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.
And, let me tell you, as a nurse, I hear patients and clients talk about their spouse not liking to eat healthy food all of the time. Of course, people mostly say their spouse doesn’t like to eat vegetables. I hear that a lot.
They say, “Oh, I need to get you to talk to my husband (or wife) because we just found out he (she) has [insert diagnosis]. And, he (she) hates to eat vegetables. He (She) won’t listen to me. So what do we do?”
Then they add “Can you just make him (her)?”
And then I say, “No, I’m sorry that’s not how that works.”
But, I got asked this question so many times, that I decided to write this article so a successful plan could be available at the ready. (Subscribe to my newsletter to get a free easy substitution sheet download at the end of this article. Please keep reading!)
There’s definitely a right and wrong way.
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 pushing vegetables on 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. It still counts whether you get there first or last.Click To Tweet
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 husbands.
Seriously, 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. The statement “eating more vegetables” makes many think “eating less food”.
So if your spouse is in that camp, I say, start somewhere else.
And most of all, for the sake of humanity, DO NOT START BY REMOVING THEIR FAVORITE FOOD FROM THEIR DIET!
2 Start with Simple Protein Swaps to Get Your Spouse to Love Healthy Food
Easy Protein Swap Ideas
Start by eating a proper serving size. 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.
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. It is s a little hard to eyeball the proper meat serving (3-6 ounces) so an inexpensive digital kitchen scale is your best friend when you work with protein!
Next, 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.
Buy leaner cuts of red meat and DON’T OVERCOOK THEM.
Got a big beef eater? 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.
Use healthier cooking methods.
Baking, grilling, or broiling are the healthiest way to enjoy meat.
Learn how to jazz up the leaner meat.
Invest a few minutes to watch a couple of videos, a cooking show or use recipes to liven up your new proteins. Lean meats have less fat (and less flavor to some), so sometimes you will need to promote flavor by adding herbs or seasonings.
Unfortunately, salt is typically not an option for people with high blood pressure and heart disease. 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 eat MORE than they do now. 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, restaurants, and 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. Therefore, try 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.
Yes, I know, it probably won’t be the vegetables! However, that is a-okay:)
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 make people irritable. Be sure to bring this situation into your prayer time for ongoing encouragement and strength.
Knowing the right protein makes meal planning, searching for recipes, and grocery shopping so much easier!
So make it easy for YOU! Subscribe to the My Life Nurse Newsletter and receive a thank you gift – the Protein Substitution Cheat Sheet which can make substituting healthier protein options in your spouses’ meals easy!
This sheet lists 36 examples of the leanest proteins and how much of them to eat in a serving size. Use this list to see the leanest proteins.
The 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 times a month
Subscribe to the My Life Nurse Newsletter to receive weekly self-care motivation, faith-based encouragement, healthcare how-to tips, and navigation strategies, and receive the Easy Protein Substitution Cheat Sheet as a thank-you gift. Get yours by entering your email in the box below.