Do Babies Need Teeth for Finger Foods?

babies need teeth for finger food

At workshops I’m often asked by new parents whether babies need teeth to eat finger foods. The short answer is: no. Whether you’re choosing to start with purees or to follow Baby Led Weaning (BLW), we recommend starting to offer your baby finger foods by 7 months. Many babies won’t have any teeth at that age. And, most babies won’t have molars then. Our molars are the teeth that we use to chew food. We use our front teeth to bite and tear.

Babies’ gums are surprisingly strong. They can use them to eat finger foods. It’s the presence of things along their gums that helps them move their gag reflex from the young infant position to the mature position. And, it’s with practice that babies learn how to co-ordinate the chewing, swallowing, and breathing that are involved in eating. That’s why at this age babies put everything in their mouths – they’re practicing.

Introducing a wide range of tastes and textures before 9 – 12 months can help lessen picky eating in toddlerhood. You’ve got a developmental window of opportunity when babies are interested in tastes and textures. Use it!

What makes good finger foods?

  • Pieces of soft cooked vegetables
  • Ripe soft fruits (skins and pits removed)
  • Grated raw vegetables or hard fruits
  • Finely minced, shredded, ground or mashed cooked meat
  • Deboned fish and poultry
  • Bread crusts or toast

Some finger food examples:

  • Tortillas cut in narrow strips and thinly spread with nut butter
  • Omelet cut in to narrow strips
  • Salmon crumbled into small pieces
  • Grated carrot and grated apple
  • Extra-firm tofu steamed and cut in to skinny fingers

Looking for more finger food ideas (including iron-rich finger food ideas)? Check out my video on Youtube.

Healthier Chocolate Nut Spread

chocolate hazelnut spread

You asked for a healthier alternative to the famous (and delicious) chocolate hazelnut spread (you know which one). Today I'm sharing not just one, but 4 alternatives. All are much lower in sugar and have no palm oil. Just in time for back-to-school. I mention back-to-school because you'll not only be looking for packed lunch ideas, but also breakfast ideas for rushed mornings and quick after school snack ideas.

All of these contain nuts or seeds. That's the foundation of this foodstuff afterall. Some preschools and schools are nut and seed-free, some are nut-free (i.e. seeds are okay), and some are peanut-free (i.e. nuts and seeds are okay). Always check with your individual facility to find out exactly what is and what isn't allowed.

An important note, especially if you are introducing these to picky eaters who already are familiar with the famous chocolate hazelnut spread, none of these taste exactly the same. So, don't try to pull a fast one on your little one and swap one for the other. They'll notice the difference - kids have keen observation skills with their food. Call this spread by a different name. This way they will be expecting something different.

A huge THANK YOU to student volunteer Carla for her help with these recipes!

Enjoy!

nutfree chocolate spread

Healthy Nut-Free Chocolate Spread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups toasted sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk (optional)
  • ¼ to ½ cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. In a pan over medium-high heat, toast the sunflower seeds until light brown and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Using a food processor, process the sunflower seeds until powdery. Scrape the sides.
  3. Add the cocoa powder, icing sugar, milk (optional), and canola oil. Blend until smooth.

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • ½ cup milk (optional)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ to ½ cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. In a pan over medium-high heat, toast the whole hazelnuts with their peels on for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Once the whole hazelnuts are cool, rub them in between a kitchen towel to loosen and remove the skin.
chocolate spreads_medmed

Habibi's Chocolate Tahini and Powerplant's Chocolate Sprouted Seed Spread

(Note: In the spirit of being fully transparent, both of these were given to me for free. I did not receive payment to review either. I'm super picky about what foods I'll share with you in my reviews.)

I brought both of these to my co-working space last week so that everyone could try them. Yes, there are perks to having dietitians as friends and co-workers! Both received very positive reviews. Some people preferred one and an equal number preferred the other. Both products have a short ingredient list with only recognizable foods. They're made with nuts or seeds, providing healthy fats (and no palm oil). Each has just a touch of sugar/sweetener. Check each product's websites for a listing of what stores you can find them in.

