Real food finger food ideas that will teach self feeding while nourishing your baby!
“Just throw a few Cheerio’s on the tray and let her chase them around!”…
That was what my pediatrician told me 5 years ago when I brought my first baby in for her 9 month well baby check up. He told me it would be a great way for her to work on her pincher grasp and start learning how to eat finger foods.
At the time I was about 6 months into learning about traditional foods, and how to feed a nourished baby. I knew I didn’t want to throw cereal or baby puffs on her tray after feeding her such nourishing powerhouse foods like egg yolks, avocados, and bone broth for the previous 3 months. Baby puffs and other so called baby friendly cereals like the O’s are nothing more than toxic, extruded grains. Not only is there zero nutrient value, but baby doesn’t even have the digestive enzymes to process grain until well after the age of one! We set our babies up for digestive havoc when we introduce grain too young.
So my simple brain went to work figuring out a different way. She was already loving nourishing food mashes and purees I was feeding her, so why not just feed those same foods to her in a less mushed up way?!
Turns out you really can have a quick finger food to throw on the table or tray for baby to learn how to self feed. Here are my top 5 favs I have come to use with all 3 of my girls now:
Pinch off a few pieces and onto the table or tray – that is just as fast as those O’s. And very travel friendly since banana’s come in their own wrapping! Many times in the morning I’ll put a few pieces on the tray along with a few chunks in some raw milk or safe coconut milk for her to fish out.
One of the perfect foods for baby! And another one in its own travel wrapping! One of the reasons my big girls to this day eat avocados right out of the shell is because it was how it was served as baby. Just score the inside of the flesh into cubes and scoop onto the tray or table. They are a bit slippery but it is really great finger practice – they’ll catch on!
Peas, green beans, carrots, zucchini, summer squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, winter squashes! Super simple! Be sure to give them a good dollop of butter or coconut oil to melt. Friendly fats help the veggies digest better, and since the vitamins in veggies are fat soluble they will be getting more of the nutrients in the veggies. Get yourself a good steamer, and keep a small container of steamed veg in the fridge for quick grab and go. Sautee in butter and a splash or two of bone broth if you have it – so good!
If you have access to raw cheese, baby is gonna love this one! Edam is a great mild one to start, but I also recommend working up to some of the stronger soft raw cheeses so baby’s palate will get used to it. I typically warm it up in my hand at first so it is very soft, but then baby gets used to it right out of the fridge.
Ok so baby may not be able to have everything on your plate if there are some grains or a big steak on there, but if you want to create a broad taste palate for your baby, and help baby get used to all the flavors of your home, eating right off your plate is the best way to do that. (And the best “eating clean plan” you’ll ever encounter – those little eyes watching you are the best accountability to feeding *yourself* well!) Sans any grains, raw veggies, or tough meats, scoop out some of your soup onto the tray or table, or give babe a bit of your stew or stir fry! Three kids into this thing and I have never had a babe refuse what was on my plate – and it creates those healthy broad taste palates YOUNG so you don’t have to fight for it later.
Other foods to consider! My babies love coconut butter, so when they start finger foods sometimes I’ll chunk off a few pieces of that to melt in their mouth, or spread on some banana. Pastured egg yolks pack a large nutrient dense punch in a small package. Read THIS on how to serve a soft yolk to baby, as baby transitions into finger food I occasionall serve a cut up hard boiled or scrambled yolk. Keep in mind baby shouldn’t have the whites of the egg until he is over age 1. Small pieces of shredded crockpotted chicken or grassfed beef seem to work well for my babies around age 1 and older as well.
Let’s continue the conversation!
My new cookbook, Nourished Beginnings Baby Food is full of almost 100 recipes to pave the way for healthy eaters in your house! Simple tips and recipes right from my home to raise my 3 girls with broad, nourishing taste palates!
So talk to me! What are your favorite non grain finger foods for baby to learn self feeding?
Great article, Renee! We just skipped the whole “baby food” faze. My kids always preferred what was on my plate, so that’s what I gave them! Since I never started them on solids until they had teeth, I didn’t need to worry about pureeing it or anything. They were happier, and it was much easier on me. 🙂
Yes! Very true!
Love these ideas. This is how my daughter learned to eat, and she has always enjoyed just about everything that has come across her plate!
Wonderful Ariana! It is so worth it!
I wish more people would throw away the O’s!!
This is so helpful for new moms trying to figure out the do’s, don’t’s and undesirables lol. Wish I had this when mine was at this stage. Next one!!
Absolutely Holly! That is the whole point – get the right info out there 🙂
These are great. Our littlest only ate real foods as a toddler. I wish we done that with all our kids!
Thank you Jennifer! Toddlers are still so young! That is great you made the switch!
