I’ve had a lot of fun starting solid foods with my little one this year. She’s responded very well to healthy foods like sweet potato, squash, broccoli, avocado, eggs and salmon. But I got a little bit stuck when it came to providing healthy finger foods and snacks for when we’re out and about.
I wanted to avoid the processed foods with a long list of ingredients. Though they are convenient, they are not nutrient-dense and can be tough on a baby’s immature digestive system. For now, we’re sticking to nature’s fast food!
Also I wanted to reach out to other parents, who felt as I did. firstly, to put an end to babyfood panic, and talk about it, but secondly to really re-think babyfood and family food, for a busy modern parent. There are so few relatable parent voices out there and even less tried and tested parent friendly recipes. Only a parent, who has been there, understands the determined rejection given by your baby, toddler, or child, when they repulse at the sight of food you have lovingly made for them. I would personally challenge any professional chef not to quake at the very thought of a baby, or toddler diner, sitting at one of their tables. when I started talking to other parents, carers or grandparents cooking for little ones they could all relate: recounting similar stories.
As a parent, offering homemade snacks during the day can seem like another item on your endless to-do list. it is all too easy to reach for a packet snack. There is definitely a time and place for ready-made-snacks (when you are travelling and on-the-go), but I don’t want them to be the staple snacks my child eats each week, as not all ready-made snacks and finger foods are made equal. I recommend looking for brands with the organic logo and suggest reading the packet ingredients (you should be able to recognise them all) to make sure there are no additives, stabilizers, sugars, flavourings or salt (for smaller children). by making your own snacks, you have the added benefit of knowing exactly what’s in them.
Children are a lot more active than us and growing at a fast rate, so having a snack in between meals may give them a welcome boost. Generally smaller tummies fill up fast and energy is burnt off quicker (although all children are different). I find with my daughter that a balanced and healthy morning snack and afternoon snack keeps her energy levels stable and helps her appetite. she eats better at mealtimes if she hasn’t had long gaps between meals. Find out what works best for your child, as the right snacks can provide nutrients, aide concentration and stabilise energy levels. timing is important: avoid offering snacks too close to meal times. Lunch and dinner should still be substantial meals: there is nothing more frustrating than serving up food to full tummies. In researching this piece, I spoke with pediatric dietician bianca parau about ideal ingredients for snacks. she recommended low gi wholegrain carbohydrates: such as oats, quinoa, pulses and popcorn (depending on age and any specific food intolerances).
These have the benefit of slowly releasing energy; good for both concentration and mood. Snacks are also a great opportunity to increase your family’s intake or fruit and vegetables. To encourage little ones to try new things I take a multiportion tray, or muffin tin and fill each segment with a different snack. try anything from blueberries, to mini rice cakes, to steamed veg sticks. make sure there is lots of variety and colour. not only does this take a few minutes to assemble, your little one will be much more likely to try something new.
Below a few of my favorites:
"on the go" snacks ideas
+ chopped strawberries
+ chopped canteloupe
+ chopped apple
+ big apple slices to gnaw on
+ chopped Asian pear
+ Asian slice to gnaw on
+ seaweed snacks (a big hit!)
+ small pieces of steamed carrot
+ giant carrot to gnaw on (great for teething!)
+ sweet potato “fries”
+ small bits of cheese
home made snacks ideas
apple oat bars
this version has no added sugar but you can add a little maple syrup if you want to for extra sweetness.
+ 100g oats (standard oats, not jumbo or rolled you can also buy gluten free oats for any gluten intolerances) + 100ml milk* + 1 small apple, or ½ large apple + 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon * contains dairy
to cook 1. preheat the oven to 190c fan 2. prep the apple: i grate it for smaller children and finely dice for bigger kids 3. in a bowl combine the oats, milk, cinnamon and apple, mix well so all the ingredients are combined 4. take an oven proof dish line with greaseproof paper: empty the mix into the dish and push to the edges, pressing down flat with a spatula 5. cook in the oven until golden 20-25 mins 6. remove from the oven and allow the bar to cool in the dish, to stop the bar cracking, when you cut it into squares 7. cut into squares & enjoy
oven baked sweet potato crisps, with smashed avocado dip
these homemade sweet potato crisps, with a side of guacamole are quick and delicious. everyone will enjoy this and the crisps are a good finger food too.
+ 3 sweet potatoes + olive oil + 1 clove garlic, crushed + 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves + 1 ripe avocado + pinch of black pepper + 1/2 fresh lime (no citrus for babies under 1 year: just omit and mash a plain avocado)
to cook 1. wash the sweet potatoes and thinly slice, skin on (i use my trusty mandolin but you can do the same with a normal knife) 2. toss the sweet potato slices in olive oil, crushed garlic and thyme leaves 3. place on a baking tray and bake at 170c fan for 10 -15 mins or until cooked, turning halfway 4. meanwhile cut the avocado in half, remove the central stone and mash the green flesh in a bowl with a fork: add lime juice and black pepper to season (if using) 5. remove the chips from the oven, serve on a big platter with the smashed avocado dip and enjoy
rainbow fruit kebabs
these are always a huge hit you can make them with your kids. this is also the perfect time of year to enjoy all the delicious summer fruits in season now, but you can of course use whatever fruit your family enjoys. for the kebabs i use chopsticks, or reusable straws, as they are blunt and therefore ideal for children.
+ 6-8 strawberries, washed and stalk removed + 12-16 raspberries + 1-2 apricots, cut into chunks + 1 peach, peeled, stone removed and cut into chunks + 2-3 pineapple, cut into chunks + 6-8 grapes, (cut in half for smaller children) + 6-8 chopsticks
to make 1. prep all the fruit 2. lay out bowls of the prepped fruit and kids can make their own 3. serve with natural yogurt for dipping