bones and cartilage.

Finger foods that require no cooking or little preparation

  1. Vegetables: Some veggies don’t require cooking, cucumber sticks served chilled, and cut into fingers length pieces are fantastic for teething. 
  2. Fruits: Most of them are soft and perfect for babies who require no cooking. Make sure you choose well ripe fruits like Banana, papaya, Mango, melons, Kiwi.
  3. Cheese: Cheese and cottage cheese requires no cooking, and can be given directly.

Finger foods that require cooking 

  1. Vegetables: Most vegetables are suitable for babies when cooked well and served safely. Carrot, beetroot, cauliflower, broccoli, capsicum, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin can be served by boiling, steaming, roasting, grilling in strips, or can be diced. Introduce one method of cooking and give the baby time to get used to the taste. If the baby does not like it, do not hesitate to try again in a few days time. 
  2. Fruits: Most fruits are soft; only some require cooking like steaming or boiling, which softens the hard fruits and makes it safe for the baby. Apples and pears can be boiled, steamed, and baked as well.
  3. Meat: Chicken, meat, fish needs to be deboned properly and boiled, sautéed and steamed before giving to the baby. It also has to be diced or shredded well.
  4. Eggs: Boiled, Scrambled eggs, an omelette can be offered in appropriately sized pieces.
  5. Lentils: Lentils can be boiled and served
  6. Cereals: Rice can be cooked and made into balls and served. Roti, parathas can be cooked and cut in strips. If they are difficult to mash, dip it in some curd/ dal before offering it to the baby. 
  7. Toast: Bread can be toasted and cut into small pieces and served.

Here are a few recipes for finger foods:

1.Nutri balls

Ingredients:

  • Any sprout/ lentil/ dal – ½ cup boiled and smashed
  • Rice – 1 cup cooked
  • Vegetables – ¾ cups finely chopped and boiled (broccoli, carrots, peas or any of your choice)
  • Cheese – ¾ cups grated
  • Roasted garlic (in butter ½ tsp) – 1pod mashed 
  • Garlic (in butter ½ tsp) – 1pod mashed 
  • Oil – 2 tsp

Method:

  • Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and make small-sized balls. While making the balls, you can slightly wet your hands to prevent it from sticking, or you can also use a small ice cream scooper to make them even size.
  • Heat oven to 350F and lightly oil a baking sheet. Place the balls in the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through or simply serve the balls OR

You can also use cook the balls on a non stick pan

2.Veggie potato bites 

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes – 2 medium-sized boiled 
  • Broccoli/ peas/spinach/beetroot/carrot (of your choice) – 1 medium boiled
  • Cheese – ½ cup grated
  • Bread crumb – 3 tbsp
  • Roasted garlic (in butter ½ tsp) – 2 to 3 pod mashed 
  • Oil – 3 tbsp

Method: 

  • Mix all the ingredients in a bowl except the bread crumbs and make small sized balls. While making the balls, you can slightly wet your hands to prevent it from sticking, or you can also use a small ice cream scooper to make them even size.
  • Heat oil in a pan and sauté prepared balls.

3.Cauliflower Crack (roasted cauliflower)

Ingredients:

  • Cauliflower – florets1 bowl 
  • Oil – 2tbsp
  • Garlic – minced 
  • Red chilli powder (optional)– very little ¾ tsp 
  • Cheese – ¾ cup (optional)
  • Bread crumb- 1tbsp 

Method: 

  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl, transfer it to a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes in 400F.

4.French toast sticks

Ingredients:

  • Bread – 2 slices
  • Milk – 1 cup 
  • Egg – 1
  • Cinnamon powder – a pinch
  • Butter – 3 tbsp

Method: 

  • Cut each bread slice into thick strips (3-4 strips per slice)
  • In a large, shallow container, whisk the milk with eggs, cinnamon powder to combine.
  • In a pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Working in batches, dip each stick of bread into the egg mixture entirely to coat all sides, hold it submerged, mix for about 30 seconds, and then remove and shake off excess.
  • Cook the sticks until golden brown on all the sides for 1- 2 minutes per side.

Author: Khadija Shaikh
Paediatric Nutritionist
Cuddles Foundation

References:

  1. Pure wow.com
  2. Pinterest.com
  3. Mjandhungryman
  4. Recipe30
  5. Healthylittlefoodies.com
  6. Kidshealth.org
  7. HealthlinkBC
  8. CDC (centres for Disease Control and prevention)
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