Powerplant's spread has an intense chocolate taste for you dark chocolate lovers. It has a chunkier texture but smooth mouthfeel. So it's perfect for spreading on a cracker but not on soft bread. It totally screams to be included in your next smoothie.

Habibi's Chocolate Tahini has a milder chocolate taste. A few people found the tahini and chocolate flavours fought eath other. Most of us thought it was delicious (me included). This spread is the more classically kid-friendly of the two.

Looking for more healthy, kid-friendly recipes? Check out my recipe page.

Why Not Both Purees and Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?

puree baby led weaning

{Guest post at Love Child Organics} I receive questions from many parents asking me whether they should use purees or finger foods (a method called Baby Led Weaning or BLW) as they start to introduce their babies to solid foods. I believe that there isn’t only one right way to start babies on solid foods. Why not use both purees and finger foods?

When introducing solid foods you’re achieving several goals:

  1. Meeting your baby’s nutrition needs.
  2. Providing the opportunity to learn eating skills.
  3. Minimizing the risk of choking.

All three of these can be achieved through offering your baby purees, finger foods, or a combination of both.

Further, I’ve been practicing long enough to have met babies with all different temperaments (personalities). Some are little independent souls who never accept being fed by a parent. Parents of these little ones need to have a ton of patience as their child learns how to pick up food and actually get it in her mouth. On the other hand there are babies whom I call “happy little outsourcers”. They figure out that their parents are much more efficient at getting food in their mouths and so they’re happy to sit back and let you spoon every bite into them. Most babies fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

I’ve also seen that babies catch onto the skills of eating finger foods at a variety of ages – typically somewhere between 6 and 10 months.  This isn’t surprising since there’s always a range of ages when babies reach any developmental milestone. Some babies roll over before others, some crawl before others, and some pick up finger foods before others.

In my opinion, what’s most important is to:

  • Provide a wide variety of healthy foods,
  • Include iron-rich foods (twice a day is a good frequency),
  • Follow your baby’s lead,
  • Match your technique to your baby,
  • Provide your baby with the opportunity to learn eating skills, and
  • Use techniques that you’re comfortable with.

The result: you’re teaching your baby to have a positive experience with food.

Click here to get more tips on nutrition for babies.

Puree vs Baby Led Weaning (BLW): Can't We All Just Get Along?

baby led weaning{Guest post for Modern Mama} In a previous post I shared the pros and cons of the pureed and Baby Led Weaning (BLW) methods for introducing your baby to solid foods. I had a number of people call and email me with questions from that post. So I wanted to clarify and add to the points I shared in it.

In a nutshell, I believe that you shouldn’t feel the need to choose either puree or Bab Led Weaning (BLW). Combine the best from both methods and follow your baby’s lead.

Let me explain.

Having taught parents how to introduce solid foods to their babies since 2008, I welcome a number of the contributions that BLW is providing to the baby feeding conversation. However, I’m also seeing some negative effects too.

Positive Contributions of Baby Led Weaning

Feed Your Baby Family Foods

Children from about four to twelve months are fascinated by what the people around them are eating. In Baby Led Weaning you don’t make separate foods for your baby. Instead you provide your baby with the foods that you’re feeding the rest of your family. This is a great strategy! A favorite quote of mine from Child-Feeding Expert Ellyn Satter is:

The goal of feeding your baby is to have him join you at the table…not for you to join him at the high chair.

  • Uses his curiosity about what everyone’s eating to your advantage. Many babies will reject pureed foods and reach out to grab what’s on other people’s plates.
  • Teaches him that by sharing the same foods, he belongs as a member of your family. Sharing food is powerful for human beings. Every culture marks significant occasions by gathering to share food.
  • Is less work than making your baby one meal and the rest of your family something completely different. Teaching your baby that she gets something completely different than other family members can lead to picky eating because you’ve set the precedent that she gets something different. Kids who have always eaten the same meal as the rest of the family don’t know that having something different is an option.
  • Can be a wake-up call to how healthy (or not) your eating habits are. If you’re eating foods that you’re not willing to feed your baby, should you really be eating them?

