Baby-Led Weaning Menu
Enough people have asked me for it, so here it finally is! A detailed sample menu on what I usually feed my son with baby-led weaning. Before I start, I need to make several things very clear. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a dietitian. I am not a pediatrician. And I am not a doctor. I am a mom sharing what worked for her child. I based my decisions on the advice of my son’s pediatrician, a nutritionist we saw briefly, the book “Baby-Led Weaning”, the book ” My Child Won’t Eat” , advice various moms shared with me during La Leche League meetings, and my own instincts. Please talk to your doctor, do your own research, and listen to your own heart first.
So, say now you decide baby-led weaning is right for your family and your baby is ready to start (see this post on the signs of readiness). Where do you start? I had no idea! So I just started offering Jack foods that made sense to me and eventually figure out what worked for us. As he got bigger, things changed so I just went with his cues. Overall I never made him eat anything he didn’t want to. Likewise, I let him try almost anything he asked for, within reason.
I have divided things up into two menus, one for no-teeth and one for teeth. When Jack was ready for solids, he had no teeth so he didn’t like things that required a lot of hard chewing (and babies can absolutely chew with no teeth, just takes awhile). Once he got teeth, he was happier to have a bigger variety. And as he got older, he also wanted more options. I tried to keep things simple when he was first starting out so he didn’t get overwhelmed.
Both menus are not vegan, since Jack is not all vegan. But you can easily change the menu to any dietary need. Replace milk yogurt with any non-dairy yogurt. Do scrambled tofu instead of eggs. Do more beans and lentils instead of beef or ham. Vegetable soup instead of chicken soup.
No-Teeth Menu: I offered Jack three meals a day, but it was hit or miss if he would play with the food or eat it for the longest time. Overtime he started to eat more.
- Mango Slices: cut them into big wedges and you can even leave some skin on to make them easier to hold. No, they will not eat the skin. And if they try, tell your baby nicely no no no.
- Avocado Toast: Cut a strip of toast that baby can easily hold. You can also do just toast or just avocado as well.
- Oatmeal and Fruit: I’m not talking that gross runny baby cereal. I mean real, stove top old fashioned oats. Add some mashed or puréed fruit instead of sugar. No need for a spoon or bowl either, just place some on tray in front of baby. They will scoop it up and eat what they want.
- Plums: Soft, easy to chew and tasty. Just cut into smaller pieces.
- Strawberries: Cut them up or mash them a little.
- Bananas: Leave the peel on one side so baby can pick it up easier.
- Scrambled Eggs: Cook them hard and don’t add salt. This is still Jack’s favorite breakfast.
- Yogurt and fruit: Go for full fat, unsweetened Greek yogurt if you can. Add some fruit for sweetness. Then just place it front of them, let their little fingers scoop and dip to their delight.
- Cucumber and hummus: Cut the cucumbers into match sticks and remove the seeds. Put some no-salt added hummus on the tray for them to dip. It may take awhile before your baby gets the dipping motion, but no worries. They will probably just eat them separately for awhile.
- Roasted Veggies: Roast up some fresh seasonal veggies in a bit olive oil and other spices. Get them soft but firm enough to be picked up. Then let our baby gnaw and suck away.
- Soba Noodles and Bell Pepper Sticks: Cook up some soba noodles or other whole grain pasta, coat lightly with a little sesame oil or coconut oil. Add bell pepper sticks to gnaw on too. Baby can play and slurp up the noodles and feel the contrast with the crunchy peppers. Check out my recipes here.
- Bone Broth and Rice/Quinoa/Barley: Make your own homemade bone broth and serve it with a tasty whole grain. Sometimes I do spoon feed Jack soup if he asks me to. But no reason why you can’t put the bowl in front of them and let them scoop it out with their hands. Or place some rice soaked in the broth on the try in front of them to pick up.
