The Nanny Share and Nutrition

Received Tuesday, May 20, 2008- Perspective & Opinion
My almost three year old is being taken care of a nanny as part of a nanny share. I have a problem that centerss around food issues. Our family chooses to eat very healthy. The other family which participates in the nanny share does not. The nanny enjoys the food at the other family's home better. That, I cannot blame her for. I have asked her to make food for our daughter at our home to take with them on the days they go to the other child's house. The problem is our child is picking up on the eating patterns of the other child. For lunch, it is not uncommon for the other child to have french fries and burgers and cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets and potato skins. I guess the other family keeps a freezer full of gourmet burgers and cheeses and Wolfgang Puck pizzas and TGIF appetizers. We of course offered the nanny to make her lunch at our house where we have plenty of fresh vegetables, whole grain breads, chicken breast, turkey, etc. The three year old is not a napper so the nanny has to eat in front of her. The problem is not just with the nanny, but with the other family and their daughter. This is not as simple as asking your nanny to make good food choices in your home, because the nanny share relegates the nanny and my child are at the other family's home 2.5 days per week. Because the nanny is working out so well and the little girl from the other family is such a darling and great playmate, I want to do all I can to preserve this situation. What do you think the other family would think of me making nutritional suggestions for the time the children were at their home? What if I offered to prepare lunches and snacks for all three of them? I don't want to insult anyone but my daughter will no longer eat tofu. She is now asking for things like chocolate covered oreos and "ritz bitz". I can and do say no when she is with me, but I am not happy that she is eating them at all, let alone developing an appetite for such foods. Advice?


Miserly Bastard said...

Imparting good eating habits to your kids is one of the best gifts that parents can bestow. (My own dietary instincts are atrocious.) Parents really need to be careful about advice like "clean your plate" (which leads to overeating), or using food as a reward for behavior, etc.

That said, you are putting your nanny/kid in an impossible situation--regular exposure to junk food temptation, without the ability to actually partake. This is a recipe for failure.

It seems to me that you joined this nanny share voluntarily, and probably with knowledge of the other family's food rules. If you don't like their rules, you're free to leave the nanny share. I think trying to get the other family to conform to your rules is unrealistic.

Perhaps you could take a less absolutist approach, and rather than tell your nanny, "No junk food, ever," you make a rule of "No junky snacking" or "Dessert after dinner."

livinmom said...

It's kind of a tricky situation that you are in. I don't think it is at all appropriate to suggest the way the other child should eat. You can enforce the way your child eats as much as possible but she is still going to be around those foods as long as you participate in the nanny share. Unfortunatly you will need to get used to it because when your child reaches school age they will continue to be exposed to all kinds of food choices. To raise your child with the food standards that you want is going to be tough in the situation you are in. And really....what three year old wants tofu?

UmassSlytherin said...

I agree with miserly bastard. Good food choices are so important: we don't ever eat fast food in our family, and try to offer our child a variety of healthy foods and snacks: fresh food is always better than pre-packaged, or our major pet peeve, fast food. (eww.)We do give our daughter dessert though, pudding pops, sometimes cookies too, after she has eaten her main dish. And my sister is a big fan of McDonalds (ew ew) so I know when she visits auntie and her cousins she will have a kids meal. I'm not crazy about it, but I also am not flipping out over it either.

However, as MB said, it's unrealistic and also unfair to set your own boundries within someone else's home with their own children. If this is such an issue to you, I would not participate in this nanny share. You must take the good with the bad.

That being said, I would never eat junk food in front of my charge if they were not allowed it. But then, as I said, I don't eat the stuff anyway.

Furthermore, Michael Pitt is so freaking hot. Don't you all think so?

Anonymous said...

I think you should try and find the middle ground. Bend a little bit to accomodate the unhealthy eating habits of the other family in question and ask them to modify their diet a little bit in the healthy direction when you're daughter is with them.

It's never too soon to try and teach your children about moderation. Having extreme stances on things like food will lead to your children adopting extreme stances themselves, but not necessarily the extremes you approve of.

HealthyHabits said...