Move Along to Finger Foods

Sometimes I see parents who love the idea (and control) of feeding their baby purees so much that they get stuck, keeping their baby in this phase too long. Babies are ready to try finger foods anywhere between six and nine months. Yes, it’s messy. And it can be painful to watch a child clumsily work for 10 minutes to get a single piece of food in his mouth. But, this is an important learning opportunity. Eating is a skill that must be learned through practice. It’s great that you’re an expert at using a spoon to get food into your baby’s mouth. But he needs to have the opportunity to learn how to do it himself. And finger foods are the first step. Because when we’re feeding our babies, we’re actually doing two things: 1) meeting their nutrition needs and 2) teaching eating skills. I’ve seen prolonged spoon-feeding of purees result in babies who are:

  • Undernourished because they’re reject being “babied” and reject the spoon.
  • Picky eaters because they didn’t get to experience the huge variety of tastes and textures that food comes in while they are still in the food-curious stage. A stage where kids are suspicious of new foods often starts somewhere between 12 to 24 months (although I’ve seen it start at nine months in a number of children). Some people call this stage “food neophobia”. I call it “food-wariness”.

Follow Your Baby’s Lead

Baby Led Weaning places a lot of emphasis on following your baby’s lead regarding how much food to eat.  Babies are born knowing when they’re hungry and when they’re satisfied. It’s normal for them to sometimes eat a lot and other times to eat very little. When babies are allowed to control how much food they eat, they have a normal growth pattern. When spoon-feeding your baby it’s very easy to force them to take extra bites by playing games (e.g. “here comes the airplane”), or sneaking in spoonful’s when your baby is distracted. Resisting this urge is important to allow your baby to grow normally and not be overfed (which may lead to obesity).

Negative Impacts

You Need to Choose

The negative impacts that I’m seeing when speaking with parents and reading Mom blogs and chat boards is the idea that you need to choose a method. You’re either on the puree team or you’re on the Baby Led Weaning team. We already have enough “mommy wars”, judgment, second-guessing ourselves, and guilt regarding breastfeeding and formula feeding. The last thing that we need is this baggage continuing into introducing solid foods.

Puree Traps

There’s nothing inherently wrong with pureed foods. In fact, today I’ve eaten oatmeal, yogurt, and butternut squash soup – all of which are purees! Purees are a texture that adults eat too. The warnings that many in the Baby Led Weaning camp attribute to purees actually has nothing to do with purees themselves. They’re just easier traps to fall into when spoon-feeding. But they’re also easily avoidable. For example, you can offer your baby pureed versions of family foods and follow their lead when spoon-feeding.

One Size Fits All

I’ve seen many different babies with different temperaments (personalities). Some love being spoon-fed and take more slowly to finger foods. Others never take anything off a spoon, and rely solely on finger foods. I believe that following your baby’s lead and providing a wide variety of tastes and textures is the way to go – including both purees and finger foods.

In summary, why pressure parents into feeling that they need to choose? All the positive contributions that BLW have provided can be realized with the inclusion of both puree and finger foods. Let’s celebrate that there are a multitude of “right” ways to parent!

My Mothers' Day Gift to YOU

  PTL+snack secrets sale

With Mothers' Day fast approaching, I was doing some thinking about how I could best be of service to you.

My Snacking Secrets workshop has been a popular workshop for a number of years now. That’s why I recorded it as my first online seminar. But I hadn’t given it live, in-person for about a year, until I was invited to facilitate it for parents at a preschool last month. All the Moms were really engaged participants. Several of them contacted me afterwards to let me know how much they got out of the workshop.

There was my answer right in-front of me - a fantastic way to celebrate Mothers’ Day is by offering a BONUS of complimentary access to my online seminar version of

 Snacking Secrets: How to Plan Healthy Snacks that Your 2-5 year old Will Eat (Without Ruining Their Dinner)

 that you can participate in at any time that’s convenient for you – without having to find a babysitter or leave home, when you get my guide e-book

 Provide, Trust, Love (Then Introduce New Foods):

A step-by-step system for transforming your child from picky eater to food-confident kid

~2-5 year old edition ~

 

What’s a better gift for any Mom than being confident that you’re doing things “right” to meet your child’s nutrition needs now…and instill a life-long LOVE of healthy eating (all without being forceful or sneaky)?!

