Nanny Week: Feed The Children By Meredith Paley

Nanny Week: Feed The Children By Meredith Paley

I used to be a PR girl in New York City at a tiny boutique agency. It was one of those jobs you have in your 20s where you meet a bunch of crazy characters and find yourself in the middle of some wild opportunities. It’s also where, most unexpectantly, I met one of my dearest friends. Meredith is a New Yorker to her core. She has this glossyand beautiful but tough exterior that coccoons the most thoughtful, warm, loyal and loving friend. (She also has one of the best damn wardrobes around.) Now she is a PR genius who has worked at some of the coolest American fashion houses like Nicole Miller and Kenneth Cole, and counts some of the worlds best journalists as friends. Today as the vice president of public relations at Talbots, using a creative and skillful hand, she guides this remerging brand within the press. However, as much as she’d love to chat with you about Anderson and Katie, her most treasured topic of discussion is her daughters, Ava (7) and Sophia (5). However, with a schedule like most working moms, Meredith relies on the support of her loyal and loving nanny Sandra. With a fast- paced home and kids with an equally busy schedule, we thought Meredith would be the perfect person to discuss how, with the help of her nanny, she was able to tackle Ava and Sophia’s nutritional overhaul–from fast food to healthy meals. As we all know, every mom has the best intentions, sometimes they just needs a little help from their friends. Take it away, Mer….

We were a chicken nuggets, mac-n-cheese family for a good two years. Then, one day, as I tossed prefab chicken nuggets in the oven my husband David turned to me and said, “What about just fresh chicken and pasta without unprocessed cheese?” Never one to boast about my prowess in the kitchen, I looked at him like he off his rocker.  “Does that mean you want me to actually bake chicken, boil water and also shred parmesan?” I asked.  His answer was yes and he was right. that it was time for us to make a change.  We had become dependent on quick and easy processed food dishes that we could throw in the oven or microwave and deliver quickly on a Dora plate.  I decided to cross the dinosaur nuggets and box sets of orange macaroni off my Costco list and brave the chicken aisle.  However, before doing so I needed to enlist the help of my nanny Sandra.  We sat down and had a discussion on how to re-work my girl’s eating habits– introduce more fresh fruits and vegetables. Sandra and I decided to add organic chicken, broccoli, green beans, strawberries, grapes, brown rice, salmon, hummus, whole wheat pasta, corn, soy milk, turkey to my shopping list. It was time to say good-bye to neon colored mac-n-cheese and fried chicken molded into random shapes and pretend animals.

As a busy working mom, I try to stay as involved in as many aspects of my girl’s life as possible from hip-hop dance recitals and duct tape fashion projects to where to find their favorite organic strawberry Go-Gurts.  Time is not usually on my side—I am always in a rush and I work diligently off of a never-ending mental checklist.  And yet, with all my stringent organizational tactics,  I realized that I was compromising my kid’s eating habits. Instead of planning healthy meals, I was always looking for the fastest feast or quickest microwaveable meal.  What is most astonishing is my husband and I are very healthy. I run 40 miles a week and my husband has done ironman races. We even spend our date nights going  to the gym to take our favorite boot camp class. I might boast about my sugar-addiction, candy-aholic traits and love of french fries but, all joking aside, I eat balanced meals. So why weren’t my girls?  As a working mom trying to juggle just about everything, I became more concerned with the speed I could get meals on the table and less concerned with what I was actually putting in my daughters’ bodies. Since I am usually not home for dinner, I decided to give Sandra the task of making only healthy meals for my girls and enlisted her help for getting them to try new foods. Initially, the girls were very resistant against chicken that was not breaded but Sandra smartly introduced bbq sauce, seasoning and even made a Chinese teriyaki dish. Success!  Now onto the veggies that are not smothered in butter.

I started to come home from work to find Ava and Sophia eating broccoli (with ranch dressing for dipping), green beans with almond slivers and brown rice instead of white.  Whole wheat pasta with shredded, fresh parmesan became a household favorite while corn on the cob was there summertime treat. One evening Sandra made ground turkey tacos while Ava and Sophia had fun shredding  the cheddar cheese. It was amazing to see the girls engaged in the cooking process that resulted in them enjoying a healthy meal.  Then, one night, Ava and Sophia asked to taste the salad I was eating for dinner. “Could this be for real?”, I thought.  However, they fell in love with the olive oil vinaigrette, so the next night I gave them each a bowl of lettuce with shredded carrots and my vinaigrette. They gobbled it up. In fact, they each asked for seconds! Sandra now serves them a salad every evening.

Our shopping lists are now comprised of hummus, turkey burgers, salmon and fresh vegetables as well as many other healthy foods. I depend on my nanny to make sure my kids eat balanced meals during the week. She keeps cut fruit in containers in the fridge and she makes sure there is always a salad made.  Sandra knows that it’s important to me that every meal meets the food group requirements.  In addition, my girls now understand the importance of the food pyramid and the benefits of eating well– Only occasionally do we let Ava and Sophia order chicken nuggets at our local diner. “It’s a special treat,” I tell them.  And then, with self-centered intentions, I mention that they can also order french fries.  Of course so I can eat them too.

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  1. Ceri Marsh
    November 17, 07:42 Reply

    Love this post. So good to see one of Laura’s dearest friends – someone I’ve heard about so many times over the years – on SPC! Thanks for sharing your story, Meredith, I think so many people can relate. It is more work, initially, to get our kids set up with better eating habits. But you really can change their preferences if you stick with it. Love that your girls are stealing your salad now!

  2. Laura
    November 17, 10:24 Reply

    It’s easy to get into bad habits when you’re really busy. We had 3 children under 6 years of age at one point, and developed a serious drive-thru problem. When we finally woke up and realized what we were doing, it was tough to ween the kids off the junk. We persevered though, and thankfully, they have much better eating habits now.

  3. Marni Shapiro
    November 17, 10:33 Reply

    Amazing and so true. If you feed them well they will eat well.

  4. Jessica Capiraso
    November 17, 12:26 Reply

    You’ve inspired me! Our nanny, Joanne, cooks fresh organic foods for my girls during the week but I default to frozen foods on the weekends. This piece inspired me to introduce a simple salad and try the ground turkey taco’s! You really are super mom Meredith!

  5. Shari Smith
    November 17, 14:20 Reply

    Meredith always writes what I think and feel but never express!

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