I think your heart is in the right place. My charge and her best friend spend a lot of time together. While my charge doesn't eat as healthy as your child does, she does eat a varied diet full of a lot of vegetables and fruits. Her friend, however, eats only chicken nugget type chicken. I've tried many things to get her friend to eat some of the same foods. I make it fun by cutting up foods and putting in cocktail toothpicks. I make kabobs out of fruit. It's in vain, she won't budge. In the end if the other child won't eat your good intentions, you're just making it harder on your nanny. The thing I tell my charge when the other child is gorging on McD's is that we don't eat that way, we choose to put things in our bodies that are healthy. I make a big deal when she eats healthy, asking her to show me her muscles that the food is helping get bigger. She grew two inches last year, we made the connection for her. I know your child is young, but I started this at age 2.

just anonymous said...

A) 3 year olds still need naps. If not napping, spend 'quiet time' in a room looking through books.

B) If you don't like the result of the nanny share than stop doing it.

C) You sound like an overbearing, controlling type employer and your type typically wouldn't do well in a nanny share b/c you have to have complete control.

...Sorry to be so harsh, but these were my first instincts on reading this post.

marypoppin'pills said...

You could try making your daughters lunch and asking the Nanny to see to it that she noshes on it. But you do have to be realistic that as she's exposed to more unhealthy foods (which of course, always taste better) she will undoubtedly partake.
Livinmom makes an excellent point ... your child will be exposed to these foods when she reaches school age anyway, it just so happens it came a little earlier for her.

Try to encourage your daughter to continue to eat "like Mommy" ... and try not to fret if she gets her hands on a corn dog or something.

Remember, it's only 2.5 days a week. The rest of the time she's with you, she's getting the proper nutrition she needs.
The only other alternative would be to quit the Nanny share.

Anonymous said...

just anonymous,
that's kind of harsh. she doesn't sound overbearing at all. she just wants to see her little girl eat a well-rounded healthy diet.
that's her job!
anyway op - try to gently coax your child to continue the healthy habits, but be careful - as miserly bastard said, you don't want her growing up with any food issues (like i did). my mom was awful ... clean your plate .... you can't leave the table until your done (i remember sitting at the table for hours sometimes). and now i honestly hate food. i only eat to survive, and i rarely get any enjoyment out of it.
i'm sure your not like that, but don't go overboard on the "healthy food is the end all be all".
and i doubt the other family wants someone telling them how to feed their kids, but if you want to offer to makes the lunches, i say give it a go - you never know!

Kaitlyn said...

I would not suggest asking the other family to change their children's eating habits--they would probably be a little insulted and that would make your nannyshare awkward. Maybe you could send your little girl with a healthy lunch and a treat like a few oreos for dessert. That way, by the time she's done eating, she will have forgotten that the other kids got to eat "better" things than she did.

Lisa T. said...

Establishing good food habits is so important that it far outweighs any nanny feelings. I'd find another nanny share right away, before it gets worse!

Anonymous said...

Wow. Stand your ground, Lisa!

Anonymous said...

One thing you aren't being completely up front about--and maybe I'm out of line here--but: you are obviously saving a sum of money here by having the nanny share. Why don't you get your own nanny and arrange daily playdates w/ the other nanny and this child that your child gets along with so well? Your nanny can totally police your child's food situation and you are all set.

Otherwise, I pretty much agree with what MiserlyBastard says.

Good luck, you do sound like you need control. I can't believe anyone would have the audacity to suggest to another family how they should eat! Suck it up or get your own nanny. If you are paying all that extra money for high quality food, surely you can afford your own nanny. Or get another nanny share.

Anonymous said...

I know it's a comprimise, but they make vegetarian chicken nuggets and corn dogs. I use them with my son, who doesn't know the difference. They have more sodium than I'd like, but at least he's not comparing what others are eating to what he's eating.

anyasnew said...

