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Food ideas for 12 month old transitioning to "real" food

My daughter is finally starting to show interest in "people" food as opposed to baby food. I usually just mash or puree fruits or vegetables, sometimes adding some mild spice to what she's eating. (While I would prefer to give her what we're eating, we don't just yet - we'll start soon. Long, boring story.)

Anyhow, now that she is starting to demolish Praeger's veggie burgers, tortellini and waffles, I'm looking for interesting, healthy foods for her. Any suggestions?

Preferably things that could be prepared in advance (night before, or pulled out of the freezer - I work, get home around 5, take her to the park or out for a walk and she has dinner at six - her dad's not home til 7 pm or so.

Fruits and veggies are easy but I would love to get her to start trying "real" food. Ideas for interesting food that could be shaped into little chunks or balls for her to handle herself? She allows me to spoon feed her, but if I reach for one of the morsels on her high chair tray she smacks my hand. She wants to do it herself.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. It would be helpful to know why she can't eat the foods you do for us to make suggestions. At that age, my kids ate most of what we did that wasn't a choking hazard and I didn't make special meals for them. They could use utensils, sometimes preferred their hands but I didn't feed them any more (call me lazy). They might start w/ a fork but end up eating spaghetti w/ their hands. Things they liked: curry, meatloaf/meatballs/other ground meat alternatives, soups, roasted vegetables, fish, chicken "nuggets" (baked that I made), fruits, pasta, forms of rice, rice noodles, etc. It would probably be easier to list foods they didn't eat.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      Basically, we have family cooking for us, which I really appreciate - but they use peanuts and peanut oil in pretty much everything, which we are avoiding for the next few months. Everything besides peanuts is fair game! I am also really nitpicky about food safety and I think our family doesn't share my (probably unfounded) concerns - nervous nelly first time mom here, obviously. Once I start cooking she'll just eat our leftovers, but for now, I don't want to make a lasagna that she will eat by the tablespoon!

      1. re: pamelak52

        That's good to know because that means you're looking more for single serving foods, or foods that can be frozen because you're not serving a whole family. As we enter fall, roasted root vegetables are great. You can cut them into chunks and then freeze single size portions. I like ground beef based foods like meatballs which can also be frozen. I used to marinate chicken breast in buttermilk, dip in whole wheat bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, spray w/ oil and bake. A year is a good age to let them go and make a mess, while learning to use utensils (not those huge clunky things where they can't spear the food). We used an old cardigan for meals that our friends called an "eating" jacket so it could get messy and we didn't care. I think I saw a plastic idea of that at IKEA but an old sweater worked fine.

    2. My toddler likes to feed herself, and I've found freezing yogurt and cutting it up makes it less messy than giving her a bowl of yogurt. I strain out chicken broth and give her the solids in chicken noodle soup. Pumpkin or banana pancakes are easy to feed herself. Scrambled eggs take a minute or two to make. She will try anything we eat, so this transitional stage will not last too long!

      2 Replies
      1. re: ketchupgirl

        When you freeze yogurt - do you just freeze it flat in a container and then chop? Genius!

        1. re: ketchupgirl

          You can also chill oatmeal and then cut it into pieces. Any kind of pasta -- you can make in advance and pull it out of the freezer. You can put all sorts of fruits and veggies into waffles, pancakes, and meatballs.

          Also, if you don't mind a big mess, you can give her pretty much anything -- it doesn't have to be in little chunks to be eaten with the fingers. Pasta with sauce, rice with vegetable stew, etc.

        2. Agree with chowser that pretty much everything is fair game. My kids ate what we ate although I did ease up on hot & spicy a bit. One thing to avoid, I submit, is trying to reduce mess by relying too heavily on discrete chunks of food that are easy to pick. They need to learn how to use utensils, no harm in starting young, and it is nice to get them used to food mixtures such as soup, stews, curries, stirfries, etc. Even though it will be hellaciously messy at first. Practice makes perfect!

          1 Reply
          1. re: tcamp

            Thanks - I am trying to go with discrete chunks because she has just gotten interested in finger food after weeks of just playing...strips of waffles are a no go, but waffles compressed into balls with fruit are irresistible. When we're home on weekends I let her play with whatever I cook, and sometimes some food does make it into her mouth. Thanks for the reminder to let her be messy!

          2. until about 2-2.5 my daughter loved spicy food. indian buffets were really easy: saag paneer, chickpeas, other veggies that were pretty soft and rice. their spicy food detection doesn't come in until they're older. she literally could eat the spiciest pad thai we could order. now she will sometimes complain that something relatively bland is "too spicy." but take advantage of it while you can.