- Smashed Sweet Potatoes: Boil or roast some sweet potatoes until they are tender. Then take a fork and lightly smash them. Not mashed into a puree, leave some chunks to grab. Add some butter, oil, or bone broth for flavor, too.
- Beans: Cook your favorite kind of beans (we like Pinto and Kidney beans in this house). They are perfect size to pick up and and chew with no teeth
I also use some breakfast options for lunch too.
- Chicken and Brown Rice: Make your favorite chicken recipe for dinner and cut off some small chunks with no skin or bones for baby. And make a flavorful rice dish on the side, or just serve some plain rice. Just go easy on the salt and hot spices. Your baby might not be able to chew the chicken all the way at first, but they can suck the juices out of the meat easily.
- Ham and Green Beans: Make a nice ham steak and some tasty pan-fried green beans (easy on the salt). Just like the chicken, baby can either chew or suck on the meat. And green beans are already the perfect sized stick for baby to pick up!
- Lentil Soup: I either make classic lentil soup and veggies in a tomato broth, or Indian dhal. Jack loves both! Sometimes I do spoon feed Jack soup if he asks me to. But no reason why you can’t put the bowl in front of them and let them scoop it out with their hands.
- Beef Stew: I make my a nice pot of beef stew (seitan stew for me) with carrots, potatoes, celery, and peas. Throw it in the slow-cookers in the morning and it’s ready for dinner. The meat is tender enough for baby to chew or suck on. The veggies are soft enough to eat but still be picked up.
I also use some lunch options for diner.
Teeth Menu: Once Jack got some teeth, I noticed a big difference in what he wanted to eat. He started to eat close to three meals a day and wanted more complex foods. I could also serve foods on plates and bowls without him flipping them over. He also slowly developed more dexterity and could use a spoon or fork. He still liked some of the simper foods from the no-teeth list, too.
- Nut Butter Toast: My nutritionist said unless you have a family history of nut allergies, then you are okay to give a younger child nuts. That being said, please ask your pediatrician first. I waited until Jack could communicate better (a few words and signs) to me before I offered any to him. I tried peanut butter, cashew, and almond. He loved them all. I cut the toast into strips like with the avocado toast.
- Mango and Strawberries: No need to mash up the berries anymore. And I started to cut bigger wedges of mango since he could actually bite into them now.
- Pancakes and Bacon: I make whole wheat silver dollar pancakes. Sometimes I use fruit puree or jam as syrup. And he loves sharing bacon with daddy. Already comes in a strip form too! At first he just sucked it, now he can eat a whole piece on his own. I buy organic and nitrate-free.
- Waffles Dippers: Make normal waffles and cut them into strips. Offer some yogurt, jams, or nut butter to dip.
- Cereal and Milk: Buy some no-sugar, whole grain organic cereal and non-dairy milk. At firs they may just scoop the cereal out with their hands, but eventually they will get how to do the spoon.
- Mac N Cheese with veggies: Make your favorite mac and cheese (try mine), then add some frozen veggies. We like Amy’s Cheddar and Shells with frozen peas and carrots.
- Fried Rice: Take left over rice, add some veggies and chicken or tofu. Lightly season with soy sauce. For fun, add some pineapple.
- Fish Cakes: We were on WIC for awhile and got a crazy amount of canned fish each month. So I made from salmon or tuna cakes with grated carrots, panko, and eggs. I popped them in the freezer for an easy lunch whenever we were busy. I made them small so Jack could pick them up easily and bite them.
- Sandwich: Turkey and Swiss, Ham and cheddar, grill cheese, avocado and tomato, PB&J… you get the idea. I made little fingers sandwiches so he didn’t get overwhelmed. He still usually deconstructs them though, but gets the general idea.
- Veggies Pancakes: Similar to Fish cakes. I grated up carrots, radishes, parsnips. I added cornmeal and eggs to make little pancakes. I froze them and used them when we were too busy to cook.
