Photo credit: Michelle Loy. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
Beyond pureed baby food, I've found that many parents seem stumped about what to feed their older babies (9-12 months of age). When parents begin to experiment with finger-feeding, I often find that they start with some of the typical foods, such as Cheerios or puffs. While these choices provide a developmentally-appropriate and convenient start, there is a host of other nutritious and safe finger foods that parents can offer to their little ones. I thought I'd share my top 10 list of nutritious finger foods for older babies for a little inspiration. Keep in mind that this is not a complete list of possibilities. For more ideas, put yourself in your baby's booties. If you had no to minimal teeth and were still developing your chewing and swallowing ability, what could you eat?
Black beans: Jam-packed with fiber, black beans can help ward off constipation, which can sometimes trouble infants during the transition from pureed foods to table foods. Black beans also offer a significant plant-based source of protein, an essential building block for proper growth. These velvety-textured beans are also an excellent plant-based source of iron, which is necessary to support their rapid growth.
Green peas: Green peas are loaded with vitamin K and manganese, two vital nutrients for proper bone formation. You've heard of carrots for vision, but what about green peas? Yep, they are a good source of the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health, especially the retina. Look to these for a fiber boost as well.
Egg Yolk: Egg yolk offers a significant source of choline, a nutrient that is essential for brain and memory development in infants. It also supplies lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health.
Blueberries: Blueberries are rich in vitamin C, which promotes a healthy immune system, enhances iron absorption, and helps form collagen that is needed for healthy bones and skin. They're also a good source of manganese and fiber.
Salmon: Salmon is a high quality, easily digestible source of protein, which is helpful for those maturing little digestive tracts. Salmon also boasts a high omega-3 fatty acid content, specifically EPA and DHA, which promotes proper brain and vision development. Finally, salmon is a fantastic source of vitamin D, a must-have for calcium absorption and bone building.
Avocado: Avocados supply healthful monounsaturated fats, which help infants meet their high energy needs for rapid growth. These fats also form part of every cell in the body and are needed for proper brain development. Avocados are also a source of folate, which helps form and maintain new cells during periods of rapid growth.
Cheese: Cheese is an excellent source of high quality, easily digestible protein and bone-building calcium. But you knew that, didn't you? Here's what you may not know...cheese may help combat those acids that are responsible for tooth decay. So a little cheese may actually help promote the health of your babies new chompers! Cheese is also a good source of the sleep-inducing amino acid, tryptophan.
Sweet potato: Sweet potatoes provide an excellent source of vitamin A, which promotes a healthy immune system and plays a vital role in bone growth. The sweet potato also serves up a nice helping of vitamin B6, which supports immune function. Would you be surprised to know that these are also a good source of vitamin C? My little guy (pictured above) loves oven baked or steamed sweet potatoes!
Whole wheat pasta: Whole wheat pasta provides a quality source of complex carbohydrates, which promote growth and serve as a major energy source for your infant's brain. Including adequate carbohydrate in your infant's diet also allows protein to be used to build new tissue rather than for energy. Whole wheat pasta is also a source of magnesium and zinc, which both support immune function. We also can't forget that fiber!
Butternut squash: This winter squash is packed with nutrients, including fiber, potassium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and A to name just a few. Pair baked diced squash and apples and sprinkle with cinnamon for a nutritious and flavorful feast for your little one.
What nutritious finger foods do you enjoy sharing with your baby?