 

http://products.vitaminkconsulting.com/providetrustlove

coupon code: “MomDay2014” (without the quotes)

 

In e-book Provide, Trust, Love (Then Introduce New Foods) you get:

  • Why your child is being picky (because knowing is half the battle)
  • The beneficial (and well-meaning but disastrous) ways to provide love and limits around food.
  • Successful strategies (without being rigid, forcing, pleading, or bribing) to support your child to try new foods on their own.
  • Meal planning to make sure your kids are getting the nutrition they need
  • And much more…

 

In online seminar Snacking Secrets you get:

  • How to use snacks to help your child to eat a balanced diet
  • How to use snacks to encourage your child to eat a variety of foods
  • How to use snacks to help your child build food-confidence
  • And much more…

Between now and midnight May 12th, you get both your e-book AND access to your online seminar for only $47 (normally $74)!

Get your e-book and BONUS online seminar access here:

http://products.vitaminkconsulting.com/providetrustlove

and use coupon code: “MomDay2014” (without the quotes)

 

But do act fast, this bonus is only available until midnight Monday May 12th!

http://products.vitaminkconsulting.com/providetrustlove

coupon code: “MomDay2014” (without the quotes)

Can I give finger foods if my baby doesn’t have teeth yet?

finger-foods-if-baby-doesnt-have-teeth-yet {Guest Post at Love Child Organics Both in workshops and when providing in-home child feeding sessions, I’m often asked this question: "Can I give finger foods if my baby doesn’t have teeth yet?

The short answer is: yes! You don’t need to wait until little ones have teeth before feeding them finger foods.

Babies are ready for finger foods by 7 months, if not before. Many won’t have teeth (or very many teeth) by this age.

Your baby is likely ready for finger foods when you see the following:

  • She can bring food to her mouth using her hand.
  • He can eat thicker purees (the consistency of mashed potatoes).
  • She can sit upright with minimal support.
  • He is very interested in watching people eat and the food on your plate. He May even be grabbing for people’s food, plates, cups etc.

It’s amazing to watch what little ones can handle with their gums. So go ahead and offer finger food versions of a wide variety of foods that your family eats.

Bottom Line: Enjoy watching your little one discover the amazing variety of tastes and textures that food comes in!

For more info on baby food - both purees and Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), check out this blog post.

$14 off! Picky Eater e-book and online seminar + Introducing Solids online seminar

Excited birthday girl. ~ Is finding a way to get your picky eater to try new foods your New Years resolution?

~ Is your baby entering into toddlerhood and you want to do everything you can to prevent them from becoming a picky eater?

~ Are you getting ready to start your baby on solid foods?

 

 

To get your family’s 2014 started on the right foot I’m offering a New Years resolution sale!

Get the evidence-based information you need from the convenience of your own computer or tablet.

To celebrate 2014, both of my online seminars and my guide e-book are $14 off (from now until 7am, January 2nd).

Use coupon code: NY2014 to get your $14 off:

Introducing Solid Foods (4-8 months) Online Seminar: Everything you need to safely meet your baby’s rapidly changing nutrition needs. And, instill a life-long LOVE of healthy eating. Online Seminar.

Snacking Secrets: How to plan healthy snacks that your 2 – 5 year old will eat (without ruining their dinner). Online Seminar.

Provide, Trust, Love (Then Introduce New Foods): A step-by-step solution to transform your child from picky eater to food-confident kid ~2-5 year old edition~ Guide e-Book.

Act now! Use coupon code: NY2014 to get your $14 off before 7am, Jan 2nd.

Iron-Rich Baby Finger Food Ideas

In my recent feedback survey you asked for more finger food ideas for babies and toddlers. So, I recorded this video as a sneak peek behind the scenes as I prepared finger food samples for an upcoming workshop. All these examples are iron-rich finger foods. And, they're all good ideas for babies and toddlers from about 6 months onwards, whether you're moving on from purees or you're following Baby-Led Weaning.

