best finger foods
Babies, Recipes, Tips / How-Tos, Toddlers

Best Finger Foods for Babies & Toddlers

Once your baby has shown signs that they’re ready to start finger foods, their eating adventure gets more exciting! Typically, babies show an interest in self-feeding around 9 or 10 months of age, but timing will vary based on your child’s development. The best finger foods are large enough for your baby to pick up but small enough to prevent choking. They should also be soft enough to eat without molars, which your toddler will develop when they’re around 2 years old. Whether you want to transition your baby from purees to pick-up foods or are looking for bite-sized pieces for your toddler to enjoy, start with these finger food ideas for babies and toddlers.

best finger foods

Best Finger Foods for Babies & Toddlers

English peas

Peas are nature’s perfect pick-up food for babies just learning to self-feed. They’re mild in flavor and pair well with proteins, grains and other veggies. Frozen peas are also a great choice if your toddler is teething—the cold peas can help soothe their gums. Thaw them out just a little so they’re squishy in texture but still cold for your teething toddler.

Soft beans

Beans, beans, the wonderful fruit! Soft legumes are perfect for your baby to practice their pincer grasp, and different varieties offer subtly unique flavors and textures. Try soft, small beans with thin skins, such as cannellini beans, pinto beans and black beans.

Salmon

You may be surprised how quickly your little eater takes to fish! Naturally soft in texture, our Salmon, English Pea & Golden Potato finger food is a favorite for babies and toddlers.

Boiled potatoes or yams

Potatoes, sweet potatoes and garnet yams are great sources of starch and dietary fiber to add to your baby’s finger food combinations. If your baby is just starting finger foods, remove the skin before dicing and serving.

Cooked carrots

Soft, cooked carrots are mildly sweet, which your little eater will love. Pair them with savory vegetables like steamed cauliflower or green beans, or serve with raisins for a dessert-like finger food. Is your little one ready for more advanced flavors? Try roasting the carrots in the oven to deepen the natural sweetness.

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Scrambled eggs

Eggs are a great protein to introduce to your baby or toddler early on. Scramble a single egg—no other ingredients necessary! Or add frozen chopped spinach so your baby gets used to a veggie-enhanced dish. Once fully cooked, chop the egg into small pieces for your baby to enjoy.

Firm tofu

This plant-based protein is firm and finger-friendly! You can serve uncooked (just blot dry and dice) or you can cook with some mild seasoning. Boiling, baking or searing tofu will actually make it harder, so keep that in mind when preparing it for your baby or toddler. Be sure to buy firm tofu, since soft and silken tofu will be too soft for your baby to pick up.

Lean meats

Whether braised or roasted, chicken and turkey are great first proteins. Use boneless, skinless breast and pair with vegetables such as diced bell peppers, carrots, corn or peas.

Bite-sized pasta

Small pastas like ditalini or whole wheat elbow macaroni are great finger foods for your baby. Instead of cooking the pasta al dente, overcook it slightly so it’s soft enough for your little one to enjoy without fully developed teeth. Serve with some diced veggies for a colorful dish, like we do with our finger-friendly Ratatouille Pasta. We also pair ditalini with our homemade chicken meatballs for a protein-packed finger food combination.

Corn

Have your little one practice self-feeding with this sweet veggie! Get it fresh or frozen, and steam to soften. We like to pair corn with homemade beef meatloaf and steamed potatoes for a well-rounded mini meal. Or mix it with peas and garnet yams for a veggie-filled finger food.

Green beans

Steamed, chopped green beans are a healthy vegetable for your little one to start enjoying. Green beans are great to introduce early: If your baby learns to accept their mildly bitter flavor, they’ll be more likely to enjoy it and other healthy, bitter vegetables as they grow older.

Zucchini

Diced zucchini is a light vegetable that softens easily with steaming. Leave the skin on for a bit of texture, and pair with a protein and a healthy carbohydrate. We like to serve zucchini with tofu and soy-glazed carrots for a flavorful meal.

Finger foods for baby-led weaning

Some babies start on finger foods at the beginning of their eating journey, a method called baby-led weaning. This style of introducing food goes straight to self-feeding at around 6 months of age, skipping single ingredient and combination purees that are spoon-fed to your baby. The best baby-led weaning finger foods should be soft in texture so your baby can easily mash them without teeth, and big enough in size so that your baby can learn to hold the pieces, even without the pincer grasp. Try large pieces of soft-cooked vegetables like cauliflower, carrots and sweet potatoes as well as fruits like bananas, avocados, pears and ripe melons.

Finger foods to avoid

While there are many safe finger food options for your baby to enjoy, you’ll also need to avoid foods that may be difficult for your baby to chew and swallow. Here are some foods that you shouldn’t feed your baby or young toddler as they are developing their eating skills:

  • Large, circular foods that they can accidentally swallow, like whole grapes, hot dogs and raw carrots
  • Hard foods that are difficult to bite, like nuts, seeds and raw vegetables
  • Thick, sticky foods that are hard to swallow, like nut butters

Your baby’s self-feeding of finger foods is an exciting part of their eating development. Be sure to serve different finger food combinations so they can explore new flavors. Being mindful of the size and texture of their food will lead to successful mealtimes—and will give you less to worry about! Mix and match these finger foods to make a variety of meals for your baby to explore and enjoy.

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Lara Field at Nurture Life

Lara Field

Lara has been working with Nurture Life since its inception, collaborating with the culinary team on the creation of all menus and recipes to ensure they are nutritionally appropriate and correctly proportioned for every age and stage of a child’s development and providing pediatric nutrition expertise to Nurture Life customers. Lara is the owner/founder of FEED—Forming Early Eating Decisions, a nutrition consulting practice specializing in pediatric nutrition and digestive diseases. Lara has over a decade of experience in clinical practice at two of the top ranked pediatric hospitals in the country, Lurie Children’s Hospital and University of Chicago Medical Center. Lara received her B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and M.S. and dietetic internship from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. Lara truly enjoys the process of eating (and feeding!), from procuring the ingredients at various grocery stores and farmers markets, to organizing her pantry/refrigerator at home to make it easy to select healthy options, to preparing balanced meals with her children. Whether it be a decadent treat to a hearty, home-cooked meal, there is no greater satisfaction for Lara than enjoying food with her family.