If you're feeding a toddler, finger foods help him to gain a sense of feeding independence even before he can handle a utensil. For everyone else, finger foods can work as quick snacks or delicious and convenient meals for the on-the-go, modern family. Health doesn't need to be sacrificed for the sake of convenience and time, with some of the easiest finger food dish suggestions also offering up full servings of healthy goodness.
The Big Dipper
Dips can add taste appeal to pretty much anything, helping to make even the healthiest snack more attractive to even the most discerning --- a.k.a. picky --- kid. Try strips of colorful bell peppers served alongside a light ranch dressing; carrot sticks dipped in traditional hummus or edamame hummus; fresh fruit next to a bowl of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese; celery plunged into natural peanut butter; and baked tortilla chips with a pureed bean-and-cheese dip.
Chipper Alternatives to Chips
Potato chips are the classic finger food, whether for teens during a stay-in movie night or for distracting younger kids while you're on the phone. Alas, potato chips also offer up a dose of unsavory, unhealthy ingredients, such as trans fatty acids and excess sodium. Instead, cut sweet vegetables into chip-like slivers, toss them in vegetable oil and bake them in your oven. Turn sliced sweet potatoes and sliced carrots into tasty chips. For an even more unconventional crispy snack, bake kale leaves. "They're a great alternative to potato chips," says Sarah Reilly, a certified nutrition coach. She recommends tossing them with some olive oil and sea salt, then baking them until crisp. "Kids love these!" she proclaims.
Satisfy your child's sweet tooth after a meal without exposing them to high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners often found in commercially prepared ice cream, cookies and other desserts. Give them fresh fruit, a source of natural sweetness and antioxidants. Keep things visually and texturally interesting by crafting fruit kebabs using cubed fruit such as melons and apples. Then dip the kebabs into pureed fresh berries or a fat-free frozen yogurt product.
Sometimes, you simply have no time to whip up even the most convenient finger food from scratch. Prepackaged finger food options can be healthy and save you precious minutes of prep time. "Sometimes, you need a packaged snack that will keep in your bag for those emergency snacks," says Lisa Cain, Ph.D., a mother of two and self-professed "avid snacker." She recommends trail mixes --- make your own ahead of time by combining whole-grain cereals, granola and dried fruit, then prepackaging them in zip-top bags --- and mini boxes of raisins. "They're good, healthy snacks for stashing in your purse or backpack," says Cain.