Enjoy! " width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen">

When Can I Give Baby Strawberries, Peanuts and Shellfish?

When-Can-I-Give-Baby-Strawberries-Peanuts-and-Shellfish {Guest Post at Love Child Organics' blog: www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/ } A parent asked the following question: “What age is it safe to give my baby strawberries (and other possibly allergenic foods)?”

Anyone browsing the internet, reading parenting books, or listening to the advice of family and friends will be confused about what foods you should and shouldn’t introduce to your baby to minimize her/his risk of allergies. Everyone says something different!

Read on and I’ll share with you the inside scoop on why there’s so much conflicting information. And, how the new recommendations are based on the current scientific evidence.

The reason for much of the conflicting information is that most of the previous medical theories about what causes babies to have food allergies have proven not to be true.

As a result, the scientific research community has gone back to the drawing board to develop and test new theories for why babies develop food allergies. And even more importantly, they’ve gone back to the drawing board to find out how to prevent them.

There are lots of theories being tested currently. Two examples include exposure to pollution and almost the opposite theory that babies are raised in too clean and sterile an environment.

The (frustrating) fact is that we currently just don’t know what causes food allergies or how to prevent them.

So the reason that there’s so much conflicting information out there is that some of it is outdated. And, some of it is based on theories that are currently being tested (but not yet proven to be true).

On the other hand, what we do know is that the old rules about waiting until certain ages to introduce specific foods didn’t prevent allergies. In fact, there’s some emerging evidence that delaying the introduction of some foods, such as peanuts, may actually increase the risk of allergy.

Starting at about 6 months of age, introduce almost any food that your family eats. There’s no need to wait to give your baby foods such as strawberries, peanuts, shellfish, or any of the foods previously off limits.

That being said, there are a few foods that we do recommend waiting to introduce. These recommendations are either from a nutrition point of view or a prevention of food poisoning point of view. The foods to delay introducing are:

  • Honey – wait until after 12 months of age
  • Cows milk until 9 – 12 months (small amounts of yogurt and cheese are OK after about 6 months).
  • Raw meats, fish, raw/runny egg whites, or unpasteurized dairy foods until 4 years

For baby food ideas, check out the videos I share on my Youtube channel.

Beets: What to Do with Them

beet-recipes-dietitian-dietician-victoria-bc Aah, beets. These versatile root veggies are one of my favourites! As a dietitian, part of my job is to know how to prepare healthy foods like beets. So I’m sharing a couple of my favourite ways to use them. A classic storage, root veggie, you can find local ones (fairly cheap) throughout the winter here in Victoria, BC.

And, because of their naturally sweet taste, many kids like them.

However, people often wonder what the heck to do with them. Here are some of my favourite ways to use them.

 

 

Grated – Raw Beets

Beets don’t even need to be cooked. Simply wash them, peel off the outer skin, and grate them into a salad.

It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Grated veggies are a fantastic finger food for little ones to practice that pincer grasp.

However, be warned – beets stain! Pick up pieces from all surfaces (including the floor) quickly.

Grated, raw beets are a delicious part of my lentil-farro power bowl (full meal salad).

 

Roasted Beets

When I’m turning on the oven to cook something, I often pop a few beets in at the same time – either for a warm side-dish today, or for chilled as a salad in the future.

  1. Wash beets and cut off any long tails or furry top bits.
  2. Cut a piece of tin foil large enough to wrap the beet in. Lay it on the counter, shiny side up. Pour a dollop of olive oil in the centre.
  3. Roll the beet around in the oil to coat it. Wrap the tin foil tightly around the beet.
  4. Repeat for each beet.
  5. Place wrapped beets on a cookie tray or in a baking dish.
  6. Roast until tender, how long this takes depends on the size of the beets and the heat of your oven – at 350 degrees F it may take as long as 2 hours; at 425 degrees F it may take as short as 45 min.

