10 Top Brainfood Fingerfoods
As your child grows, she will need more snacks between meals, since her gentle stomach is yet too small to digest large quantities of food in one meal. In addition, she will be more and more eager to eat independently, using her fingers to feed herself. This should be encouraged, as it is an important part of development for your child, enhancing hand/eye coordination, touch/feel sensory systems and in general, will foster a sense of discovery in foods. Think of food not only as a source of nourishment, but also as an essential developmental tool that can stimulate your baby’s brain. Include snacks that integrate key ingredients that support healthy brain development, like DHA Omega 3 fatty acids, folic acids and Vitamin B12, and you have a great way to boost your baby’s brain growth.
There is a range of finger foods you can offer to your child, and the basics are: cut cheese, cereals like Joe’s O’s or Cheerios, peas, etc.. But it is easy to get stuck in rut and I was constantly in search of new foods to offer as fingerfoods. In my mother’s group, finger foods were a constant topic of debate, and we were all in search of new ideas.
For all of the ingredients below, please consult your Pediatrician if you have concerns regarding allergies. The recommendations for introducing different foods are changing with recent studies, so it is always better to discuss with your Pediatrician about new foods before offering it to your baby.
1. Flaxseeds: Yam Veggie Balls with Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds contain some of the highest amount of DHA Omega 3 fatty acids found in plants and can withstand high cooking temperatures without losing its nutritional content. It is also a great source of anti-oxidents and phytonutrients, as well as Protein, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, and other Vitamins and Minerals, and it is easy to integrate this superfood into your child’s snacks and meals, like in this Yam Veggie Balls with Flaxseeds. It is safe to offer your child flaxseeds from 7-8 months.
1 yam (about 2 cups cooked yam)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
1 tablespoon wheat germ
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Wrap the yam in foil and roast for 45-60 minutes, or until the yam is soft when pierced with a fork.
3. Scoop out the yam with a spoon into a bowl and mix together with the flaxseeds and wheat germ.
4. On a baking sheet lined with non-stick silicone lining, drop one tablespoonful of the yam mixture, shaping it into a ball with your fingers.
5. Roast the yam balls for 40-50 minutes, until they harden and become golden.
6. Let cool and serve.
2. Kiwi: Kiwi Jam with Brown Rice Crackers
Kiwi is a superfood packed with DHA Omega 3, Vitamin C and Fiber. It is also a fruit that is stimulating for your child to look at and touch – its varying color and texture provide a great opportunity for your child to explore as she eats. You can serve kiwis raw after 8 months or you can cook it into a puree or in a jam, like in this recipe. The jam can be frozen with a bit of water for great ice pops as well.
4 kiwis, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 tablespoon agave syrup
Whole grain crackers
1. In a medium pot, add the kiwi and the sugar. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
2. Let the kiwi mixture cool.
3. Serve with crackers or toast.
3. Eggs: Herbed Egg Crepes
Eggs are the ultimate everyday brainfood – so rich in DHA Omega 3, Vitamin B12, Choline, Protein, Iron and Folate – and so easy to integrate into snacks, fingerfoods and meals for your little. Try these light, slightly sweet herbed crepes that can be sliced for fun and easy finger-eating. Egg yolks are typically recommended to give to a baby after 8 months, and egg whites after 12 months – however, recommendations are changing after a 2008 study on the issue so please ask your pediatrician before offering the egg and the egg white to your baby.
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, dill, tarragon or other fresh herbs
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1. In a bowl, beat the eggs.
2. Add the herbs and sugar and mix well.
3. Heat a non-stick pan on low/medium heat. Pour the crepe mixture and let it cover the entire surface of the pan. Cook slowly for 5-7 minutes until it becomes pale. Flip over on the other side for 1 minute.
4. Put the crepe on a cutting board and cut into long thin slices, roll up each slice and serve warm or room temperature.
Blueberries, high in DHA Omega 3, Fiber, Vitamin C, as well as anti-oxidents, are the ultimate fingerfood. You can serve it raw, making sure to buy organic and fresh (the skin should look plump and firm), or in their dehydrated form (Trader Joe’s, for example, carries great freeze-dried kind). You can give your baby blueberries after 8 months.
5. Chia Seeds and Cheese: Chia Cheese Sticks
Chia seeds contain higher Omega 3 content then flaxseeds and even some fish oils. It has a flavor and texture akin to poppy seeds.. Combined with cheese, also packed with DHA Omega 3 fatty acid, Vitamin B12, calcium and protein, and served on gluten-free pizza dough, it is a great finger food for your little one. Cheese can be offered it to your child before 12 months of age, the recommended time to introduce milk, as the lactose has been broken down in the fermentation process. It is safe to offer your child wheat-bread after 8 months, but I used gluten-free pizza dough in this recipe. You can use normal organic pizza dough also. It is safe to give your child cheese after 8 months, as well as chia seeds.