All things in moderation is one of the major keys to life. A child who is sheltered from choices, and never allowed to indulge in anything "unhealthy" is just as bad off, as a child who is allowed to partake of any substance available. Eventually your little girl will be around all different types of food, after not being allowed 'junk food' ever, she may even make the wrong choices, as often what we are 'deprived' of becomes the main focus of what we want and desire.
One cookie every now and again is not going to harm you or your child. Extremes are typically more harmful, whether the extreme was well intentioned or not. Children are active enough, that a "desert" every now and again won't harm them, as long as they register that it IS desert, and not the main course. The healthiest adults tend to be those who don't have any hang ups, or obsessions with food, those that know how to moderate their eating habits, to quit when they are full, and enjoy the nutrients they put into their bodies.
Continue to be a good role model for your daughter. Guide her eating habits, and make healthy choices, but don't be afraid to "indulge" every now and again, as often times extremes (in either direction) lead to eating disorders in the future.

Marissa M. said...

In reference to the last comment is like saying... because if you use just a little bit of cocaine it's not bad for you.

Junk, even in moderation, is not good for you period. Will it kill you? No.

My suggestion? Stop nanny share.

LindaLou said...

i don't think it's fair to ask the other family to change what they eat. most people seem to eat a lot of processed junk these days so you (and your nanny) might as well just get your child used to the idea that you guys simply don't eat like that. why is the assumption that the processed food will taste better? i don't think that's true at all. my 3 year old eats a packed lunch at co-op preschool and while the kids sometimes share a little, they generally stick to what they are used to eating at home. 3 is not a very adventerous eating age, ime.

and marissa, how idiotic to compare cocaine use with having a cookie once in a while. are YOU snorting the cocaine before you post? i swear, almost every thing you write is either stupid, mean spirited, or insane.

Anonymous said...

Huh? cocaine and junk food. 2 completely different entities.
Some "junk" foods do have certain fats kids need. They aren't ALL bad. And they certainly can't be compared to cocaine!
Tell us what you plan to do, OP. Are you going to quit your nanny-share, or let your child indulge 2 days a week???

Anonymous said...

calif nanny here...
I agree with 7:35.
3yr olds still need a nap.

You cant control what anyone else eats. Once your child goes to school you cant control everything she eats either. Other parents are snack host and they pick the snack the whole class eats.

I use to nanny share and I did bring my charges their own lunch and my lunch, we all just ate different. The kids at the time were 2 and 3 and they understood their food and our food and the whole we eat this, and this is what the other mommy packed for child A. You'd be surprized how flexible kids are.

Anonymous said...

LOL, lindalou, you are a mean one, girl!

Anonymous said...

I agree with most everyone else here; unreasonable to expect the other family to change how they eat. My dd goes to preschool with a child from a vegan family, and her snack is different almost every day. It doesn't seem to faze her. She has learned that this is how her family eats and it's out of the mainstream. Now simply eating healthy is not as unusual as being vegan, of course, but I think it's perfectly OK to have a discussion with a 3-yo about how some families eat different kinds of foods, but it's important in *our* family that we eat the way we do. The choices are not "give in and give Ritz Bitz" or "attempt to only have child around healthy eaters". The third way is IMO best, and that is to have a dialogue with your kid, on an ongoing basis, about food. She'll be much more likely to stick with healthy eating habits if she understands WHY you don't want her to eat Ritz Bitz.

I have a 3-yo so I know they can understand a lot at this age - at the very least, "so-and-so-'s family and the nanny often eat certain foods but in our family we do not". You don't have to be judgmental about it, either. I've talked to the vegan mom at my daughter's preschool and she doesn't demonize meat-eaters to her daughter, she is just matter of fact that her family does not eat meat and other people do. End of story.

Anonymous said...

Don't most schools prohibit junk food, I mean beyond ice cream or something?
My kids school is pretty strict, and "snack parents" (I like the name, lol) are encouraged to bring cut up fruits & veggies and stuff. Then maybe the occassional cookie, but love when it's homemade oatmeal or something.
They even sent flyers home to parents at the beginning of the school year on proper nutrition!
I was impressed!

Anonymous said...

