For all the latest news about the coronavirus, click here.

Last updated on Jun 11th, 2021 at 01:26 pm

There’s no doubt children love snacks and they love feeding themselves! In fact, the more foods you can offer your little one in the form of easy-to-eat, nourishing finger foods, the better.

A variety of finger foods is essential

In a study published in the journal Nutrients, researchers argue that children who are exposed to a variety of different flavours, textures and tastes (in the form of finger foods) from a young age, tend to have a healthier relationship with food later on. They are also less likely to become fussy eaters. Eating as a family around a table and modelling good behaviour in terms of how you eat and what goes on your plate is another way to encourage your child to try more foods.

How does food boost the immune system?

According to a report published on Medical News Today, “When the immune system comes into contact with a virus, bacteria or organism that can cause disease, it triggers an immune response where the immune system releases antibodies to kill the virus or bacteria. Incorporating specific foods into your child’s diet may help to strengthen her immune response.”

The truth is, we all want our kids to eat more foods that will support their immune systems such as fruits and veggies rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, rather than processed, sugary foods that can supress the immune system. Research shows that too much sugar slows the immune system cells responsible for protecting the body against harmful viruses and bacteria.

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

ALSO SEE: Here’s how much sugar your child should have daily

We asked Catherine Day, registered dietician and ADSA spokesperson for her top finger foods to support your child’s immune system this winter, and beyond:

Note: always monitor your child while eating finger foods as some food can pose a choking risk. Also, choose age-appropriate finger foods for your child.

ALSO SEE: 10 surprising chocking hazards for babies and toddlers

These finger foods are all high in essential nutrients:

  • Strawberries, sliced – rich in vitamin C
  • Sweet bell peppers, sliced – rich in vitamin C
  • Julienne carrots – rich in beta-carotene
  • Roasted sweet potato/ butternut, cubed – rich in beta-carotene
  • Spinach and egg fingers (an omelette made with spinach, egg and cheese which has been cut into slices) – rich in protein and iron
  • Melon/ papaya/ mango, cubed – rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C
  • Kiwi fruit, sliced – rich in vitamin C
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved – rich in vitamin C
  • Chicken drumsticks – rich in zinc, selenium and protein
  • Lean red meat, sliced – rich in zinc, selenium and protein
  • Roasted sunflower seeds/ pumpkin seeds (can be served with raisins) – high in selenium

ALSO SEE: Your toddler will go mad for these cute omelette snails

How to prepare finger foods in advance

When it comes to prepping healthy snacks and small meals for your family, it’s all about thinking ahead and planning what you can buy and store in advance. This will help you avoid convenience foods, (they’re not only expensive, they’re also often packed with additional sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and preservatives). The finger foods you end up giving to your child everyday should be simple and easy to prepare and serve – especially if your child grazes on snacks throughout the day.

Here are Catherine’s suggestions to make grocery shopping a little easier:

Frozen fruit

Ideal for making purees and adding to smoothies as snacks.

Frozen spinach

Ideal for adding to smoothies, omelettes or cheese and spinach muffins, which you can make ahead and freeze.

Dried fruit such as dried mango, apricots, banana

Ideal as convenient on-the-go snacks.

Fresh fruit and vegetables

Ideal for mealtimes. Chop and steam in advance.

Sunflower seeds and raisins

Ideal for quick snack.

Bulk pack of chicken drumsticks 

Ideal for mealtimes.

Biltong sticks

Ideal for chewing and sucking. Buy in bulk and freeze in smaller potions.

TOP TIP: Always ensure that your child’s meals and snacks are spaced out evenly throughout the day. “Most toddlers eat a mid-morning snack and a mid-afternoon snack. Snacks in the form of finger foods should be portioned and timed appropriately so they don’t impact meals negatively. For example, offer your child a light morning snack around 10am so that by 12:3pm she’s ready for lunch,” advises Catherine.

More about the expert:

Catherine Day is a registered dietician and certified lactation consultant based in Constantia, Cape Town. Learn more about Catherine Day here.