Categories: Babies, Nutrition, Recipes, Tips / How-Tos, Toddlers

Best Baby Finger Foods for Babies & Toddlers

Once your baby has shown signs that they’re ready to start baby finger foods, their eating adventure gets more exciting! Typically, babies show an interest in self-feeding around 8–10 months of age, but timing will vary based on your child’s development. 

Choosing the right baby finger foods can help your little one adapt to this new stage—and lay the foundation for a varied, healthy palate as they grow up. As you and your baby dive into this new world together, keep in mind that the best early finger foods are:

  • Large enough for your baby to pick up but small enough to prevent choking
  • Soft enough to gum, mush and eat without molars (which your toddler will develop around 1.5–2 years of age)
  • Minimally processed with no added sugar and minimum salt

You don’t have to brainstorm baby finger food ideas on your own, either! Check out the quick list below for 12 recommended finger foods for babies and young toddlers.

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12 of the Best Baby Finger Foods for Babies & Toddlers

When introducing finger foods, you don’t have to worry about going in a strict order. Just focus on offering a variety of colors, textures, flavors and food groups! (Of course, there are a few foods to avoid, but we’ll get to those later.)

1. English Peas 

Peas are nature’s perfect pick-up food for babies who are 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—thaw them out so they’re squishy but still cold for your teething toddler. The size and shape of peas make them one of the best finger foods for babies.

Recommended Nurture Life meal: Our English Pea, Corn & Sweet Potato meal is as brightly colored as it is nutritious! The vibrant colors make this dish especially appealing for babies to grab, while serving up naturally sweet flavors and essential nutrients like vitamins A and B1. 

2. Soft Beans

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.

3. Salmon

You may be surprised how quickly your little eater takes to fish! Salmon is not only naturally soft and flaky, but it’s also packed with omega-3 fatty acids that are important to infants’ cognitive development.

healthy baby meals

4. Potatoes

White potatoes and sweet potatoes are great sources of starch and dietary fiber to add to your baby’s finger food combinations. They’re soft enough to mush without molars, and the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes is especially enticing. If your baby is just starting finger foods, remove the skin before dicing and serving.

Recommended Nurture Life meal: Our Pasta, Sweet Potato & Black Bean meal serves up plenty of fiber and vitamin A in a pleasing trio of colors. If you want all the sweet potato goodness with some extra protein, too, try our Braised Chicken, Sweet Potato & Carrot!

5. Carrots

Cooked carrots are mildly sweet, which your little eater will love, and they’re perfectly soft for mushing and gumming. If your little one is ready for more advanced flavors, try roasting the carrots in the oven to deepen the natural sweetness.

Recommended Nurture Life meal: What’s so great about our Carrot, Raisin & Butternut Squash with Cinnamon? It’s not only soft and sweet to keep your baby reaching for more, but it’s delightfully spiced to give them a taste of new flavors. 

6. Scrambled Eggs

With their fluffy-soft texture, eggs are a great protein to introduce to your baby or toddler early on. Just 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.

7. Firm Tofu

This plant-based protein is firm and finger-friendly! You can serve it uncooked (just blot dry and dice) or you can cook it 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. Make sure to avoid buying soft or silken tofu which will be too soft for your baby to pick up.

Recommended Nurture Life meal: With vitamin A, copper, calcium and potassium, our Asian-inspired Tofu, Sweet Soy Glazed Carrot & Zucchini meal is thoughtfully balanced and creatively seasoned.

8. Soft Meats

For teeth that are still developing, start with meats that are easy to chew, like small chunks of ground meat, cut-up meatballs, or shredded chicken or turkey. These meat options are easier to mush and offer a great pop of protein when served with colorful veggies like steamed carrots, corn or peas.

Recommended Nurture Life meal: Now is the perfect time to introduce your little one to hints of exciting new flavors! Our Turkey, Sweet Potato, Rutabaga & Orange Zest meal brings some citrusy tang to the table without overpowering the kid-friendly flavors.