You are going to need to compromise, or give up the nanny share, or lose your daughter's relationship with her friend--you can't dictate the other family's or your nanny's eating habits. I suggest you get creative making and sending healthy "desserts" and snacks for everyone to share when your child goes to the other home and have them ready in your home for the days they are there so you know that she is getting some healthy foods even when not in your home. Freshly juiced fruits make great home made frozen popsicles (you can even get fun shaped popsicle molds in a kitchen supply store). Frozen skewers of mixed fresh fruits also are a big hit. I've also made a nice raisin and rice "pudding" sweetened with pineapple the kids love and you might want to leave the makings of a fruit smoothie party for the days they are at your house. Plus, nothing beats fresh watermelon (especially some of the sweet yellow varieties) during the summer. There are even ways to do healthy "fries"--oven baked sweet potatoes strips taste great --and there are nice garden burgers that can be bought frozen and put on a whole grain bun as alternatives that may keep her from being tempted by the food in the other family's freezer.

Anonymous said...

I'd say just let her eat the 1 "unhealthy" meal per day 2.5 days per week lol. Its really not that often.

LindaLou said...

11:30 ~ i know! and as mean as i am, i've still never cleaned a toilet with anyone's toothbrush!!!

Bon appetit! said...

Make it an adventure rather than a problem.

Allow your child to share ONE small "naughty" junk food item (one cookie, or cracker or whatever) with any meal she eats during time in the nanny-share situation.
But make sure she eats her pre-prepared healthy lunch prior to being allowed to have this "treat".
If you make food a battle-ground, it will be a life-long issue for your child (say hello to eating-disorders in the teen years or maybe earlier!).
When your child is old enough, consider enrolling her in a kid's cooking class which focuses on organic foods (tofu, etc).
Food should bring nourishment and pleasure, not anxiety.
Bon appetit!

Anonymous said...

Here's a tip. Remove your child, and find a different care solution with a like-minded family, instead of whinging uselessly about something you will never have control over.
It's just going to negatively affect your child in the long run, if you are unhappy with the situation. Kids are incredibly perceptive and a lot smarter than you give them credit for.

Marissa M. said...

Don't be mean, it was a joke. And for the record I have never used drugs of any sort, now how many people you can say that?

UmassSlytherin said...

I don't think all schools prohibit junk food, especially middle and high schools: I know in my area there are alot of chips and stuff sold at the schools at lunch time.

Anonymous said...

Thick skin, marissa.
Thick skin, honey. :)

not yo mama said...

My daughter was a strict, activist type vegetarian (really!), untill age 5. Now she eats chicken. I don't eat any meat, and think chicken mcnuggets and non-organic milk are HORRIBLE. The reality is though that most of the time she is with me and eats right, and when she is with her dad, eats how he eats. She knows she is eating animals and will most likely return to vegetarianism, but at some point you have to let these wise beyond their years, modern-age kids that we all have, make their own choices. Eating a few processed foods WILL NOT kill them.

Three years old is not what it used to be...

Nanny Lea said...

It is a difficult situation, perhaps one that you didn't talk through with the family you share your good nanny with. If indeed, you did not, now would be an excellent time. Perhaps they would like better nutrition for their little girl but aren't sure of how to go about it and you could help them as well as the nanny to make better choices. If however they don't want to work with you on this it may very well be time to find a different arrangement for your child.

You do not sound overbearing or controlling but rather concerned for you child's life choices and that is to be admired. However your good nanny may not see it that way so continue to be gentle with all concerned. (With the exception of emphatic "no-s" to your child asking for chocolate covered oreos. - never a good idea)

The family I currently work for is food consious and it has been a shift for me to think that way but I am glad for the challenge and have found myself making better choices off the clock as well.

mom said...

First, I agree with everybody else here. Do not try to change how the other family eats. They will be very insulted and it will damage your relationship and possibly your nanny share situation...if you want to keep that.
Also, I have known a few parents over the years who were overly concerned about thier child being a witness to different parenting styles...and the result isn't typically pretty.
You live in a world full of different people and it is going to be impossible to control every situation your child is in. And trying to do so may give your child the impression that the world revolves around him or her. Sometimes your child is going to witness another child behaving badly and not being punished in the same way you might handle it. Sometimes your child is going to see other children eat poorly.