- Pasta Salad: I like to use spiral pasta since it’s easy for them to grab. Add some black olive slices, cut up artichoke hearts, grated carrots, haled cherry tomatoes, and dress with some olive oil and spices. Easy to make and tasty for everyone.
- Chicken Nuggets: I buy organic, all white meat nuggets (sometimes I make my own if I have time). I give him either no-sugar added ketchup or hummus to dip them in. Easy and already bite-sized.
- Hot Dogs and Celery: I get nitrate-free organic hot dogs and cut them into pieces and cut the pieces in half (so they aren’t circular to choke on). I cut the celery into short sticks for him to munch on (great for teething!).
- String Cheese, Crackers, and Turkey slices: Easy lunch on the go. String cheese is easy to hold and eat. Get some whole-grain, no salt crackers that are easy for baby to pick up. And cut up some turkey or other meat slices.
- Quesadillas: Cheese and whole wheat tortilla, and some mild salsa to dip. Cut into wedges to make it easier to pick up.
- Chicken Soup: Add some bone broth, veggies, and chicken to a pot. Cook until veggies are tender and season lightly. Make some noodles or rice. Either let baby scoop the soup out by hand or try a spoon. Messy but usually a hit with every baby! This is our fall back when Jack is cranky and refuses other foods.
- Curry Noodles: Check out my recipe. Easy and a great way to introduce spices to your baby.
- Rice Pilaf, Veggies, and Chicken: A step-up from plain chicken and rice. Make your favorite pilaf recipe, chicken recipe, and roasted veggies. Just go easy on the salt. Cut the chicken into reasonable-sized pieces. If they are going to use a fork, make them smaller. Pick them up, a little bigger.
- Spaghetti and Meatballs: Get your favorite space pasta, sauce, and meatball recipe. Cut the meatballs into half or quarters. You may want to noodles in half if they long, but usually they figure out how to slurp it up anyways. No fork needed, let them have fun!
- Tacos: Meat, beans, tortilla, cheese and some mild salsa. At first I made deconstructed ones, now he gets built ones (that he deconstructs on his own). Who doesn’t love tacos?
- Pizza: We usually have pizza every Friday, so check out one of my recipes here. Mostly homemade, sometimes who buy it. At first I took the toppings off, pulled the cheese into pieces, and cut the crust into pieces. Then let Jack pick what he wanted. Now he likes his own small slice to pick up. He likes Hawaiian pizza, but try whatever pizza you like.
- Lentil Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries: Check out my recipe here. I usually just offer him a mini patty, sugar-free ketchup, and a few fries. Easy to pick up and packed with nutrients.
- Enchiladas: Make a low-salt version of your favorite recipe. I like either white enchiladas with white beans or smokey red sauce with sweet potatoes. Again messy, but a usually a big hit.
- Stir Fry with Brown Rice: Clear out all the veggies in your fridge and freezer. Add some soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Throw some tofu or chicken in, too. Make some brown rice and enjoy an easy dinner. Just make sure everything is bite-sized and no round so baby can choke.
- Ravioli: Make your favorite frozen ravioli (or make your own if you can) and your favorite sauce. You may want to cut the noodles in half if they are big, but another easy but big hit dinner.
- Barley Vegetable Soup: Check out my recipes here. Like I said, soup is usually a big hit and easy to make.
- Lasagna: Easy to make and very versatile. Meat or all veggies. Cheese or no cheese. Red or white sauce. And fun for baby to take apart and eat.
- Chili and Corn Bread: Throw beans, spices, tomato paste and water into a slow-cooker in the morning. Make some corn bread in the afternoon. Easy and fun to eat.
- Tamales: I suck at making tamales (see here), I opt to buy them fresh if I can. But they are small enough to pick up, but big enough to bite into easily. And a variety of filings for a fun surprise for baby.
I hope this helps you and your baby on your own baby-led weaning journey! Feel free to comment with your own suggestions as well, I’m always looking for new toddler food ideas!
Here are a few more suggestions as well: