Whether you are using a BLW approach or are beginning to transition off of purees and onto finger foods, this post shares some safe first finger foods starting with fruits and vegetables. I will be sharing more on safe first foods with grains, meats, poultry, seafood, dairy, fats, allergens and plant-based first foods as well, so make sure you get my weekly newsletter here to be notified when these posts go live!
BLW: Safe First Finger Foods
Many of us are in moms groups where horror stories have been shared about the young child who choked on a grape, even though it was cut in half. Some of us have seen the initial reaction to our infant gagging and had that pit in our stomach of fear for, “What if they choked?” But one thing all of us know is that fear around feeding young eaters is real. This is why having a list of safe first finger foods in our parenting toolbox makes us all the more confident and capable when scooting our little one up to the dinner table.
Concerns over our kids choking is at the root of “how to feed your child,” especially for families who are choosing a Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) approach to starting solids. The problem is that when we don't know what are safe first finger foods, our sense of freedom and flexibility to offer new foods to our infants is often diminished.
We see this with parents who use a traditional approach to starting solids and BLW alike. Parents may get stuck offering purees for too long out of fear for what to offer once their infant advances beyond lumpy purees, squeeze pouches, and puffs. Similarly, parents who are curious about BLW may stall with when to start because they are unsure about what are safe first finger foods to start with. Many parents who have been through this a few times can argue, “it doesn’t have to be so hard, complicated, nor confusing.” But when you are dealing with real fears over real concerns (like choking, as well as food allergies, intolerances, etc.) from first time parents (or as a parent doing BLW for the first time), the reality is it does feel hard, complicated, and confusing.
The good news is: there are ways to be simple and straight-forward about offering infants safe first finger foods. There are plenty of opportunities for your infant to safely explore new foods. Whether you are choosing to use a BLW approach to introducing solids or you are beginning to transition off of purees and onto self-feeding and finger foods, this post will share some safe first finger foods.
The following list highlights some of the healthiest, whole foods for infants – starting with fruits and vegetables.
This post will spell out some "starter" options plain and simple. No need to stress nor over-complicate feeding. No need to be confused over if and what they can safely manage at this age. No need to feel hardship in finding healthy foods to feed you tot at home and on the go.
These actionable, all-natural ideas are your go-to guide on what fruits and vegetables to introduce first.
There are so many other wonderful first foods, including those that are iron-rich, which I will be sharing as well. That’s because knowing how to offer whole foods in their natural form (or close to) is the ideal way to get your infant accustomed to eating real foods from the start. So here’s how!
This post provides you with a list of simple, safe first finger foods to share with your little eater.
Below is a list of some fruits and vegetables that make safe first finger foods. For more ideas on what dairy, grains, proteins, and other foods are safe starter foods, stay tuned for a special subscriber offer coming soon.
Fruits & Veggies
As a general rule, all of the following fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed prior to preparation. This includes items with peels like bananas and butternut squash, which may either be mouthed on while eating or cut through the dirty outside or consumed on the inside. Items with an asterisk indicate those that are ideally purchased organic based on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list for foods that are high in pesticide residues. All organic foods should also be washed before offering.
Apples*: Peel apple then bake, or peel and grate using a cheese grater. This is great for encouraging fine motor skill development!
Asparagus: Snap off coarse bottom ends, then break in half to provide baby with a 2-3” spear. Best when given grilled or roasted until tender but not stringy.
Avocado: Cut a small ½ inch wide strip away from the pit, leaving the peel on so it doesn’t mush too much between their fingers when held. The peel will help them facilitate getting it to their mouths.
Banana: Make lollipops by cutting banana in half or thirds (depending on the size of the banana). Give infant the bottom half (or third) of the banana, or cut off the stem. Gently run your knife around the peel about ½ inch from the open end. Gently peel back that strip of peel. Give to infant to gnaw on and gradually repeat process with the peel when they have eaten down towards the peel and need more banana to poke out.
Bell peppers*: Core, then cut into long 2-3” strips at least 1” wide (to account for shrinkage when cooked). May serve grilled or roasted. Remove the skin once it is cooled before giving to baby to minimize any risk for choking on the thin skin.
Broccoli: Cut into small florets. This offers a built in handle for babies to grasp. Steam or roast until tender.
Butternut squash: May bake, scoop out the insides, and allow infant to self-feed the soft flesh. Also can roast, steam, or grill in finger-like spears until tender but still firm enough to keep their integrity.
Carrots: Cut into 2 inch strips, either quartering a large carrot or cutting a baby carrot in half width wise. Then steam or roast until tender and soft, but still holding it’s shape and integrity.
Cantaloupe: Cut in half, de-seed it, then slice it into 2” finger-like strips. When peeled, this is an ideal soft yet slippery food that is easier to hold when cut with a crinkle cutter. You can also offer it with the peel still on, in small finger-like strips. This is an easy way to reduce how slippery it is to hold and self-feed.
Cauliflower: Cut into small florets. This offers a built in handle for babies to grasp. May serve steamed or roasted.
Cucumbers*: These are an awesome option for infants who are teething! Cut in 2” long pieces, then quarter or cut into sixths width wise. Serve cold.
Green beans: Trim ends and cut into 2” long pieces. May serve steamed, canned, or roasted.
Honeydew: Cut off the rind, de-seed it, then slice it into 2” finger-like strips. This is an ideal soft yet slippery food that is easier to hold when cut with a crinkle cutter.
Mangoes: Cut into long, finger-like strips. May give with peel on to help it not be so slippery. Since washed, this is similar to an avocado or canteloupe peel that the infant is unable to eat through.
Nectarines/Peaches*: Cut in half, peel, then slice raw nectarines and/or peaches. These may also be grilled and given in similar sliced form. Once peeled, nectarines and peaches are easier to hold when cut with a crinkle cutter. Some infants may do better with the peel still on; using it to hold but not having issues with trying to eat nor swallow it.
Papayas: Peel it, de-seed it, and then slice it into 2” finger-like strips. This is another soft, slippery food that is easier to hold when cut with a crinkle cutter.
Pears: If soft and ripe, this can be served In finger-like strips raw but peeled. If pears are more firm or crunchier like Bosc pears, consider giving in larger pieces (similar to apples).
Potatoes (sweet, white, gold, purple)*: Roast in “French fry” like spears, or steam in chunks (removing the peel before serving). As baked or mashed potatoes, may offer the inside flesh for your infant to self-feed with fingers or a spoon.
Watermelon: Cut off the rind, then slice it in a variety of ways to make a large enough chunk or finger-like strip for them to gnaw on and yet small enough to hold with their baby hands. You also can cut it in small triangles while leaving the rind on. This gives them something to grasp onto while eating the flesh.
Zucchini*: Cut in 2” strip, cutting in quarters width wise. Then steam, sauté, roast or grill until tender but still keeping their integrity and shape. This also makes the peel tender enough to safely eat and/or eat around. May also grate zucchini with a cheese grater to encourage fine motor skills.
While there are many great options of all-natural first foods, this list of fruits and vegetables is your guide to safely get started. You should’ve found a variety of fruits and vegetables on this list that you can begin to give your infant immediately, as long as they are developmentally ready to eat such solids.
For more on BLW and upcoming tips on what foods to offer, click here to be the first to find out what additional recommendations I have for this feeding approach. Or, follow me on Instagram or on Facebook where I am sharing our journey with introducing solids!