This is a good time to start teaching your child to be strong and independent... and especially that just because somebody else does something does not mean they need to do the same thing. In our play group all the moms packed lunches for their own kids. The kids just ate what was given and not too many questions asked. It was just the way it was. At school they sometimes trade things, so your days of ultimate power are numbered anyway.

I also believe, however, that it is probably better to be a little bit more relaxed about the food issue. Everything in moderation is always a good policy. You don't want Chicken McNuggets, or whatever, to become a mysterious and wonderful forbidden fruit. Let your child try a few "bad" foods once in a while so that eating is a relaxed experience and not something to be fearful of or overly controlled. You'll be thankful later down the line when you're not dealing with an eating disorder.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a person who came from a household where junk food was carefully monitored/forbidden...and can tell you right now...you could easily be paving the road for your daughter to have food issues/and eating disorder later on.

mpp said...

I just had to put this out there and say that I thought there was some really excellent posts here, especially from 11:35pm, 11:50pm and Mom.
All of you rocked this one!
Good job!

MissDee said...

I understand where you are coming from with your daughter's eating habits, unfortunately, you cannot dictate to the other family what their child should eat. If you are friends with this family, and by using a nanny share, I would guess you have some sort of friendship with the other family, sit down and talk over your concerns in a polite tone with them, not get mad at the nanny. Let them know your concerns, and give them a chance to express theirs. See if there is a compromise that you can agree upon with regards to lunchtime. If the nanny is wonderful, there is no reason to let her go and hire another nanny who may not even adhere to your dietary requirements, thereby letting your daughter eat junk food.

mimi said...

Let's Review.



I can tell you this, I run an in home daycare..todays lunch was two children with mcdonalds happy meals, courtsey of mom bringing back the preschooler, and two 2 year olds, one whose mom sent a heat up meal of mac and cheese and franks, the other had streamed white rice, carrots and grilled chicken.

BOTH of my two year olds can spot a happy meal a mile away...but guess what...that is not their LUNCH today... I think if you have a nanny who is on top of her game and offers each child their own meal...like your childrens from home...then thats it...Its like school you go, kid next to you is chowing on a fruit rollup...you can't take it..it's not yours...its a bummer...but thats the breaks! You need a LONG chat with nanny, she needs to use great supervision to ensure she keeps your child tuned in to eating her meal, YOU need to insist she eats the meal you will start sending. There's nothing encouragement and a clever nanny can't pull off...if I can get a two year old to eat plain white rice next to a 3 year old downing french fries...anybody can.

and ps. your 3 year old needs a nap...appropiate down time is not a "choice" a 3 year old gets...it's a pediatric guideline...not enough sleeping contributes to weight gain as well...you can't be health concious in one way but not another.

Bottom line, talk to nanny, pack a lunch, and insist on downtime.

undercover regular said...

Wow, you go mimi!
I agree. Your kid has to learn to eat what's put in front of them. We can't always have what we want - and it's time the kid learned now.
Just be gentle about it. Any time you deal with young children and food issues, it's best to tread lightly so there aren't any problems with them having an eating disorder later.

Anonymous said...

Marissa M., put a shirt on already.

Anonymous said...

That's NOT marissa. It's a model.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, get your own darn nanny. Duh?

Anonymous said...

Nanny shares help both families involved SAVE money and provide a socializtion for their usually solo children.

If this person quits the nanny share, it will affect the other people too!

OP asked for a way to make it work. Here's how, OP. When your child is with you, she eats the food you want. You set a good example for her. Talk to the nanny about your food beliefs. Tell her that you know it is hard when with another child in their home but any chance she gets to encourage the healthy option would be great.

And then, don't sweat the small stuff!

mpp said...

I'm sorry, but it bothers me when someone hires a Nanny and can't 'afford' it. They Nanny ends up being underpaid and resentful of it, and ultimately it can affect the care of the child.
But I guess if a "Nanny share" is the solution, then to each his own.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I see having a Nanny as a luxury, and they should be paid what their worth.

chick said...

IMO, you need to take the view that moderation is the answer. Strict food rules can make forbidden foods all the more enticing for kids.

