If you have a baby with a dairy allergy, you know how challenging it can be to find dairy-free healthy toddler finger foods that won’t have your little one making food art all over your kitchen floor. Many go-to foods like yogurt and cheese are off limits. And although you have scoured Pinterest for dairy-free toddler finger foods, there just aren’t many options. That’s why I have gathered a list of my favorite healthy, kid-approved, dairy-free finger foods that above all else, are easy to make.
In this post, you will read about:
- Signs of a dairy allergy or intolerance
- What to look for in dairy free toddler finger foods
- Your go-to list for dairy free toddler finger foods
- Other easy dairy free toddler finger foods for when you are in a pinch
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Signs of a Dairy Allergy or Intolerance
My little one was still exclusively breastfeeding when I found out that he had a dairy intolerance. We were lucky that it wasn’t a full blown allergy, but all the same, it was still a food that had to be avoided in my diet. And as he started experimenting with his own food, we still avoided feeding it to him.
There are many signs that a baby can be intolerant to dairy, but one of the most prevalent would probably abdominal pain or discomfort and gas. We noticed this immediately with our little one in that from 6 weeks old, he would squirm, grunt, and sometimes cry out in pain from his discomfort.
Other symptoms that we noticed were a dry, scaly rash, frequent spit-ups or vomiting, and coughing, wheezing, and congestion. When we couldn’t figure out what was causing all of these symptoms, we spoke to both our pediatrician and a pediatric gastrointestinal specialist. All of these symptoms combined with the abdominal discomfort pointed to an intolerance to dairy and sure enough, when eliminated from my diet, all symptoms resolved with a couple of weeks.
Milk allergies, however, can be much more serious. Since an allergy is directly related to an immune system response and not a gastrointestinal response, you may see signs that are more common with allergies. These can include all of the symptoms of a dairy intolerance as mentioned above, and also include hives, vomiting and/or diarrhea, and even anaphylaxis.
Be sure to speak with your pediatrician whenever you have a concern about allergies or intolerances.
What to Look for in Dairy Free Toddler Finger Foods
There are so many options out there now that are dairy free that you can pick up at the store. However, a lot of items that may be advertised as dairy free may not be the healthiest. Think about it…Oreos and Ritz crackers are dairy free, but they wouldn’t be your number one choice for your toddler.
A lot of these foods that are dairy free contain fillers and a high content of sugar among other undesirable ingredients. Let’s chat about what you should look for when you are shopping for your little one.
What to Look For in Dairy Free Toddler Finger Foods
Whole Food Ingredients
You will want to make sure that you are looking for ingredients that are made up of real, whole foods. If you are grabbing a strawberry fruit bar, make sure that it is made of real, whole strawberries, not strawberry flavoring.
Speaking of ingredients, keep them to a minimum. You want to be sure that your little one is getting nutrition from each and every ingredient and not filling up on added fillers and sugars.
Organic, Hormone free (When Possible)
Trust me, I know it is not always possible to go the organic route. For one, the price difference alone could make you go bankrupt. However, I do see the benefits of organic and hormone free food. If I can avoid giving my child any food with toxins in it, I will jump on the chance as long as availability and budget allow.
Ingredients to Avoid
Hidden Dairy Ingredients
Luckily, most labels have to have an allergy warning on them now where it will clearly say: CONTAINS MILK. But, just in case, here are some other ingredients to be on the lookout for when checking labels:
- lactalbumin phosphate
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Although very controversial, I avoid this because of the links it has to headaches and inflammation.
Again, this is an “if possible” type of situation because soy seems to be in everything. However, it is just a filler and you can find many food options without it. I avoid soy products because of the research on how it can disrupt hormone and thyroid function.
Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
At any age, sugar can be addicting and cause major issues such as obesity and diabetes. For young ones, limiting sugar can help with focus and attention and regulating functions of important systems in the body.
Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are even worse for you. Cancer, brain tumors, and Alzheimer’s are just a few issues surrounding aspartame.
Any artificial food dyes are important to avoid because of their link to ADHD, cancer, and obesity.
Some preservatives like BHA or BHT, like soy, can disrupt thyroid and hormone functioning.
Your Go-to Round Up of Dairy Free Toddler Finger Foods
All of the above foods to avoid are very common in premade dairy free foods. This is one reason why I like to batch cook my own dairy free toddler finger food so that I can be sure of the quality of the ingredients that I am feeding my child.
However, finding easy, freezable, and healthy recipes that are dairy free can be a challenge. This is why I have gathered my favorite recipes (and my son’s favorites!) and want to share them with you below.
Banana Blueberry Fritters
>>>From Healthy Little Foodie
These little pancake type of fritters are perfect for picky eaters. They pack antioxidant power with the blueberries and plenty of extra vitamins and minerals with the bananas. A perfect sweet treat for your toddler on the run.
Banana, Avocado, Apple Baby Muffins
>>>From My Fussy Eater
Muffins are a great finger food and easy to freeze and reheat. These particular muffins add a variety of health benefits and are easily made dairy free by subbing the milk for your dairy free milk of choice.
Spinach, Banana, and Oat Donut
>>>From Inspiralized Kids
These blender donuts are a favorite in my household. What is great is that they are also flour free so the nutritional benefits from the spinach and flax seed really make these a powerful brain food. My little one LOVES them and can never get enough!
