By nine to 12 months, most tots will be getting used to finger foods, which makes it easier to feed your baby when you’re out and about. So what are the best foods for days out with your baby, and how can you make it a stress-free experience?
What works well
If your baby is adept at feeding herself, you’ll probably find it easiest to rely on finger foods for days out. Try easy meals like mini sandwiches with soft cheese, slices of cucumber, cubes of cheese and breadsticks. You can also take chopped vegetables, cooked plain pasta and slices of fruit.
If your baby still prefers to be spoon-fed, you can pre-make mini meals such as cottage pie or pasta bake and take them with you in sealed pots. Jars of baby food are a handy standby for days when you need to grab and go, and pots of yoghurt, fruit puree or fromage frais make perfect portable puddings.
What to avoid
Don’t take anything too complicated with you at this age – keep to simple one-pot meals or finger food snacks. Try to avoid sauces that will stain, as you won’t necessarily be able to clean clothes up immediately. Meals that should be kept refrigerated, such as fish or meat-based dishes, are probably best eaten at home rather than hanging around all day in the bottom of the pushchair. Also, think of the impact when food is thrown – dry foods such as sandwiches create somewhat less mess than mashed or pureed meals.
Storing and heating food on the run
To keep your tot’s food cool or warm on the go, invest in an insulated food bag or container. You can use ice packs for additional freshness, and store the bag out of direct sunlight, for example in the bottom of the pushchair.
For hot meals, you can heat the food until it’s piping hot just before leaving the house, then keep it in an insulated bag until you’re ready to serve it to your baby, by which time it should have cooled to a safe temperature. You can also take a flask of hot water and bowl: pour the water into the bowl and stand the pot of food in it to warm it through.
Many venues will heat food for you if you ask, or provide hot water as an alternative option. Some child-friendly establishments also have microwaves for customer use so you can heat food and bottles.
The best kit for meals on the go
For finger food meals or cooked dinners on the run, invest in:
- Plastic sandwich boxes and tubs with tightly fitting lids
- An insulated food bag
- Freezer gel packs to keep food cool
- Plastic bowls or plates, spoon and beaker
- Roll-up fabric high chair (‘handbag high chair’) or folding booster seat
- A bib, ideally long-sleeved for self-feeders
Sensible snacks for days out
There are plenty of handy snacks on the market for this age group, which are great for days out. Look for cereal bars, crisp-type snacks, rice cakes, baby biscuits and mini boxes of raisins. Where possible, buy baby versions that are low in salt, sugar and artificial additives. You can also pack your own tubs of finger food snacks, such as fruit slices, carrot sticks and bread sticks, and don’t forget a beaker of water and your baby’s usual milk.
Eating out at this stage will involve your tot grabbing, flaking and crumbling foods as well as trying to feed herself with a spoon. Most family-friendly establishments will be used to the carnage, so just smile, attempt to leave the table relatively tidy, and leave a good tip if necessary! If you’re eating out at someone’s house, it’s a good idea to pack a mat for under the high chair, try to keep your tot restrained while she eats – for example, by strapping her into her pushchair rather than letting her crawl around with a biscuit – and offer to clear up any mess.
Your inquisitive baby will also be easily distracted when you’re out and about, and may not eat as much as she would at home. Don’t panic; just make sure you have snacks on hand if she gets hungry later, and trust her to make up for what she’s missed at the next meal.
When you’re choosing a café or restaurant to eat at with your baby, pick somewhere with high chairs, family seating areas and child-size portions of proper meals. Rather than ordering her own meal, you may want to choose a dish that you can share, such as pasta with tomato sauce, but be aware that restaurant meals may be much higher in salt than your home cooking. If you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to buy something suitable for your baby, play it safe and bring a jar, pot of homemade food or some finger food snacks with you.