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We asked a number of local baby and toddler experts for recommendations of healthy, simple and nutritious finger snacks  for tiny taste buds.

Finger snacks are a great way of introducing babies to the varying tastes, shapes and textures of food. In addition, picking up one food item at time enables them to practice their pincer grasp.

Baby steps

finger snacks for six- to 11-month-olds
Jenni Johnson, registered nurse and childcare practitioner, The Baby Clinic, Berea, Durban
Finger foods should be introduced from six months of age. Keep it simple, start with healthy biscuits, after that progress to bite-sized pieces of toast with butter and/or Marmite in the seventh month. Offer this once a day, but don’t expect your baby to eat all of it. It’s fine if there’s a lot of playing and squashing.  Introduce finger snacks as a lunchtime meal when baby reaches nine months. This is your opportunity to try everything. A fruit, a carbohydrate, a protein and a portion of dairy can be happily explored, as well as other non-choking snacks.
A lunchtime meal, for example, could consist of: 
  • three grapes, cut in half
  • a slice or two of beetroot – one of the best antioxidants around
  • a slice of quiche, easy to eat even with no teeth and a nutritious way to offer cheese and egg
  • five baked beans – an excellent source of protein
Other ideas are an omelette with filling, cocktail sausages and feta.
My belief is anything goes if it’s healthy and safe.
Kath Megaw, clinical dietitian and co-author of Feeding Sense (Metz Press)
Finger foods should be big enough for your baby to pick up easily and free of peels, pips, bones and so on. Don’t be fearful of choking – as long as you are always present when your child is eating and the food is soft and pieces are small, your child will learn to chew and navigate his way through his finger snacks. Remember practice makes perfect. If you never allow your baby to practise with new foods, including those that need to be chewed, then they won’t become expert at chewing and will be at risk of  choking. So, relax, keep it simple and nutritious, and watch as your baby enjoys this new feeding experience.


Here are some ideas of finger snacks to serve:

  • Fruit and vegetables. These are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which help to build strong immune systems. Try cubes, pieces or slices of pear, banana, mango and paw paw; dried fruits such as mango strips; small florets of broccoli or cauliflower; baby sweet corn and fingers of peeled cucumber. Boil, steam or blanch vegetables lightly to make them easier to eat, but ensure they still have some crunch. 
  • Starchy foods are a good source of energy, especially for fussy eaters. Try cooked pasta shells or shapes; balls made of cooked rice; small pieces of toast fingers and bread sticks. Rusks and dry breakfast cereals (ones that are easy to pick up with fingers) and date balls. Other options include rice cakes and mini sandwiches cut into triangles, fingers or squares and filled or topped with mashed banana, hummus, grated cheese, creamed cheese or mashed avocado.
  • The following foods are high in protein, which is important for your baby’s muscles and digestive system: try cubes of firm cooked fish; fish balls made with minced fish and tiny meatballs made with minced chicken, turkey or lamb. The best meat to offer is soft white meat such as chicken and turkey. Also offer cubes or strips of hard cheese; cubes of tofu; slices or quarters of hard-boiled eggs or strips of well-cooked omelette.
Lauren Ponting, clinical dietitian with a special interest in paediatrics, Claremont, Cape Town
Infants learn new skills and progress through the stages of weaning as they are given the opportunities to learn. Some progress faster than others. Introduce a wide variety of tastes and textures. The frequency with which children are offered food, rather than the amount they eat, determines how quickly they will learn to like something. Therefore, the more variety they have experienced by around 12 months, the wider the range of foods they will be familiar with and accept before food neophobia begins in their second year. Vary the texture of foods, try chopping and grating. Make finger foods interesting and vary the colours. Different foods provide different nutrients, therefore, a variety ensures a balance of nutrients.
Six- to nine-month-old babies should be given soft finger foods. You can then introduce hard finger foods between 9 and 12 months.
  • Sticks of lightly steamed vegetables such as carrots or courgettes
  • Grated apple, pear, cucumber or carrot for younger babies
  • Fresh fruit such as soft pear, chunks of banana, kiwi fruit or orange segments
  • Cooked peas or sweet corn
  • Grated cheese for younger babies and then cheese slices from nine months
  • Individually wrapped cream-cheese wedges
  • Miniature meat or chicken balls
  • Fingers of toast or rusk equivalent to dip into vegetable purées. To make “rusks” cut thickly sliced bread into three fingers and toast in the oven at 180°C for 15 minutes (store in an airtight container for a few days). Toast fingers don’t fall to pieces as readily as bread.
  • Pita bread strips with hummus
  • Trimmed celery stalks, chilled carrot or sweet melon – chewing on something cold and hard can relieve sore gums
  • A large mango pip to suck on
  • Dips for breads, vegetables and fruit. Try creamy avo dip (avo and cream cheese with a dash of lemon juice), raspberry-yoghurt dip (plain yoghurt mixed with puréed raspberries), butter-bean dip (puréed butter beans with a little garlic, cumin and olive oil). Cooled dips soothe gums made sore by teething.
  • Home-made salmon fish fingers. Cut a piece of fresh salmon into equal-sized fish fingers down the length, dust these in sifted flour, dip in beaten egg and coat evenly in breadcrumbs (they can be prepared in advance to this stage and stored in the fridge for 24 hours or frozen for three months). Drizzle olive oil on a large baking sheet and bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until crisp, golden and cooked through. Add various flavours by adding either parmesan cheese, grated lemon zest or finely chopped herbs to the bread crumbs before coating. Make a tomato and basil dip by puréeing tomato, basil and cream cheese together.
For nutritional value
  • Breads and pasta supply energy, B vitamins, some iron, zinc and calcium.
  • Fruit and vegetables are good for vitamin C, phytochemicals (plant chemicals) and carotenes.
  • Cheese is a source of calcium, protein, iodine and riboflavin.
  • Meat, fish, butter beans and peanut butter supply iron, protein, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin A and omega 3 from salmon.