 

 

Beet and Bean Borscht

Check out this fantastic hearty and tasty full meal in one pot, vegetarian borscht here. While the recipe takes a little longer to cook, it makes a lot of soup. And, this soup tastes great re-heated. Freeze leftovers (without the yogurt or sour cream topping) in small batches. I wanted to share it not only because it’s so tasty, but because it’s handy to have healthy meals like this in the freezer when the busy holiday season starts up.

Beans, beets and cabbage are all super healthy (and inexpensive) that I’m always looking for new recipes. I picked up this little pamphlet at the Saskatchewan pavilion at the 2010 Olympics. Did you know that we grow tons of beans, split peas and lentils here in Canada?

If the mixed textures in this soup are too advanced for your little one, simply take beans and pieces of the veggies out of the soup and place them in your little one’s dish/ on their tray.

Can I give finger foods if my baby doesn’t have teeth yet?

finger foods baby doesn’t have teethThank you to the parent who asked me this week’s question: "My baby doesn’t have any teeth yet. Can I give her finger foods?" The short answer is: yes! You don’t need to wait until a baby has teeth before giving finger foods.

Babies are ready for finger foods by 7 months, if not before.

Many babies won’t have teeth (or very many teeth) by this age.

It’s amazing to watch what they can handle with their gums. So go ahead and offer finger food versions of a wide variety of foods that your family eats.

Enjoy watching your little one discover the amazing variety of tastes and textures that food comes in!

Check out this video for iron-rich finger foods for babies.

What's Up with Quinoa for Baby Food?

quinoa for baby food{Update on a guest post on the Love Child Organics blog: http://www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/} Today’s post answers two questions about quinoa for baby food asked by parents on the Love Child Facebook page. In my next post I'll respond to parents questions about toddler eating. “Rice baby cereal vs quinoa baby cereal, why is rice so popular?”

Baby Cereal: Rice, Quinoa, and More

Using rice cereal as a first food is a hold-over from the old advice for introducing solid foods that recommended starting with rice and moving on to other foods in a particular order in an effort to prevent food allergies. The recommendations have changed and now the current recommendations are to introduce foods in no particular order. Now I could go on about the theories behind food allergy prevention and what foods to introduce at what times, but that’s a whole other blog post. Today I’ll stay focused on this question.

The one advantage that the infant cereals have is that they’re fortified with iron, meaning that they’ve had iron added to them. Grains, including quinoa, have many nutrients but they’re naturally low in iron. Babies have an important need for iron-rich foods. This is why they add iron to baby cereals. Quinoa baby cereal is now available.

Other fantastic first foods that (naturally) are a good source of iron are meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, beans and lentils, and nuts & seeds (and their butters).

Once your baby is eating iron-rich foods at least twice per day, introduce a wide variety of other foods, such as quinoa.

Preparing Quinoa for a New Eater

“What's the best way to prepare quinoa for a new eater? Boiling and puréed is not cutting it.”

Now I’m not quite sure what the parent meant by “not cutting it”, but I’m assuming that she means that her child won’t eat pureed quinoa.

Quinoa is small in size. It won’t block a child’s airway so choking risk is very small. Feel free to serve it whole – no need to puree it. Here are a few ideas:

  • Serve it on it’s own. Quinoa’s small size is an excellent challenge for babies to practice their dexterity.
  • Stir cooked quinoa into other fork-mashed texture or pureed foods, such as mashed bananas or avocados. Or try out some of the baby food recipes with quinoa on the Love Child Blog. For these recipes you can either blend the quinoa right in or stir it in whole after the other ingredients have been pureed or fork mashed.Combined textures (i.e. the mashed/pureed with the whole quinoa) are a great practice for little ones.
  • Combine quinoa with egg (an iron-rich food), and other optional ingredients, to make quinoa patties (similar to a burger or fish cake), then break it into finger food size pieces. There are hundreds of recipes on the internet. Chatelaine Magazine featured one in April and the Love Child Blog has a great baked quinoa and egg recipe too. Once you’ve introduced each of these ingredients as single foods, give a burger recipe a try.

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