I love cooking and experimenting with new recipes so I quite enjoyed preparing finger foods when my kids were babies. You can check some of the recipes here, here and here. They were so good, the whole family tuck in happily!
But on most days, my babies just ate whatever we were having for lunch or dinner. It is actually a great way to educate their taste buds, help them be more adventurous with foods, build up the important self-feeding skills and learn about basic table manners.
I am always very excited to see other families sharing their meals with their babies, too.
But I know that many of you may be wondering how to make sure that the food we have on the table is appropriate for the baby.
Is it too salty?
Is the shape or texture ok for the baby?
Is it nutritious enough?
And what about the MESS?
Here are 7 things you need to know before giving your baby family food:
1. Babies should not have too much salt.
Babies cannot process too much sodium without overtaxing their kidneys, so it is best to keep their intake to under 1 gram of salt a day. To cut on salt, cook most meals from scratch, avoid salt in cooking and be mindful of sauces.
Soy sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and mayonnaise have lots of added salt. Olives, pickles, other fermented veggies, and miso are also high in salt.I used to keep a salt shaker on the table so other family members could season their food but avoided adding much to the food we shared with the baby.
2. But they can still share the same meal as you.
The key is separating the ingredients. Here is how: set aside a few pieces of veggies, chicken or fish before you season or marinate the rest to cook for the family. For example, before basting your salmon with teriyaki sauce, put a small piece aside and cook it separately, without any seasoning. Then, serve it as a finger food, puree with a blender or mash it with a fork, depending on what you baby is eating.
3. Small babies cannot handle small pieces of food.
Your 6-7-month-old baby cannot pick up small pieces and needs large graspable shapes to practice self-feeding. So instead of cutting your veggies into chunks before roasting, cut them in long stick or large coin shapes. Instead of cutting cheese in small cubes, cut it into sticks or grate it. And leave out a few melon or mango wedges instead of chopping them up for a fruit salad.
4. But you can make finger food out of anything using this technique.
If you only have small shaped food on the menu (think corn kernels, green peas and rice), make quick patties. Here is a quick recipe: add an egg to about a cup of food, mix well, form patties and fry them in a little bit of oil or butter. Voila – your baby is sharing the same food as you in the shape that is most appropriate.
5. Many iron rich foods are hard for babies to eat.
Iron is number 1 nutrient for small babies. So it is important to make iron rich foods easy for your baby to eat, especially if you are skipping purees altogether. Soft long juicy pieces of stewed beef, lamb or pork, and dark chicken meat are the best for boosting your baby’s iron.
Combine them with some vitamin C rich foods (fruit and vegetables) and more iron will get absorbed in your baby’s system. Some meal ideas:
6. Some foods can be dangerous for your baby.
Avoid anything with honey in it, even processed foods like breakfast cereals. Honey can contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, which is extremely dangerous for small babies.
Also, make sure that your baby is not offered any potential chocking hazards like hard snappable fruit and vegetables (e.g., raw hard apples and carrots), round shaped foods like popcorn, candy, whole grapes, cherry tomatoes (always cut those in half alongside), hot dogs, whole nuts or sticky foods like nut butters off a spoon (spread them thinly on a toast or mix into yogurt or cereal instead).
7. Self-feeding is incredibly messy.
So it is best to be prepared. I liked using a silicone mat that sticks to the table like this EZPZ Happy Mat and long sleeve bibs like this Bumkins Waterproof Sleeved Bib.
Another option (great for summers) is stripping all clothes off your baby and let him get as messy as he wants before heading to the bath right after the meal. But do not bother keeping your baby clean during the meal, it may quickly annoy him and the interest in eating will be gone.
Tell me, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to sharing family meals with your baby?
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