Lentil Spinach Pancakes
>>>From Healthy Little Foodies
A savory lunch or dinner, these lentil-based “pancakes” are a go-to because of how savory they are. A beautiful blend of herbs and spices, this recipe will be one that you return to!
Sweet Potato and Apple Fritters
We use these little fritters as a veggie side to whatever protein we serve for the day. They are so easy to make and freeze, which make them the perfect little food to pack for daycare. I prefer to bake them as opposed to frying them..350 for 20-25 minutes works for me, but check your oven!
Avocado Hummus Roll Ups
Sometimes I need a quick lunch or something quick for my daycare lunchbox and don’t want to heat the oven. These roll ups are a perfectly quick way to ensure a healthy lunch with minimal effort.
Chicken Veggie Patties
A great way to get a variety of veggies and protein in, these little fritters are a wonderful alternative to chicken nuggets.
Sweet Potato Turkey Meatballs
>>>From SimplyWorkingMama featured on Mom Life, Happy Life
This is a personal recipe that I hold dear to my heart. I created this when my little one first started experimenting with foods outside of homemade purees. This is a great one to freeze and one that I will even pack in my own lunch!
>>>From Healthy Little Foodies
These are the perfect little treats when you need a quick and easy snack. They cook up in the microwave and are an excellent way to add some fiber into your little one’s diet.
Baked Mango Chicken Bites
>>>From My Kids Lick the Bowl
I love the ease of meatballs. They are easy to batch cook, freeze, and serve up on a whim. So whenever I can get a delicious variation on a favorite, I will try it out. We love the added sweetness of the mango in these chicken bites.
Other Easy, Dairy Free Toddler Foods to Grab in a Pinch
Sometimes, with the exhaustion that is motherhood, I just don’t have the time or energy to spend my Sunday meal prepping and cooking the delicious recipes from above. That’s why I’m going to share some of my favorite tips for getting easy, dairy free for when you are short on time.
Check out my dairy-free protein smoothie for toddlers.
One of my favorite easy finger food hacks is to buy fresh or frozen veggies and take 20 minutes to prep them so they are ready to grab and go whenever meal time approaches.
If I purchased fresh veggies, I will prep them and cut them into bite size pieces, steam them in my 8-in-1 baby food maker, and then portion them out into my 2 ounce silicone freezer food trays. What’s great is that these are the same tools I used to make my homemade baby food, but now I have adapted them to use for my toddler. When the pre-portioned veggies are frozen, I pop them out and stick them in my storage bins or ziploc freezer bags.
If I purchased frozen veggies, sometimes I’ll just grab a portion out of the bag to reheat or I will put them in freezer food trays so I can grab a portion and go. Either way works and a simple touch of the microwave or putting them in the fridge the night before are both great ways to defrost.
Aidell’s Meatballs or Sausage
My go-to quality precooked dairy free meat options are Aidells. There are many dairy free options, but our favorites are the teriyaki and pineapple chicken meatballs and the chicken and the chicken and apple smoked chicken sausage. Some of their products do contain dairy products so always check the label before purchasing.
What I love about Aidells? They are free of hormones, antibiotics, and nitrites, use all natural ingredients, and are a great price. They are available at your local grocery store and Target.
Another reputable company that I love is Mighty Spark. They sell packaged ground chicken and turkey in premade flavors, many of which are dairy free.
To easily make these into a finger food, I scoop the ground meat into muffin or mini-muffin trays and thoroughly bake them. They are then ready to serve or freeze!
Why I love Mighty Spark? Another company that doesn’t use hormones or nitrites and uses minimal, all-natural ingredients.
Happy Family Organics
Happy Family is another trusted source of nutrition for me. I love the variety of pouches they have when I am just too exhausted to make my own or when I don’t have any puree reserves left in my freezer.
They also have finger foods such as pasta, veggie straws, and fiber bars. We love the dairy free options that they offer and the great thing is that they are all organic, are GMO free, and are free of hormones and antibiotics. Always check the ingredients before purchasing as not all of their products are dairy free.
Our favorite Happy Family snack are the Creamies. These are the perfect alternative to yogurt melts as they are made from coconut milk as opposed to regular milk.
Thrive Market is one of my favorite places to shop. You can get Whole Foods products at Walmart prices. They are similar to a Sam’s Club or Costco as they have a yearly membership (or even monthly memberships), but their prices make the small yearly investment worth it.
What is great about their website is that you can set your dietary limitations in the search engine. So when I click on dairy free, I get every single one of the products they offer that are dairy free. This makes it super easy to buy healthy dairy free products whenever I need to.
Check them out!
Get a free gift up to $22 value exclusively when you purchase a 1 year memberships at Thrive Market! (1 month membership also available)
Putting It All Together
Having a little one with dairy allergy can be very trying. Being aware of labels is key when you are purchasing from a store. But it is possible to keep it healthy while still maintaining your sanity.
Batch cooking healthy foods is a time and sanity saver. And when you don’t have the time to batch cook, there are plenty of healthy options in the stores if you know where to look. Keeping it quick and simple is still possible without sacrificing the nutritional value of your little one’s meals.
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