The only hard and fast rule when it comes to babies is that there’s no perfect approach that applies to every baby! This is certainly true when it comes to starting solid food. My oldest loved the Baby-Led Weaning approach, where we offered finger foods right from the start. My second is just starting solids—or, at least, oat porridge and the occasional fruit puree.
Whether you spoon-feed at first or offer finger foods immediately, babies will eventually want to feed themselves small pieces of food they can grab and chew. Need ideas for baby meals? We’ve got you covered.
Finger Food Basics
Disclaimers first: Talk to your pediatrician about the right time to introduce solid foods. Most babies are ready somewhere between 4 and 6 months of age. Look for signs like mimicking chewing, reaching for your food, and sitting up well with support.
Some foods are easy choking hazards. Be extra cautious about offering high-risk foods like grapes, nuts, and hot dog chunks until your baby has experience eating solids.
You can offer finger foods cut into tiny pieces (think pea-sized), or in 2-inch strips that are easier for a baby to grab. Any foods you offer should be soft enough to mash up with few or no teeth, which generally means cooking veggies. Always sit with your baby as they eat so you’re ready to help if needed.
Should I Add Anything to Finger Food?
Babies are trying out all kinds of new flavors for the very first time. What tastes bland to us as adults is much more intense for a little baby. If you’d like to introduce spices in your baby’s food, start with a very small amount. Cumin, cinnamon, lemon juice, garlic or onion powder, or any other spices you enjoy in your cooking can be fun to offer baby. Just start with the tiniest sprinkle and follow your baby’s cues, and stay away from the cayenne for a while.
You should also avoid adding salt to your baby’s food for the first year. Your baby doesn’t process salt as efficiently as an adult can, so too much sodium can have adverse effects. Lots of foods already contain relatively high amounts of salt for a baby, so you don’t need to add any more.
Vegetable Finger Foods
Time for the fun part! Here are some veggies that make great first finger food options:
- Sweet corn kernels
- Broccoli florets
- Tomatoes cut into strips
- Bell pepper strips
- Zucchini slices (sauté first in a little olive oil)
- Cucumber slices
- Sweet potato (steamed or roasted)
- Parsnip (steamed or roasted)
- Carrots (you guessed it — steaming or roasting works well for many vegetables, especially root veggies)
- Green beans
- Squash (If your baby doesn’t like one type of squash, try another! Butternut, acorn, spaghetti squash, and many other varieties offer different flavors and textures, as well as tons of great nutrients.)
Fruit Finger Foods
Most babies naturally enjoy sweet flavors. Entice your little one by offering fruit as a finger food. Don’t add any additional sweeteners. Ripe fruit is naturally sweet enough already. Added sugar isn’t good for your baby, and honey is a dangerous food before 1 year due to botulism risk. There’s almost always seasonal fruits available. Try these favorites:
- Apple (cook until soft first with a splash of water and a bit of cinnamon, cardamom, or vanilla)
- Orange (you can serve this in larger wedges, letting baby grip the peel and gum on the juicy inside)
Tip: Fruits that start with “P” help babies poop! If you’re little one is constipated, add some plums, prunes, or pears to their diet for a couple days.
Grain Finger Foods
- Pasta cut into small pieces
- Bread cut into strips or small pieces
- Whole wheat waffles (no need to add syrup, although you could try a dab of nut butter)
- Whole wheat couscous (Israeli or pearl couscous is easier to pick up)
Meat and Dairy Finger Foods
Babies don’t need a lot of meat to fill their protein requirements, so don’t worry if your baby just nibbles:
- Canned chickpeas, drained and patted dry (smash lightly with a fork to make them easier to pick up and bite)
- Canned beans, drained and patted dry (you can cut in half or smash these, too)
- Canned salmon or sardine (fatty fish is great for babies, and some babies dig the intense flavor!)
- Peanut butter
- Almond butter
- Hummus (spread this or nut butters on bread, or dip bell peppers and cucumber strips)
- Egg (scrambled or hard-boiled and cut into slivers)
- Ground meat