I know what you’re thinking. “Get my spouse to love healthy food?” Ain’t gonna happen!
I get it. I do. Because I’ve been right where you are now.
But, I can also tell you that as a nurse I hear patients and clients talk about their spouse not liking to eat healthy food (or not wanting to give up eating fatty meats and unhealthy proteins-because it tastes good!) all of the time.
That is why I made a FREE DOWNLOADABLE CHEATSHEET to help you get started. Knowing the right protein to eat makes meal planning, searching for recipes, and grocery shopping so much easier! Find more information at the end of this post.
But, we’re definitely not alone – honestly, it seems many people dislike eating vegetables in the first place.
I don’t know what is prompting your desire to change your spouse’s eating habits. But if I had to guess, it may be due to your spouse recently getting a new diagnosis or developing a new health condition.
That’s hard to ignore. And shouldn’t be ignored. We should support our spouses’ self-care.
That’s why I’m sharing what has worked for patients and families I have worked with (and for us personally).
The 2 Biggest Hurdles to Starting to Eat Healthier
1. Knowing which proteins to eat ‘more of or less of’
2. Ideas to get started
Not knowing these two things can be paralyzing!
And, your loving attempts eventually seem like nagging.
But there are ways to bring healthier food options into your family meal options without seeming naggy.
The thing is you can’t make your spouse eat healthier. You can’t control your spouse’s actions.
1 Get Your Spouse to Love Healthy Food by Starting with Things They Like
Do you ever notice, nobody says they hate to eat fruit? And, very few give a thumbs down to protein.
Dairy and grains get nary a mention.
So, do you know what I do?
I stop serving ‘only’ vegetables to people who don’t like them.
I didn’t even consider starting on the quest for my spouse to have a strict vegetarian or vegan diet. That’s not where we are as a family yet (and maybe we never will!).
I’m finding it’s not where other people are either. Especially if they eat a typical Western diet.
So the first way to get your spouse to love healthy food and help them past the stress and fear of change is to start small and start right where they are.
It is totally ok to let vegetables be the end play of changing your lifestyle. It still counts whether you get there as the first or last step.
Personally, I think that if you are working to get your spouse to love healthy food, the protein is the place to start.
Especially for the husbands.
Many men (and especially men who are over 40) in America are still meat and starch fans. They don’t like to think about living only on salad or tofu (and why do they always say tofu?).
And, the reality is that most people are not going to be on board if they think they’ll feel super hungry. I have learned that the statement “eating more vegetables” makes many people think “eating less food”.
So if your spouse is in that camp, I say, start somewhere else.
And most of all, DO NOT START BY REMOVING THEIR FAVORITE FOOD FROM THEIR DIET! That will backfire!
2 Start with Easy & Simple Protein Swaps to Get Your Spouse to Love Healthy Food
Start by cooking and offering a proper serving size of the protein. An easy way to start eating healthier-eat what you are already eating in the right amount!
Believe it or not, this small change can bring substantial health gains – up to 200-300 calories alone per day!
Be sure to read the package (or use an online diet tracker or an app like Lose it or My Fitness Pal) to see the proper serving size.
Because it is a little hard to ‘eyeball’ the proper meat serving (3-6 ounces), an inexpensive digital kitchen scale is your best friend when you work with protein!
Then, for the next step make some simple swaps to leaner, lower fat proteins.
For example, bring more chicken, turkey, salmon or fish into your diet to enjoy. Salmon and tuna burgers can be purchased fresh from the meat section of many grocery stores and taste amazing when all dressed up and in a bun.
If you think you need to take it slow, you can start by substituting chicken or turkey in a chili recipe. Then move to new recipes with the leaner option after they’ve eaten the leaner protein and approved.
Got a big beef eater? Buy leaner cuts of red meat and DON’T OVERCOOK THEM. Leaner cuts usually have round, loin or sirloin on the package.
Leaner meats typically taste better with less cooking time and on lower heat (ground beef and meat should always be thoroughly cooked).
Also, marinades on leaner steaks can make them tender, even with less cooking.
For juicer chicken, bake it until it is about 75% cooked, then put it on the grill just long enough to get the grill marks and eat when a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
We’ve tested a lot of meat thermometers and this one is our favorite. You need to experiment but we’ve found taking the meat off of the heat and allowing meat to reach the recommended temperature while it is resting works best. We were the champions at overcooking chicken.
Use healthier cooking methods.
Baking, grilling, or broiling are the healthiest way to enjoy meat and proteins.
Learn how to ‘jazz up’ the leaner meat.
If your spouse is used to the flavor of the fattier cuts of meat, you’ll need to get creative with seasoning.
Invest a few minutes to watch a couple of Youtube videos, a cooking show or use recipes to liven up your newer proteins. Lean meats have less fat (and less flavor to some), so sometimes you will need to promote flavor by adding herbs or seasonings.
The flavor is the part that is satisfying. A Tip: cook & season with herbs and spices you know they love. If they like to eat garlic in food, season the meat with garlic.
Unfortunately, salt is typically not an option for people with high blood pressure and heart disease. And, sauces may contain a lot of sugar and not be an option for those with high blood sugar. So use fresh or dried herbs in new recipes to jazz it up, or try serving it with side dishes that have strong (and familiar) flavors.
Eventually, move toward bringing a meat substitute into your meal plan.
For example, maybe try using frozen soy meat substitute instead of hamburger in chili or tacos. They have improved a lot in the last few years.
3 Start Small to Get Your Spouse to Love Healthy Food
Remember to use the vegetables they DO LIKE to increase the number of vegetables they will eat.
Raw carrots or celery your only option? No problem!
Put them on a serving platter with an assortment of hummus, dip and even guacamole at mealtime as your vegetable or at snack time.
That’s two vegetables you can use to replace a non-healthy option!
Do this 2-3 times a week and see how that works. Try adding a new raw vegetable to the mix once a week.
Finally, you and I both know how hard it is to change habits. Helping a spouse make lifestyle changes can be worrisome and even frustrating at times. But they need our support to keep going.
So, embrace the power of small.
Embrace the power of pure and familiar tastes.
Embrace the power of fun and adventure!
This evolution doesn’t have to be a huge announcement.
The best way to help your spouse transition to something new is to make it a regular habit to try new foods, new restaurants, and new recipes. It becomes an adventure to taste new foods (that you know are healthy). It’s fun to taste new flavors or try old foods in new ways.
But you still want to keep it simple.
You’ll still succeed even if you’re just making one lean protein swap a week.
When you find something everyone enjoys, put it on your meal list. In just a few months, you will have a nice list of healthy protein options, and you can move on to something else.
4 Pray for Your Husband and Yourself
Learning how to eat new foods is not an easy task for some people. It can create anxiety and negative emotions or feelings. It can even cause irritability.
But, there are numerous benefits to improving self-care as a couple. Intimacy is one often thought about but not mentioned. Be sure to bring this situation into your prayer time for ongoing encouragement and strength.
Thank you for reading. I hope this article helps on your journey.
But before you go, be sure to get your Protein Cheatsheet!
This cheatsheet lists 36 examples of the leanest proteins and how much of them to eat in a serving size. The easy-to-use list of proteins is categorized by: which proteins should be eaten more often, which proteins to eat 1-2 times per week, and which proteins to only eat on special occasions or a couple of times a month.