A Nanny’s Thoughts on Healthy Living

Come on, we can do it! Wow you’re such a strong girl! My
Goodness, are you going to be big and strong like Papa? Now how do you know you
don’t like it if you don’t try it! Eat Child; eat!

            These are a
few of the phrases I utter all the
time. I seem to remember my mom saying a few of them a lot too… I was excited
to have the opportunity to write another post for Mom, so many ideas were
flying around in my head, the only problem was coming up with one to focus on!
After many sleepless nights and deep agony I decided on one that I have been
especially passionate about lately, Healthy Living. It’s not just for when
you’re grown up and need to tone, or lose a few pounds. Nope, healthy habits
(should!) start young and be carried with us the rest of our lives. I am going
to write about healthy living in 3 parts: Food, Exercise, and Cleanliness.

            I want to
start with food. What are you feeding your children? How much are you feeding
them? Do you have variety? Is it what you would eat? So often, I see young
parents (and not so young parents) serving the same three or four meals all the
time, because it’s easy. The kids already like it, its simple to make, its
convenient, or you don’t want to deal with the “hassle” of getting the first 5
or so bites through your child’s mouth. I have been a nanny for a long time and
I’ve heard so many excuses. I’ve seen the temper tantrums over change and I’ve
experienced the difficulty of helping kids break years of bad eating habits. In
our house, growing up, “picky” eating wasn’t an option. You ate what was put in
front of you, or you ate it at the next meal, or you went straight to bed, or
sometimes both. Only one of us (who shall go un-named! But you know who you
are!!) Tried to go the picky eater route. This sibling would faint if the food
was not what they wanted to eat, and believe it or not, it worked once!
However, after the second faint, Mom and Dad caught on and that was the end of
that. I hear Mom’s complain that they are making 2-3 different dinners a night
because Johnny doesn’t “like” anything but Mac-and-Cheese and little Suzie only
eats spaghetti-os. Please, for the love of your children, stop enabling their
bad eating bad habits! You are not a Chef and it’s not your job to provide
multiple choices. Make one meal for the whole family, put it front of them, and
if there is any complaining pack it up for later and send the offending party
to bed. Because, honestly that’s what it is when they complain about the food
put in front of them, offending. You wouldn’t want to go
to a friend’s house and have your child tell the host that the food put in
front of them was “yucky” or “disgusting”. You would be mortified by your
child’s rudeness to that person; so don’t let them be rude to you. I have
worked with kids, that when I started watching them, they ate 3 meals, maybe 4.
The Mom made different foods for all of them, and if she put something in front
of one of the kids and they started the crying and “I don’t want that!” she
would take it away and make them something else. It took me awhile to get the
kids to not cry and throw temper tantrums when I put the same thing in front of
all of them. It took even longer to get them to eat the new foods I put in
front of them. We actually went cold turkey, and I cut out all of those “required”
meals completely from their diets. After a time, they started not only eating
the new foods I put in front of them, but actually discovered that they like
different foods. You can teach your children to eat new foods; it will just
take time, patience, and the discipline to not cave into pressure.

            How much
are you feeding your child? How is the plate portioned out? I try to make sure
that the plates I serve to children are heavy on the vegetables, fruits, meats,
and light on the breads and pastas. If I serve Mac-and-Cheese, I throw in Peas
and Poppy Seeds, and sometimes, Ham. On the plate, I put plenty of raw red bell
pepper and some sort of fruit, like apple slices, or a banana. They don’t need
bread or crackers with Mac-and-Cheese, there’s already pasta. One of the new
favorites is a chef salad, and all the kids I watch have a different way that
they like it. One of them likes extra cheese, one likes lots of red bell
pepper, one likes no dressing, and another likes extra bacon. Little things
like that are fine to do for your children, as long as it’s a treat not a
right. Experiment with vegetables! Some kids like them cooked, but I notice
that most kids prefer them raw, and there’s nothing wrong with raw. In fact,
sometimes its healthier. Studies show you should have at least 50% of your
plate as a vegetable or fruit, 25% as meat or protein, and the last part a
grain or starch. When the kids ask for more, do you end up just giving more
starches or breads? Or, do you put greens (or other bright colors) on the
plate? I try to make the plate pretty and colorful. Another thing I’ve noticed
concerns desserts. Desserts are not supposed to be an every night occasion; in
fact, they should be a special treat. One of things that I thought was
absolutely brilliant with one of the families I’ve worked for was that
“dessert” was organic yogurt with fruit on it. The kids preferred it to other
sweets. As far as they were concerned it was dessert, which is a great healthy
habit to have.

            Do you have
variety? Although I mentioned this earlier, it bears repeating. Make new food!
Don’t know what to make, or where to find it? Spoonful.com is an amazing
website that has so many healthy recipes (and its amazing!!!! Crafts, party
ideas, cooking etc! My favorite site for everything!) Or, if you want to
challenge yourself, go buy a cookbook and cook your way through it! My mom,
when she first got married, couldn’t cook. (Ask my dad about that!), But, just
because she didn’t have experience in the kitchen didn’t mean that she laid back
and said, “I can’t!” Nope, she taught herself and it took some time, but now my
Mom is an amazing cook. In fact, she has written a few cookbooks that you could
cook your way through. Some fun cooking projects to do are theme weeks. My
current family was leaving for Mexico for 10 days; so a few weeks before they
left we cooked all “Mexican” foods. The kids loved it. Since then we’ve done an
Asian theme, an Italian theme, and April Fools Day was awesome!

            Is what you
are serving what you would eat? Are you eating healthy as an example to your
kids? They’ll notice if you sneak cookies instead of an apple, or load the
potatoes on your plate and skip the vegetables, or drink soda all the time,
instead of water or milk. Drinks are just as important as the solid foods we
put in our bodies. You should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces of
water a day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds you should drink 75 ounces of
water. Something I like to do to add flavor to my water, is to cut up a lemon
and strawberries and let them sit in water overnight. Then, I drink it during
the next day and just add more water as needed. Do they see you yo-yoing from
one diet to the next? I remember my parents doing the Atkins diet, Weight
Watchers, and some other ones that I can’t remember the names. I watched my
parent’s make themselves miserable with some of those “diets” that, quite
frankly, weren’t balanced healthy lifestyle choices. Now, my parents strive for
balance, watch what’s on their plates, and they’re much healthier. So many of
the diets out there are not good for your body and it sends a conflicting
message to our children as to what truly are healthy eating habits. I
understand that sometimes our body needs a kick start to lose weight, but make
sure that its healthy for you, and that it’s a good example for your children.
Getting skinny should never be the goal. Being happy and healthy should be what
we strive for and this should be the lifestyle that we show our children. Not
just in eating, but also in what we put in our body, how much we put in our
body, and how often.