Why not accept that you cannot control each and every bite your child puts in her mouth, and start talking about moderation instead of making choices that cause her to feeel deprived?

Talk with nanny, and tell her she needs to pack your food for your daughter. Then she needs to explain to your child that she must eat her own lunch, but later, a snack from other family's pantry will be available. You also need to tell your child this, and make sure you reinforce the rule when your kiddo complains.

If nanny will not or cannot do as you ask, then it is time to find a new nanny. BUT, you need to loosen up a bit as well. Not throw healthy eating out the window, but accept that an occasional ritz bits or oreo snack will not poison your child!

Don't insist your kid eats to get the "treat". No one food is better than or more enticing than any other food, unless an adult makes that the case in front of a child.

I'm of the school of thought that I am responsible for serving healthy food, and my charges are responsible for eating what they wish. I work very hard to not make sweets a prize, and if we have a cookie at dinner time, it sits on the plate with the rest of the food, to be eaten or not at whatever point they wish to eat it.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Another sensible post from chick.

Anonymous said...

Don't be a stranger. Where've you been lately?
We miss you!

Anonymous said...

Just some advice from a nanny to the mom concerned with nutrition.

As a nanny, I respect where you come from and I have the opposite situation. I think nutrition is super important but the parent buy too much junky foods and not enough healthy snacks for the kids I watch. I think one of the best gifts you can give someone is a heathly diet while he or she is young.

Also, as a nanny I wouldn't be upset if you asked me to feed the girl healthier food. If you provided the nanny with healthy snacks and ask her not to let her eat the junk food, I believe she will do it. Explain to her why you feel it's really important.

I don't think you are being mean because a lot of children end up with diabeties and obesity. I think if your nanny wasn't on the same page with you and didn't help you then you can find someone much better.

Anonymous said...

We were once at an outdoor company picnic. There was a Little Tykes table set out, where I sat my 3 yr old son to eat. At the same table at the same time was a coworker's 3yr. old son. My son ate, got full, and got up to play. There was still some food left on his plate, but I didn't force my son to finish his plate because, to my way of thinking, once you are full you are full...and the amount of food I may think he wants at the moment mat be different than the amount he is actually hungry for. NO big deal.
But the other woman made a big stink because her child had to witness my son getting up from the table with a partially uneaten meal on his plate, and she was of the "wipe your plate clean" before you leave the table philosophy. It was apparently unthinkable to her that her child might witness a different parenting style than her own being pracitced at any time, ever. She went and complained to her husband that my son needed to go sit down until her child was finished eating, so that her son's training wouldn't be ruined by my son's bad influence. Her husband complained to my husband (they worked together), and my husband relayed the message to me.
As soon as my husband told me, I looked over at the woman, who was standing by the kids table, arms folded, glaring, lips pursed, and waiting expectantly for me to go grab my child away from his playing and sit him back at the table, since she assumed that my husband had surely set me straight and ordered me to obey her ridiculous command.

Then I turned away, continued the conversatiion I had been having, and let my son go on playing. She got mad and came over and told me that it was really bad for her son to see my son not having ot finish his meal, and that now, HORRORS, her son wanted to get up and play before finishing his meal too. I told her that we don't keep eating after we are full at our house. (I held back from telling her I didn't think it would be good for MY son to witness and anal shrew force feeding an already full child.) She wondered if my son might then be made to sit with hers so he would want to finish his food. I said that, since my son appeared to be quite happy in his play, my guess was that, no, he would not enjoy that. She spent the rest of the party with her arms crossed and her lips pursed and glaring at me. I saw her husband trying to console her several times.

I wanted to ask her what she might have sat on that had lodged itself in her rectum...but I decide it might be best to just go on wondering that quietly to myself.

So no, I'm thinking you ought not attempt to dictate the food choices of another family...no matter how much you might wish to control your child's every experience.

UmassSlytherin said...

That is so freaking weird. It makes you wonder what kind of childhood people like this had. :(
If it had been me, I would have been stunned! It was a picnic, for goodness sake!
Crazy lady!