Toddler titbits

finger snacks for 12- to 24-month-olds
Sister Ann Richardson, private nurse practitioner and parent coach, author of Toddler Sense and co-author of Baby Sense, Lonehill, Johannesburg
  • Date balls are always a win as they are easy to make, last for ages in an airtight container in the fridge and are packed with fibre and protein
  • Whole-wheat cheese straws (make your own and roll them in sesame seeds, or powdered biltong when hot). Dipped into some mashed avo and banana (or any soft fruit), they are great for encouraging fine-motor skills and are also a valuable source of protein and vegetable oil
  • Cubes of, or a handful of, white cheese such as mozzarella – full of calcium and protein
  • Finely chopped game or beef biltong – protein
  • Small pieces of dried boerewors – protein (from about 18 months and older, must have molars to chew)
  • Toasted seed or rye bread, cut into fingers, spread with cream cheese or peanut butter – fibre, protein and calcium
  • Seedless green grapes, cut in half – vitamin C and fibre
  • Baby tomatoes, cut in half – vitamin C
  • Hard-boiled egg, cut into cubes – protein
  • De-pitted green or kalamata olives – omega-6 vegetable oil and fibre
  • Organic butternut or beetroot chips – good source of vitamin C and fibre
  • Baby gherkins – vitamin C and fibre.
Claire McHugh, specialist dietitian working exclusively in paediatrics, Durban
  • French toast fingers
  • Pita bread with hummus or guacamole
  • Boiled egg slices/quarters
  • Skinned sausage wheels
  • Processed- or cream-cheese triangles
  • Baked potato slices with melted cheese
  • Mini fruit muffin
  • Dried fruit strips such as mango
  • Frozen watermelon stars. Slice watermelon into 1cm thick slices, cut out stars with cookie cutter, insert lolly stick and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cover star-lollies with a second layer of foil and freeze until firm. Serve frozen.

READ MORE….Fussy Eater: From Yuck to Yum


Elaine Eksteen