One gluten-free (or normal) ready-made pizza dough
1 Tablespoon Chia seeds
½ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
½ cup grated Mozzarella Cheese
1 egg yolk
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet lined with foil or non-stick silicone.
2. Roll out the pizza dough and cut into thin pieces.
3. In a bowl, whip up the egg yolk, and using a brush or the tip of your finger, coat the pizza pieces with a thin coat of the egg mixture.
4. Sprinkle the cheeses, then the chia seeds.
5. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until golden.
6. Let cool and serve.
6. Salmon: Salmon ‘Hot Dogs’
Salmon is not only a great source of Protein, but also one of the highest sources of DHA Ombega3 Fatty Acid. It is versatile and easy to prepare, and these ‘hot dogs’ are great for fingerfoods and meals. It is safe to give your child salmon after 8 months. When possible, you should purchase organic wild salmon.
1 Salmon filet
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 sprig of fresh dill (you can also use dried dill)
1-2 tablespoon canola oil
1. Preheat the oven to 360 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Place the salmon and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the salmon is flaky and fluffy when touched with a fork.
3. Place the salmon in a bowl, and with fork, mash up until the flakes of the salmon flakes are tiny. Add the egg, soy sauce and dill and mix further.
4. Take the salmon mixture one tablespoon at a time unto the palm of your hand. Roll it into a ball, then into a little finger sized ‘hot dog’ shapes. Place them unto a plate.
5. Head a pan with oil on medium heat. Cook the ‘hot dogs’ until golden on all sides, about 6-8 minutes, rolling them around for even cooking. Place on a plate covered with papers towel to absorb excess oil. Serve warm or cold.
7. Almond and Blackberries: Almond Butter and Blackberry Jam Mini Sandwiches
Almonds are a great source of Protein, Fiber, DHA, Iron, Folate and other good things. Since almonds are not a nut, but a seed, they are usually safer to offer to your child before 12 months, as it does not pose the same risk as peanuts, for example. Blackberries contain one of the highest amounts of DHA Omega 3 found in fruits and it is, according to AAP, safe to give to children before 12 months of age, it is a great superfood to offer as a fingerfood, either raw or cooked. Here is a very simple way to combine the two brainfoods into a quick fingerfood.
1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
1 tablespoon agave syrup
2 slices gluten-free whole grain bread
2-3 teaspoons almond butter
1. In a pot, add the blackberries and syrup and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the blackberry mixture has thickened. Let cool.
2. Spread the almond butter on one slice of bread, spread the blackberry jam on the other, put them together and cut the edges off. Cut into small pieces and serve. h
8. Avocado: Avocado with Soy
Avocado has a fun and slippery texture, perfect for finger foods for the babies starting to explore self-feeding. Its mild flavor is easy for children to love, and with a dash of low-sodium soy, it is enhanced and elevated to a subtle savory snack. Avocado contains all of the good things – Protein, Calcium, Vitamin C, DHA Omega 3, Vitamin 3, Folate, Fiber, you name it. You can offer raw avocado to your baby as early as 6 months as one of the first foods In the beginning, I would recommend that you serve it plain, mashed and raw, then adding the soy at about 9-10 months for flavor.
¼ fresh ripe avocado
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1. Cut the avocado in half, then in quarters. Take one quarter and reserve the rest for another use.
2. Cut the avocado into small bite sized cubes and drizzle the soy sauce. Serve immediately.
9. Papaya: Fresh Papaya with Toppings
Papaya is another fruit packed with nutrients and vitamins, and particularly high in DHA Omega 3. You can serve it raw, cooked, pureed or as in this recipe, raw with a fun twist that adds texture, fun and nutrients – like adding shredded coconuts. Papaya can be offered to your baby at 8 months.
½ fresh rip papaya
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
1. Peel and cut the papaya in small bite-sized pieces.
2. Dip one piece of papaya into the tablespoon on one side.
3. Serve immediately.
10. Wheat Germ: Yogurt and Wheat Germ Blinis
Wheat germ is the germ of the wheat kernal packed with nutrients. It contains very high amounts of DHA Omega 3, Fiber, Folate, Magnesium, Iron, Phosphorus and Zinc. It is easy to integrate wheat germ into many snacks, meals and finger foods, like this mini blinis which you can serve with pureed fruit, yogurt or agave syrup. You can offer wheat germ at 8 months to your baby.
3 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Agave syrup
1. In a bowl, whip up the eggs.
2. Add the wheat germ, yogurt and syrup and blend well.
3. Heat a non-stick pan on medium heat and drop a tablespoon of the mixture unto the pan. You should be able to fit three tablespoons on a large pan.
4. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the edges begin to golden. Flip over on the other side and cook for 3 minutes.
5. Let cool and serve by itself, or with yogurt, pureed fruits, or agave syrup.