Thursday, February 17, 2011

Finger Lickin' Good

In the first year of life babies learn more than at any other time in their life, if you think about it a baby is born with enough skills to survive eating and making dirty diapers.  Then right before your eyes they are holding their head up, squeezing your finger then holding a toy (I remember the first time Julia held her rattle we were so excited), then they start wiggling, wanting to stand, enjoying tummy time, rolling over, clapping, waving, splashing the water, sitting up, making all kinds of sounds "maaa-maaa" is one of my favorites haha, eating – first learning how to swallow then to chew and before you know it they are picking up food and feeding themselves and walking or running and the list goes on… I am sure you get the point what a joyous time the first year is, thankfully people (in Ontario) now have the option of taking that first year to be with their baby alright… zoning in on a baby’s grip – did you know a newborn is born with enough strength to hold themselves on a chin-up bar incredible isn’t it?  Julia has recently started a gymnastics class and to our surprise 1st time on the bars she was holding herself up at 12.5 months old wow, but with much practice they can do it much sooner!! This is Julia last year at this time 2 months old... I just felt like showing a flash back.

When we think about it, it is really amazing how babies “grab” things they start by cupping things with their hands and somewhere around the 7-8 month mark you will notice your baby developing a “pincer grip” where they are able to pick things up between their thumb and index finger – so watch out for any small things on the floor as they will go straight to the mouth.  Why do babies LOVE putting everything in their mouth? Because they have many sensors in mouth and it is very satisfying for them to put things in their mouth and suck.

Alright so babies have the ability to pick up food with fingers around 7-8 months so at that time you can start with finger foods so many people will start with “puffs” as they will dissolve in babies mouth posing no choking hazard and they teach them how to start to “chew” or “gum” the food preparing them for foods they need to breakdown.  Alright so "puffs" of what?  First I have to tell you a story I was at a playgroup and a mother was feeding her baby what appeared to be “puffs” so my curiousity got the best of me as it usually does and I asked her what they were she responded “puffs” I proceeded to ask puffs of what? And she said “I don’t know they are no-name from the grocery store” ok… I was dumbfounded like how could you not know what “puffs” you were feeding your baby… anyways everyone is different :-) 

The majority of puffs that parents will start babies on are rice but we already talked about this babies eat tiny little bits so why would you fill them up on white rice puffs? Our situation was compounded as Julia doesn’t eat rice (for digestive health) so I went on a search I quickly found you could buy puffed anything I came home with puffed barley, puffed kamut, puffed wheat, puffed millet and puffed quinoa… ok I went a little over board but who knew all these grains came in “puffs” so we sampled them all decided that the wheat dissolved best, kamut second, barley third, the millet and quinoa are very tiny and therefore not suitable as a finger food as it would be very difficult to pick up (see picture).   

So now we make up a bag of “cereal” with puffed wheat, kamut, barley and nutrios.  Nutrios are basically like cherrios sans salt, & sugar and they are fortified making them a perfect finger food as well. 

Here is a little list of healthy finger foods for your little one I have included vegetarian options in italics:

  • Puffed grains (wheat, kamut, barley)
  • Nutrios
  • Rye bread (read labels carefully many breads are full of sugar, molasses, salt & milk)*
  • Crackers (I make my own see recipe)
  • Baby’s 1st Banana Pancake (recipe coming soon)
  • Breadsticks (recipe coming soon picture below) 
  • Well cooked pasta
*sometime in the very near future I am going to attempt my very 1st loaf of bread
Salt-Free Rosemary Breadsticks
  • Grapes cut into 8 ish pieces (decrease risk of choking)
  •  Honey dew or cantaloupe cut into chunks (cantaloupe freezes well so you can always have some ready)
  • Pineapple
  • Pear or apple cut into chunks, strips or grated
  • Peach or nectarine cut into chunks 
  • Dried fruit apricots, figs, prunes, raisins, dates (baby’s love dried fruit because it is so sweet)


Slippery Fruit/Veggie Tip: lightly dust with infant cereal or nutrio dust giving it enough texture to pick up
  • Lightly steamed asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, celery, carrot, turnip or parsnip sticks or chunks (see picture I steam them then lay on parchment paper to individually freeze before putting into a bag)
  • Green peas, edamame, avocado
  • Grated fresh carrot (I do this whenever I don’t have steamed one’s cause Julia loves carrots)
  • Cucumber in chunks or strips 
  • Lightly steamed chunks of beet or sweet potato   
  • Beans: garbanzo, black, kidney or any other bean  
  • Chunks of tofu
  • Chunks of egg yolk or cheese 

This is by no means a comprehensive list of finger foods this is what has worked for us as Julia is getting older it naturally keeps growing so let the creativity begin.  Toddlers can be tricky to feed as they start to know what they want for example they will like bigger “sticks” to chew on instead of tiny pieces to pick up, but they can’t communicate that to us so it is this guessing game (unless you have some sign language that you use), you don’t always want to cater to their every food request or you will develop a picky eater so always remember to offer variety you decide what goes on their plate they decide how much if any they will eat…

Coming up next chart of what to introduced when… it was funny when I was first trying to figure all this out I sorted all the foods by colour and then realized that wasn’t really a good way to introduce them but it was a great way to brainstorm all different foods and see the rainbow of possibilities out there, I'm sure it will be a fun game as Julia get's older to make sure she chooses a wide variety of colorful foods.

What are your babies favourite finger foods? How do you serve them?  

Also I want to do a little reader poll: If your baby only has 2 bites of their dinner left do you try to get them to take it? Will discuss in next post “come on only one more bite…” is it worth the frustration it can pose... meal times are fun so let's keep them that way!!

Have a happy Friday - leading into a nice long weekend!!

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