As the title says, I got a live-in nanny job for a 7 year old girl, single mom situation (saving up to move to california, finish school, and start my own paleo practice yeahhh!) The mom was happy I'm studying nutrition and love to cook, I mentioned I don't eat or cook with processed foods. She said they eat organic and some processed foods but always "natural" and "organic". I am happy that the mom is open to organic and healthy eating, however I have more work to do here than I expected. Come to find out the kid's favorite food is Annie's organic mac and cheese and she has a "sugar addiction" according to the mom's boyfriend.
Kid's typical day (pre-Danielle intervention)
Breakfast: Honey nut cheerios and low-fat organic milk
Lunch: Oscar Mayer processed ham lunch meat sandwich on wheat bread, four different kinds of fruit (sugar!) and no veggies, 3-4 sugary gummy vitamins ("I want her to have as much vitamins as possible"-the mom's boyfriend), and a couple random packaged snack foods (bartering material on the playground, apparently).
Dinner: Whatever I can cook up- frozen breaded chicken nuggets, tuna salad, processed meats, etc
Comments I've heard from the mom and boyfriend while discussing with me what she likes to eat
"I don't like to give her hamburger."
"I'm glad she doesn't like cheese because we don't want her eating so much animal fat."
"She likes her ham sandwich, gives her protein and the bread is whole wheat."
I get to buy my own food, but I cannot get myself to cook sh*tty food for this child. It kills me. If I have to pack a bag of organic fruit gummies so she's not ostracized in the schoolyard, fine, but this child WILL eat a whole foods diet if I have any say in it, and I will be making most of her food. So, what are some tips to ease into a less processed and more whole foods diet with this family without seeming forceful? The mom mentioned in conversation as far as my nutrition knowledge goes that I will "have to teach her some things", so at least she's open and has the right intentions. I already plan on always having bone broth in the house, and I picked up a copy of Nourishing Traditions, so maybe I'll conveniently leave that laying around or offer it to the mom to take a look at. Also, any of your own or links to paleo-friendly kids meals/snacks are appreciated. Everyday paleo always has great stuff but I'm sure there are more out there. Thanks for your suggestions.
First of all, you need to get on the same page. The mother values the idea of nutrition, feels you have valuable information, and is willing to learn. You don't have to be sneaky about it, leave books lying around, or anything like that. Doing that is devaluing both your own knowledge (which she hired you for!) and her stated willingness to learn.
Right now, when you're just starting, is the absolute best time to have this discussion. Your ideas on what constitutes nutrition differ, and you need to figure out how much she is willing to change and you're willing to compromise in order to make meals that work for everyone.
Give her accessible sources of information. Start with printing out a few good, accessible, summary websites/blog posts. Avoid sources that go too heavy into scientific detail, caveman-talk (the "Me Grok. Me eat real food." type), or conspiracy theory unless you get the impression she's open to that sort of thing (for example, I'd avoid anything extolling anti-vaccination unless she's already on board with that). Don't just point her at the website (which she may or may not actually get around to reading) - give her something that she can look over right then and there so that you can discuss diet from a common ground. Then, if she's interested and open to it, you can point her towards more in-depth sources of information.
You need sources that put paleo into the context of the needs of the developing child. Personally, I'd avoid Nourishing Traditions as a starting point unless you're willing to do soaked grains and legumes. It's a good source of info about the health of fats, but isn't going to validate the no-grains standpoint. Everyday Paleo (blog or book) maybe? I suggest that because it focuses on paleo from a family lifestyle standpoint, not specifically weight loss. Find some good Paleo family blogs to direct her to.
It sounds like the main sticking point for her is the health of animal fats. If that's something she's not open to changing at this point, find things that will work for both of you and focus on those - coconut oil, olive oil (in a non-heat context - use it in salad dressing and dips, don't cook with it), flax seed oil (again, don't heat - use coconut oil for that), avocado, and things like that can be used to up the fat content of the meals while using lean meats. Some sources of animal fat that are likely to be most acceptable are fatty fish and good quality eggs. Most people understand that those are good for brain development and so forth, and that's a good gateway to the idea that fat from pastured meat, with a proper omega-3/omega-6 ratio, is healthy.
Replacing processed foods with fruits and vegetables should be readily acceptable, regardless of her views on grains and fats.
So, in short - don't be sneaky. Respect that, as the mother and your employer, she has the final say and you may need to compromise some, but also respect your own knowledge and her willingness to learn and change. There is common ground, and only open communication is going to help you find it.
I've got a starting place for you. You could show the mom the neat trick of killing sugar cravings with a spoonful of coconut oil. I think that will score some points.
Pretty much everyone who isn't deep geek paleo is worried about animal fat, so you might want to start with something like watching the movie Fathead with the family. I've found that to be a much better tool than any book I've recommended, or my own spewing of nutritional ideas to get friends and family to understand where I'm coming from. And maybe print out something explaining how animal fat will grow their daughter's brain and make it easier for her to focus in class.
I've seen studies about what kids eat for breakfast and how they do on tests you could print out. The kids who just had cereal and milk did worse than the kids who didn't have anything. There was also an unpublished study you could share with them where rats were fed cereal or the box the cereal was packaged in, the rats eating the box lived longer (there's a blurb about it in the margins of Nourishing Traditions).
You could also print out one of the paleo food pyramids for a quick visual reference.
It sounds like she's on board if she's excited that you're studying nutrition. I think that will give you some extra street cred when presenting the family with the "new and exciting" research out there. People enjoy feeling like they are in "the know".