9. Bite-Sized Pasta

Small pastas like ditalini or whole wheat elbow macaroni are great finger foods for toddlers and babies. 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. 

Recommended Nurture Life meal: In our Chicken Meatballs & Pasta, we pair soft ditalini pasta with our housemade chicken meatballs for a protein-packed finger food combination. 

10. Corn

Have your little one practice self-feeding with this sweet veggie! Get it fresh or frozen, and steam to soften. Corn’s naturally sweet flavor makes it satisfying for babies and toddlers, and the kernels are perfectly sized for little fingers to practice their pincer grasp.

Recommended Nurture Life meal: For a toddler-friendly take on comfort food, serve up our Turkey Meatloaf, Sweet Potato & Corn! Not only rich with protein, our turkey meatloaf has a soft, smooth texture that makes it the perfect early finger food.

11. 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 green beans and other healthy, bitter vegetables as they grow older.

12. Zucchini

Diced zucchini is a light vegetable that softens easily with steaming. Leave the skin on for a bit of texture, and pair it with a protein and a healthy carbohydrate for a well-rounded meal. 

Recommended Nurture Life meal: Our finger-friendly Ratatouille Pasta combines zucchini with eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes and soft-cooked ditalini pasta. It’s full of homey flavors, vibrant colors and immune-boosting vitamin C!

Recommended Baby Finger Foods for Baby-Led Weaning

Some babies start on baby 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 enough that your baby can easily mash them without teeth and big enough that your baby can learn to hold the pieces, even without the pincer grasp (which they will likely develop later). 

Large pieces of soft-cooked vegetables or naturally soft fruits work especially well for baby-led weaning, including:

  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Pears
  • Ripe melons

Baby Finger Foods to Avoid

While there are many safe finger foods for babies to enjoy, you’ll need to avoid foods that may be too difficult for your baby to chew or too easy for your baby to accidentally swallow whole. Foods that are circular, hard and especially thick, chewy or sticky should be avoided.

Here are some foods that you shouldn’t feed your baby or young toddler as they are developing their eating skills:

  • Whole grapes, cherries or berries
  • Hot dogs
  • Raw vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Popcorn
  • Hard candies or gummies
  • Marshmallows

Choking risk aside, these last foods should really be avoided for your little one anyway! Research shows that early exposure to sugar can lead to narrower taste preferences and lower-quality nutrition over a lifetime—so it’s never too early to set the stage for your baby’s healthy eating habits.

Starting Your Baby on Finger Foods

While most babies will develop an interest in self-feeding at about 6 months, it’s up to you as a parent whether you want to grant your child autonomy in this process. Some parents are fans of baby-led weaning, which starts at 6 months, while others like the traditional approach (7-8 month).

However, for baby-led weaning, your child should also be able to sit up and hold their heads up independently. If they’re unable to do so without assistance, it’s best to wait — but don’t wait too long. By year one, most babies should be eating foods similar to the rest of the family, though you’ll likely have to prepare their food separately for the right textures and sizes.

Some parents use the number of teeth a baby has as a guide, but that’s not a reliable indication of whether they’re ready for finger foods. Gums are surprisingly strong, and there are various baby finger foods that they can eat even without teeth.

Preparing Baby Finger Foods

For the most part, food that you feed your baby should be safe and easy to handle. After all, their fingers aren’t as dexterous as an adult’s, and that means they’ll have to make a fist to properly navigate the task of eating. 

Younger babies between 6-8 months will use their whole hand to pick up a piece of food. To help them accomplish this task, baby finger foods should be bigger than the palm of their hand, or about two inches long. Carrots and other long and narrow strips of food work best here.

At around 8-9 months, babies learn the skills to pick up smaller pieces of food with a thumb and forefinger, which means you can start serving smaller foods that would present a significant challenge to younger babies.

