Finger foods are a debatable topic amongst the parent community. Should I be trying baby-led weaning? Or progressing in stages set out by me, the parent? What size pieces are appropriate for my child? What about texture? Can I add spice? When do I start?! To learn more about when your baby is ready for solids and how to introduce them, click here.
Regardless of how you introduce finger foods, your child will eventually reach a stage where they are eating all finger foods or a combination of finger foods and purees. Choosing healthy foods to help them grow and thrive is a way that we, as parents, can help our children stay well-nourished and encourage development.
As kids get older, they start to assert their independence and want to do everything, including eating, “all by myself”. This is a good thing! Keep in mind that transitioning to finger foods means mealtime may get messier, but this process facilitates their development and encourages a healthy relationship with all kinds of food.
Keep these things in mind when offering a meal of finger foods:
- Include a source of protein: Protein provides us with amino acids which are the building blocks for our muscles, tissue, and other cells.
- Include a source of carbohydrate: Carbohydrates are our bodies’ main source of energy. Carbohydrates fuel the cells in our bodies so kids can run, jump and play!
- Include a fruit or vegetable (or both!): Fruits and veggies offer fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and more for a healthy body and mind.
Now that we know the healthy eating basics, let’s dive into our top 17 plant-based finger foods for toddlers.
17 Plant-Based Finger Foods for Toddlers
- Zucchini: Cook by steaming or sauteing for 2-3 minutes until soft. Chop into small pieces or thin strips. Season with olive oil and Italian herbs.
- Sweet Potatoes: Roast or boil these until soft and chop into small pieces or “fries”. Season with a dash of cinnamon or even curry powder!
- Cherry tomatoes: Serve raw! Cut each tomato into quarters and let your toddler taste the different textures within the vegetable.
- Cucumbers: Another vegetable that can be served raw. Cut into thin strips and allow your child to bite it. Serve cucumbers with a dip like hummus or sprinkle on some dried dill for flavor.
- Berries: Cut in half or chop into small pieces. Berries are a rich source of antioxidants that can lower our risk for some diseases and protect our cells from damage. For fruits like blueberries that are smooth, round, and pose a choking hazard for young children; be sure to cut them up.
- Apples: Cooked or raw, these are a great treat for kids. You can saute chopped small pieces in coconut oil and add cinnamon for extra flavor. Peel and grate the raw fruit for a softer texture.
- Kiwi and Papaya: Choose a ripe fruit and serve it raw cut into small pieces. Kiwi and papaya also work well to soften stool if your child is feeling constipated.
- Mango: Serve raw. Depending on where you live, fresh mangoes may be hard to come by or be very expensive. Not to worry, frozen mango is equally nutritious and can be used once thawed and chopped into small pieces. If they’re extra sweet, try sprinkling on a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
- Black beans: You can purchase these dried and then soak and cook them yourself at home. Alternatively, you can buy canned beans. Rinse them in water thoroughly to remove the canning liquid, which will reduce the sodium content. Cut into halves or quarters depending on your child’s capability and season with a little garlic powder.
- Tofu: Serve baked or lightly pan-fried, chopped into small pieces. Tofu absorbs flavor so play with herbs and spices here and experiment with your toddler.
- Lentils: Can either be cooked from dried or purchased canned. You can serve these warmed up or as is, or make lentil meatballs for added flavor and cut into small pieces.
- Edamame beans: Serve steamed and cut into quarters.
- Soy Yogurt: This can be used as a dip for other finger foods for toddlers. It can also be served plain or mixed with homemade fruit puree and eaten with a spoon to practice motor skills.
- Rice: Serve boiled plain rice or rice made with coconut milk for a stickier texture. Kids love the feel and taste of rice. Try white and brown varieties!
- Pancakes: Make your own using whole wheat flour and no sugar. Add in some ground flax seeds for more fiber. Serve cut in small pieces or strips with a fruit sauce for dipping or fresh fruit.
- Pasta: Avoid any smooth and small, rounded shapes. Use cut-up rotini, orzo, cut tortellini or ravioli. Serve with a plain tomato sauce or get adventurous and try pesto or just olive oil and herbs.
- Farro: Serve cooked and soft with your favorite spices.
Delving into the world of finger foods can seem overwhelming. But once you get started it becomes second nature and you’ll be whipping up new foods along with your tried and true favorites in no time. Enjoy the process and the wonder you’ll see on your toddler’s face as they try these foods for the very first time!
Do you have a toddler at home who likes to eat all by themself? What are their favorites? Let us know in the comments below!
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