10 Ways To Ensure Your Child Eats Healthy When They’re With Caregivers
BY SARAH REMMER
Photo © doondevil/Twenty20
Apr 27, 2018
Transitioning back to work after being off with your kids can be stressful. It involves a new routine and an emotional shift for both parents and kids. Finding a caregiver — whether a nanny, day home, or daycare — can be a challenge too. After all, no one will ever care for your child the way you do! And when it comes to feeding, there will most certainly be differences in what, when and how your children are fed meals and snacks, which can present tricky challenges for some families — particularly those with picky eaters.
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First and foremost, remember that you are still in control of what happens at the family table when you are not at work. Mornings, evenings and weekends your kids will be learning valuable eating lessons and habits from you! And that’s what matters most.
Second — when choosing a childcare provider, do your homework. Look for caregivers whose nutrition and feeding philosophies align with your own. Decide what’s most important to you. You might not find the perfect scenario, so decide where you are willing to compromise. Do you prefer to focus on the types of meals and snacks, or are you more concerned with the feeding dynamic? Keep in mind that every situation and child is different, so it’s important to prioritize your top values with your childcare provider.
And third, choose a childcare provider who’s willing to listen to your feeding concerns and wishes — someone who is willing to jump on board with certain “non-negotiable” feeding practices that are important to you. For example, when I was interviewing our nanny, I made sure to let her know that in our house, the parent or caregiver is the one who chooses what, when and where food was served, and that the kids could decide if and how much they ate. We had established a fairly consistent meal and snack schedule and random snacking just didn’t fly.
Photo © makenamedia/Twenty20
I had worked hard at establishing mealtime boundaries, which helped our kids learn how to self-regulate and respect their hunger and fullness and I didn’t want that to be thrown out the window. Luckily, our nanny very quickly jumped on board and it’s never been an issue.
It’s important to be flexible and willing to compromise, but most of us have a few “non-negotiables” when it comes to food and nutrition with our kids.
Other than my “mealtime boundaries” request mentioned above, I also asked our nanny to:
- include a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal and snack
- not offer lots of sweet “treats” or sugary beverages
- be careful with choking hazards (cut grapes in half, no popcorn for my youngest etc.)
- and not force my kids to eat when they say that they’re full
Every family is different, and your feeding requests or wishes may differ from mine, but here are 10 good feeding-related questions to ask when interviewing nannies, day homes, or daycares to make sure you’re aligned:
- How many meals and snacks are served during the day?
- What is the meal and snack timing, and is it structured the same every day?
- Do you make the food or is it store-bought (or a combination)?
- Do you have a set meal plan or nutrition goal?
- What is the nutrition and feeding philosophy? For example, do you use the one-bite rule, do you spoon feed when a child is not eating well themselves, do you pressure the child to eat if they don’t want to?
- Do you enforce any mealtime boundaries? For example, do kids need to be seated at the table until excused?
- What are the mealtime “rules” for children? For example, what would you say if a child didn’t want to eat something?
- Are treats or desserts given? How often? What types?
- Are snacks given upon request or are those structured too?
- What is given as a beverage at meals (water, milk, juice)? In between meals?
Asking all of these questions might not be necessary. The point is to get a sense of what feeding style will be followed by your potential childcare provider. Follow your intuition and find what works best for you. And don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. If you have set mealtime rules at home that the kids must follow, pass along that information to your caregiver! Because feeding happens multiple times a day, and it’s an important factor when choosing who to go with.