            1 Reply
            1. re: fara

              I agree with this. There's a window of time in which you can serve a child spicy foods to get them acclimated before that sensitivity kicks in. My daughter would also eat anything until about age 2 or 3, then liked anything that wasn't spicy. Now, years later, she loves highly seasoned foods as long as they're not painfully hot. I don't know if her early exposure helped--I tend to think a lot of food preferences are inborn, at least pickiness seems to be--but I know that she recognizes a lot more seasonings than many of her peers seem to do, and isn't afraid to throw a pinch of cardamom or a splash of rosewater into her own cooking.

            2. My daughter loved lentil soup, black bean soup and ratatouille. I had a bunch of small stainless spoons. I would give her one to try and meanwhile I would fill up another spoon and pop it into her mouth after she had had her turn. She would grab that spoon and I'd get the one she just dropped and we'd rotate! I put a plastic mat under her chair and always kept a hand on the soup bowl. If the soup is too soupy, you can also mix in some rice/oatmeal cereal to thicken it. Be sure to have a camera nearby (but not TOO near) -- my kids LOVE their messy eater photos! Also, my daughter was a huge eater and would get frustrated if the food wasn't coming easily enough, so I would mix up utensil food and finger food. Have fun!

              1. What about chicken breasts roasted and then cut up into tiny cubes? As long as the meat is moist and the cubes are small enough, she should be able to handle those.

                I remember cutting meatballs into tiny chunks for my son. Meatballs were something I could keep in the freezer and make at needed, a couple lasted over several meals.

                I served him a lot of scrambled and hard boiled eggs (diced into managable sizes)

                bits of flaked tuna might work with too.

                My standard keep in the fridge meal was multi-grain pasta spirals (easy for him to pinch and hold on to) and mixed veggies tossed in olive oil and parm cheese. I would make a box at a time, mix it all up and have it in tiny containers for him to work at while I cooked the main meal. He could busy himself for 30 min., working at picking up those little bits and pieces. Good for the hand muscles too.

                1. Highlights from my twin toddler menu (im a working mom too! ') much depends on the kid and their eating skills.

                  baby' carrots cooked in micro or stove with a bit of honey and orange juice, butter optional.
                  frozen mango, blueberries
                  fresh strawberries
                  parmasean cheese on anything
                  orzo
                  rice with veggies and cheese (a pot of rice only takes 15 minutes to cook,,, doable)
                  quinoa with veggies.. same as rice.
                  frozen peas.. stick in micro.
                  frozen corn
                  fronzen brocolli, steamed in micro, chop in small pieces.
                  small pieces of soft whole grain bread with something on it... butter, peanutbutter, etc....
                  beans - cooked any kind
                  edamame.
                  cheerios, puffins, any smallish healhy cereal
                  chunks of tofu - fresh or fried...
                  crackers in small qty... salty!
                  grapes cut in half. (or even smaller)
                  canned apricots
                  canned mandarin oranges
                  baby tomatos fresh....
                  shredded cheese (keep the kid busy!)
                  Salad dressings for veggies (steamed broccoli with salad dressing)
                  a bit of soy sauce once in a while
                  hummus.... we put hummus on Everything

                  We started with nuts soon after they were a yr old, and had NO problems... but we also don't hae any allergies in the family......

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: cheesehead in recovery

                    I am going to print this out and stick it on my fridge for when I need some inspiration! Thanks! Until I'm doing more cooking. I think I'm also going to make some veggie burgers from mark bittman's cookbook, and hope those freeze well.

                    1. re: pamelak52

                      okay you've mentioned veggie burgers at every opportunity-- are you/is kiddo vegetarian? just sayin, everyone with fond memories of feeding their kids meatballs could save themselves a little time. this is a lighthearted comment, don't read in "the snarky voice."

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        Haha, no, not a vegetarian - I am just thinking of veggie burgers because she has been demolishing the praeger's veggie burgers recently. We eat meat but not a ton of it - so she'll probably have meat a few days a week. Plenty of meals left for veggie burgers. (I actually have fond memories of my mom's meatballs with all sorts of onion,chili, garlic, ginger, garam masala, etc that I plan to make for her this weekend...)

                  2. Small cubes of steamed vegetables.

                    1. We would brown up a batch of ground meat (beef or turkey), make mashed potatoes (white or sweet) or steam some squash and then mix the meat with the potatoes or squash. We then would freeze the mixture in ice cube trays and then just pop out a couple of cubes to microwave for dinner time. I also would make my own tomato sauce (sometimes mixed with meat) and freeze that in ice cube trays to later serve with pasta.

                      By doing it that way, we cooked in large batches to save time, mixed up the variety, and had portion control.

                      1. BEANS! BEANS! BEANS! All sorts... cranberry, pinto, cannellini... My son loves them. We used to puree them with avocado (to lower the overall salt and increase the flavor) and some sort of meat. Now instead of pureeing, we just put beans on the table and he picks them up and puts them in his mouth with a big smile!