I am so glad my children aren’t listening to pediatrician advice about feeding babies…they are still touting rice cereal. UGH!
Ack Linda 🙁 It is frustrating – the more we get the message out though the more it will change. When we moved a few years ago the DO we picked was actually happy when I mentioned we started avocado with my middle one. Some doctors are coming around and seeing the literature. It’s a good thing.
You know how much I love this post, right??
Great post and I raised my kids this way! Strapping teenagers now!! Trish
Thank you Trish!
I’ve pinned all of your baby first food recipes to a special board that I’m collecting resources for. I will be sharing your blog when I teach my Mom & Baby Nutrition classes.
Great Jessica! Thank you! I hope your classes find the information useful!
Love this reference! It blows my mind that pediatricians give advice like that. Seriously, it makes me so angry! Did you give your babies raw cheese from the time that they were ready for solids or did you wait?
I know it Aubrey 😛
I start raw cheese when I feel like they are doing chewing motions with their eating and are handling chunks of banana and avocado ok – usually around I would say 6-8 months. Caitlyn got it maybe closer to 8 months mostly because I have just been lazier about food with her LOL! She is number 3 and I have a 5 and 3 year old and life is just busy – and she is my best nurser out of the 3 – nursing is just so easy 😉 Ha ha! She has handled all solids just as well as the bigger girls though so I haven’t had any issues. I find the more I can get in before they hit like 18 months the easier it is – they get closer to age 2 and that little “will” comes out where they can say NO 😀
Sorry for the silly question but what do you mean add butter or coconut oil. Is that for when I sauté the veggies?
Hi Meredith! Yep just add a small pat of butter or scoop of coconut oil to warm veggies to melt – it makes them taste great, helps them digest better, and makes the vitamins in the veggies absorb!
So great! I have almost 3 year old twins! I breastfed and made all of their baby food! I was AGAINST those puff things and I still am! My boys are GREAT eaters and love their veggies! I 100% attribute that to them eating REAL FOOD from the get go! Great post! 🙂
Thank you! And bravo! It makes things just a bit simpler when meal time is a happy event 🙂
Thank you for this. My only (huge) concern is choking….
While I do trust his instinct to chew, (and probably should trust it more), if I give him a chuck of chicken (at just 7mos) is he actually able to chew it properly?
Trying to explain this to the grandparents is even tougher. We are leaving our son for 5days with them and I hope they do abide to what we ask.
Grains do worry me somewhat, I’ve stayed Way from the cereal to ‘help him sleep’.
I’m doing one regular food ‘meal’ a day…and I’m stressed about increasing it. Does he need 3 meals plus formula?
Hi Shannon! Great questions and thoughts!
Every baby is different so if you are feeling he won’t handle a chunk of chicken start with steamed sweet potato or zucchini. Smaller avocado chunks work well too and you can kind of watch how he is handling it. My girls for some reason always took to eating very well but I never pushed it or rushed it. I would offer a small piece here or there after 6 months and see how they did. My current baby only just started doing some small pieces of shredded chicken whereas my first born was definitly chewing chunks of chicken easily by this age. I think you are doing great for 7 months. I was definitely still just offering food other than breastmilk about 1-2 times per day at that age. My current baby is almost 11 months and in the last 1-2 months I have been feeding her some sort of solid during my big girls breakfast lunch and dinner – some because she is very much reaching for it and wants to be a part of what her sisters are doing, and a lot because their little appetites definitely ramp up around 9 months (at least that is what I have noted in my 3 girls). She always nurses before she eats and I even can feel sometimes there is some left in there but she is just wanting to be done and she’ll crawl right over to her highchair for food 😉 Ha! Anyway, do what you feel comfortable with 😉
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Help! I’m the ‘Grandmother’ who has been trying to educate my grandbaby’s mother to stop feeding my granddaughter those awful Cheerios!! but she has her ‘own way’ of doing things and basically refuses to believe they aren’t good for her. (she also believes in vaccines! uggggg) I’ve even given her a couple of cookbooks i.e yours, that stress the importance of ‘traditional foods’ and such but she just goes about the way it was taught to her ‘way back when’. (she’s 37 and this is her second daughter. first one is now 16). So what’s a grandmother to do?
Hi Pam 🙂 I’m thinking you probably get to be the gentle grandma at this point 🙂 You never know what she might come around to researching based on seeds that you have planted in her, and maybe someday she will come around. If she is ok with the kids taking tastes of your food when they visit, I would definitely try to introduce them to some nourishing food. For instance, my mom brings a soaked granola and bone broth every time she babysits for my brother’s kids (who are “healthy” but probably not as on board with nourishing foods), and the kids love it – they look forward to grandma’s special food! Make it light and fun – the last thing you want to do is push your daughter away – those grandbabies need their grandma 🙂