I've been in the same boat, but there's no way around this simple fact- it's not your kid. It will hurt you to no end because you will always be fighting against the SAD knowledge of the mom and her bf. The best you can do is what you're already doing by acknowledging what's going on. Plus the mom seems to be more on the convenient side of things in terms of food no matter how much "organic" is being eaten.
Leave the books around the house. Veggies with healthy dips for the kid. Fruit is fine cause she's growing and is less evil than the processed, packaged food. Don't run yourself ragged over this. You're already doing your best by caring.
Motherhood produces a lot of insecurity in a woman. If you've never been a mom, you could not know the often overwhelming question mark that hangs over a mother's head in regards to raising her child. Every mother is trying to give her child the very best she knows how. I will even say that for the mom's who take their kids out to fast food every meal (she is "treating" them).
Rather than coming in and being the bossy know-it-all nutritionist nanny, I think you would do a lot better introducing some of your special recipes, that is make them for yourself and offer to share some.
A 7 year old is old enough to help out in the kitchen (with Mom's approval and careful supervision). This is a good way to get kids interested in (healthy) food. Get her a cute apron of her own!
Sounds like her mom is time challenged, that is probably the #1 reason someone who wants to eat healthy falls into convenience foods. Once you build some rapport with the Mom, you could approach her with "These --------- have a lot of chemical additives and preservatives that are not really healthy. I know how easy they are to rely on when you are already crunched for time. I would be happy to cook up fresh foods for your daughter." If you make this kind of offer, you may find yourself menu planning or even grocery shopping.
Ultimately, don't try to be a nutritionist until you have had some time to get to know them. And don't create a problem without offering a real solution.
Even if you can't bring them around to paleo, consider this a people watching opportunity to learn about how other people live and understand a bit better why people resort to convenience foods.
Oh and everyday paleo is a good source for family friendly recipes.
I have to agree with ImRotu. I have two children and if some well-meaning vegan nanny came in and started feeding them tofu, I'd go ballistic. Stick with quietly introducing paleo type foods, and start adding things that will build up her tastes, as opposed to taking away things that she's very attached to. You might want to check out the discussion boards on mothering.com to talk to like-minded individuals who are specifically looking at feeding children.
At the end of the day, she is NOT your child, and you are an employee. Sorry to be harsh, but that's the reality.
What an awesome opportunity! I think the easiest way to transition is to find better alternatives to what she is already eating. Instead of Annies mac n cheese, make mashed cauliflower and cheese. Take the bread out of her sandwiches and make lettuce wraps. Simple things like this may seem less aggressive. My daughter loves kale chips. I found the recipe on paleodietlifestyle.com, but essentially you just rub coconut oil on the kale, sprinkle with sea salt/pepper, and bake it. I switched in coconut milk for cows milk, and I make sun-tea instead of buying juice. Those were some big ways of reducing the sugar intake. Best of luck to you! :)
Lead by example. Eat your paleo foods and talk about how good they make you feel. If you are offered non-paleo foods, politey turn them down with an explanation. "Thank you! That looks good, but I find that when I eat (rice/cheese/grains/sugar), I don't feel as good as if I stick to (meat/veggies/whatever you are eating instead). This is probably the best way to get the mom on board, which is the first step. Radically changing the kid's diet without the permission of the parents is a fast track to unemployment and would show a lack of respect for the mom.
Once the mom is on board with the plan, I found the ONLY way to get my kids to eat vegetables was to eliminate things I didn't want them to eat from the house. Are you in charge of grocery shopping? If you can get the mom to agree, start buying more veggies and skipping the packaged foods. I have found that no matter how delicious and well prepared the veggies are, if they are next to mac and cheese, no one eats them. On the other hand, when I served chicken, broccoli, and brussel sprouts (a new veggie for us) last night, my three year old exclaimed "I love brussel sprouts! They taste just like broccoli!" If he knew mac and cheese were an option, the brussel sprouts never would have made into his mouth in the first place.
The first thing you need is to get the mom to buy into it. Give her a copy of something about paleo to read. Until she is on board you aren't going to have any support in doing this.
I'm on the same journey with my 6 year old as our family transitions to a healthier paleo + raw dairy diet. Start with pseudo grain baked items, like muffins, gluten-free pancakes. We like these and they freeze well:
Pumpkin Blueberry Pancakes 3 c. gluten free pancake mix (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 can coconut milk
1 can canned pumpkin
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
3 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and cook in butter or coconut oil in a skillet.
Morning Glory Muffins Ingredients
2 1/2 cups almond flour 1 tablespoon cinnamon 2 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 cups carrots, peeled and grated 1 large apple, peeled, cored and grated 1 cup shredded coconut 1 cup raisins 3 large eggs 2 tablespoons honey (optional) 1/2 cup coconut oil or melted butter 1 teaspoon vanilla
**If you are looking for variety, sub out currants or chopped dates for the raisins. You can
also add a little orange zest to give them a bit more citrus flavor.
We also like ones made with coconut flour as they always have extra eggs. I try to get my child's fiber intake up and her simple sugar consumption down. Try replacing their "processed" food with Paleo friendly similar foods. Talk to the parents (your real problem) about food quality and suggest that they try more organic foods, like better quality meats. My child likes Applegate farms organic hot dogs (grass fed meat). I skip the bun ("oops. we're out") and offer 2 dogs instead of one + veggies. Offer to do the family food shopping and cooking, then involve her. After she eats "junky" foods & grains etc. ask her how it made her feel. Make her notice what she's doing to her body. Be patient. They'll prefer home made Paleo to processed crap dish by dish. I have noticed that getting my child to eat enough protein and keeping her sweets in check, helps with veggie consumption. She's not quite where I'd like her to be, but she's no where close to where she used to be.