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Healthy Finger Food Ideas for Toddlers and Babies

July 6, 2011

It’s amazing how kids gobble up their bite-sized food and snacks- is it because of the size? We think so. Finger foods seem to be appealing to children since they can make them feel more independent by feeding themselves. Since a little one’s taste is constantly evolving it is important to focus on finger foods that they like rather than get frustrated by the things that they don’t eat. For the most part I try to make sure that finger foods are healthy and include a wide variety of flavors and textures. This includes having nutritious and quick options around like fresh fruit, cut up pieces of cheese, trail mix, rice cakes, and mini sandwiches. I complied a list of some of my favorite snack and finger food options that include quick and healthy mini meals for your little ones. Also, please add your favorite finger food ideas in the comments sections – especially your tips and suggestions for picky toddler and babies!

  • Cut up pieces of cheese. String cheese is a big hit around my house as well as cut up pieces of cheddar and Muenster.
  • Apples and peanut or almond butter. This is a great mid-day snack that will provide your child with protein and fiber that also fill them up. You can also try rice cakes, carrots or celery instead of apples.
  • Trail mix. One of my personal favorites, trail mix is great snack when you and your little one are on-the-go. Ideally for kids 2 and up, trail mix can be your own combination of nuts (walnuts, slivered almonds or cashews), raisins, cereal and dried fruit.
  • Granola bars. I try to avoid granola bars that are packed with sugar and try (if I can) to make homemade bars that contain oats, nuts and dried fruit. I really love the Barefoot Contessa‘s recipe, which can be made in huge batches and frozen and used when needed.
  • Sandwiches. I love the simplicity of a sandwich that can also be a great mini-snack for your toddler. I generally make a classic staple like peanut or almond butter with a low-sugar jelly on whole wheat bread and then cut it up into four squares. You can also make cheese sandwiches, tuna fish, and turkey sandwiches – depending on what your toddler likes.
  • Dried fruit. I love how quick dried fruit is. Although they can be calorie dense dried fruit is a great source of fiber and an ideal quick snack that involves no prep work. My toddler loves dried apples, figs, papaya, mango, etc. I also give her fruit leather by Stretch Island Fruit Co. such as their autumn apple, orchard cherry and harvest grape. This is the ultimate quick snack that is also made of from fruit purees.
  • Dried peas. Veggies can be a hit or miss in my house. Although not a veggie in its purest form my daughter really loves Snapea Crisps, which are essentially baked peas. I find this to be a great snack and an excellent alternative to chips or puffs.
  • Pita and hummus. Hummus is a fun way for your little one to try new flavors and get some protein. My daughter sometimes just eats the pita bread – so this can be a hit or miss snack.
  • Avocado. A great source of healthy fats, I like to serve cut up avocado on the side with dinner.
  • Frozen peas. A staple in our house when my daughter was teething that is now also one of her favorite side dishes.
  • Veggies. Rather than harp on what veggies my daughter won’t eat (broccoli and spinach), I try to focus on what she likes. For her that is peppers (any kind), string beans and sometimes cut up pieces of salad. I also sometimes add a veggie-based green powder to her water or juice.
  • Fresh fruit. There is nothing like fresh fruit. Some staples I try to have at home include: apples, pears, berries (raspberries, blueberries and blackberries), banana, watermelon, cantaloupe and mangos.
  • Tofu. This is great to sauté with some sesame oil, soy sauce and tamari. I suggest using extra firm tofu so the pieces stay chunky and don’t fall apart.
  • Sweet potato. A great source of vitamin C, we love placing cut up pieces of sweet potato on a cookie sheet with olive oil and a teensy bit of salt to make homemade and healthy sweet potato fries.
  • Yogurt. Another great no-prep option, yogurt is ideal for outings. Try to avoid brands that are high in sugar. (See our post here about yogurts with lower sugar).
  • Breakfast ideas. Small bits of whole-wheat pancakes, waffles or French toast (minus the maple syrup- too messy!) are fun options for breakfast. You can also add some fruit for an extra dose of fiber. Other options for breakfast include cold cereals, oatmeal with flax seeds and cinnamon, small bites of a bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter, or scrambled eggs with cheese.
  • Veggie burgers. I love Dr. Praeger’s line of veggie burgers and vegetable patties. They cook very quickly and since they are very soft your little one can easy chew and handle these healthy snacks.
  • Soup. Soup is an excellent way to pack in tons of nutrients as well as have a light lunch option that will last for a few days. Minestrone soup is great and contains a rich source of protein from the beans and the pasta as well as a combination of cut-up veggies. Other options a baby or toddler might like are lentil soup and purees like butternut squash and pumpkin soup.
  • Cheerios or Happy Baby puffs. These o-shaped puffs do seem to be standard favorites.
  • Pasta. I particularly like the fusilli or bowtie pasta: they are easy to grasp and have fun shapes.
  • Grains: Try quinoa, millet, barley. All great for your child and have such different textures than most of the above suggestions.