Another important aspect of finger foods for babies is texture. Too soft and the food will quickly turn to mush during handling. Too hard and it could represent a choking hazard. Leaving the skin on bananas, apples and pears can make them easier to hold, or you can use a crinkle cutter to add texture if a certain food is too tough to handle.

Adding spices and herbs to baby finger foods can also be a great way to introduce your baby to more exotic flavors than the same old staples, which can expand their palette and drive a healthy interest in alternative tastes throughout childhood and beyond.

But if you’re not sure what to do with a certain food, try cooking it. Sautéing, steaming, roasting and boiling are but just a few ways to change the flavor profile and texture of a given finger food — though you should be ready for lots of trial and error. With a bit of persistence and experimentation, you’ll be able to find the right combination of food and preparation to make mealtime fun and enjoyable for both you and your child.

How Much Should You Offer?

While it’s easy as an adult to decide how much to eat, many parents are unsure how much to serve to their child. Food might also make its way across the table onto the floor where it’s difficult to determine what’s been eaten and what was devoted to play. 

The good news is that just like adults, babies can manage their own intake of food. All you have to do is make sure that there’s enough yummy and nutritious food available and they’ll take care of the rest, feeding themselves at their own pace until full. As long as you’re serving them a well-balanced diet of baby finger foods, they’ll get all the nutrition they need for their growing bodies and minds.

Baby Finger Foods and Safety Precautions

Most parents already have a good idea of what’s ok during mealtime and what’s not, but here’s a refresher just in case. As mentioned earlier, your baby should always be sitting upright and focused during eating. Lying, slumping and other relaxed forms of eating must be avoided, as well as any eating on the go. Eating’s still a complicated activity for growing babies, so mealtimes should be strictly controlled and enforced.

If you have other kids in your house, don’t encourage or allow them to feed the baby. Once a baby starts self-feeding, they should be the only ones to put food in their mouth. However, don’t make the mistake of leaving your baby alone with food. If you’re not around, you won’t be able to help out in case of choking. It also goes without saying that you should never feed your baby finger foods that could represent a choking risk.

The Difference Between Gagging and Choking

During the initial stages of starting your baby on finger foods, many parents are rightfully fearful of choking. But gagging or coughing isn’t the same as choking for babies that have accentuated gag reflexes. In fact, gagging while eating is common for babies, and it’s actually pushing forward food that isn’t ready to be swallowed yet. It might be unsettling to watch, but it’ll be a common sight at mealtime.

On the other hand, choking is a very real concern. Unlike gagging, choking occurs when food blocks the baby’s airway, prompting a quick cough to clear the blockage. If the baby’s airway is fully blocked by food, you might not hear any sort of coughing as air is unable to escape. That makes it important not to feed your baby finger foods that are hard and liable to get stuck on the way down.

How To Prevent Choking

Since food is the most common cause of infant choking, it’s important to only serve finger foods that babies can eat. That said, babies can and do choke on just about anything, as long as they can grab it and put it in their mouth. 

To prevent infant choking, the weaning timeline is crucial. In addition to the 6-8 month guideline for baby finger foods, babies should only be introduced to pureed solid foods after 4 months. Mealtime supervision is also an important consideration — your child should be focused on eating, not playing, walking or running while snacking. Games such as stuffing the mouth and catching food from the air should also be avoided, and the same goes for any small toys and other hazardous objects that might end up in baby’s mouth.

Nurture Life Makes Baby Finger Foods a Breeze

We at Nurture Life focus on real, wholesome foods at even the youngest ages. Our baby and toddler meals are just as diverse and nutrient-focused as all of our kids meals, only they’re made with a baby’s developmental capabilities in mind. Not just snacks, we provide complete meals that are well-balanced, finger-friendly, and small enough to prevent choking. 

If you have any questions about our ready-to-enjoy baby finger foods for babies and toddlers (and what makes them different!), please reach out to us at support@nurturelife.com.

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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.

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