Monday Problem: My Nanny is a junk food addict

Dear Nanny X,

dh and I are the proud parents of five healthy children (age range: 3-12). We are a vegan, holistic and extremely proactive in the environmental movement; in fact we’re major activists. Our current nanny has been with us since our last child was born, and she’s wonderful. She is everything anyone could want in a nanny, thoughtful, punctual, loving and super smart, except for one thing: she eats a well-known mass-produced, burger product almost daily. Example: in the morning she comes in munching on one of their ‘egg-sandwiches’, at lunchtime (she gets 45 min break) she goes across the street and buys chicken nuggets or a double cheese burger, even though I leave out tasty tofu scrambles, veggie soups and soy wraps for her. At night if she stays late (babysitting for us) she will go and get herself some chinese take out, like a stir fry, which stinks out my apartment and makes me want to vomit. 

We love this lady and she isn’t obese or unhealthy (remarkably) but we just don’t want to contribute to a chain of junk food consumption. Fortunately our children are not interested in her food, so that’s not an issue. What do you suggest?

Barbara C

Dear Barbara,

I had to weigh this problem up with a couple of friends, one who is a vegan and another who is a carnivorous libertarian. My initial response to your issue was to disagree with you, and to affirm that your nanny’s lifestyle choice of consuming fast food is her business so long as she doesn’t inflict her choices on your children. 

Then my vegan friend pointed out that the issue isn’t really food consumption but where the food is consumed. My libertarian friend agreed. He stated that this was an ‘ideological conflict’. And sure, it is preferable that caregivers eat a wholesome, balanced diet and demonstrate good choices in terms of nutrition in front of our children, but it cannot be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

Your children are already making their own choices about the food your nanny consumes, that’s huge. It is also apparent that your nanny is not taking your children to fast food venues to source her meals, another plus. A line can be drawn however, around where she consumes this type of food. 

It’s perfectly acceptable to request that your nanny eats her processed foods outside of your home. In the event where she cannot leave your apartment to eat her food, see if you can reach a healthier compromise. Some chinese restaurants offer steamed, non-msg courses. You could also look for a healthier, organic vegetarian stir-fry at your local supermarket, and offer her that as an alternative to fried food. 

Approach this purely from the perspective that it is not a judgment on her choices. You do not know what else she eats at home, or if she has time to prepare meals in advance or even if she has the financial resources available to buy healthier foods. You can suggest to her that there is a direct correlation to junk food and extensive, invasive farming habits, and that as such, you cannot allow sponsors of such products to be consumed within your home. But you cannot control where your nanny spends her wages, because that is her right. It’s a delicate subject but if discussed in an open, non-judgmental manner, it can be resolved. Eventually it can become an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ issue. 

Nanny X