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.
Variety is key
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.
Foods that support 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 suppress the immune system. Research shows that too much sugar slows the immune system cells responsible for protecting the body against harmful viruses and bacteria.
We asked Catherine Day, a registered dietician, for her top finger foods to support your child’s immune system:
Finger foods 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
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, but they’re also often packed with additional sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and preservatives). The finger foods you end up giving to your child every day should be simple and easy to prepare and serve – especially if your child grazes on snacks throughout the day.
Good to know: 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 10 am so that by 12:3pm, she’s ready for lunch.
Here are 7 great finger-type foods
- 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 a quick snack.
- Bulk pack of chicken drumsticks: Ideal for mealtimes.
- Biltong sticks: Ideal for chewing and sucking. Buy in bulk and freeze in smaller portions.