A friend and fellow blogger recently commented on a previous blog of mine asking for tips on how to get husbands to eat healthier. I have put off blogging about this for awhile because I’ve been so busy and really wanted to dedicate the time and attention this posts deserves.
The truth is, you can’t get your husband to do anything he doesn’t want to do.
That being said, this is how you
get/ force feed/ beg encourage your husband to eat healthier. But first, let me share how far we’ve come in our own person journey in this area.
While dating the Hubs, he confessed to me that in his mind, meat was a necessary component to EVERY meal. When we first met, I had cut out red meat from my diet and was only eating meat once a day with the intent of eventually going vegetarian (ah, freshman in college. Such nice ideas…). When he asked me out for burgers on one of our first real dates, I of course said “Yes!” (after all…he was adorable).
It wasn’t until after years of dating that I realized my at-the-time future husband had really trained me to cater to his terrible eating habits. I had just made spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner for him at his apartment when brother stopped by. I offered him a portion when his eyes grew as wide as saucers. Almost half-way through his plate, my brother finally groaned, “Seriously? I can’t eat all this. This must be an Addison-sized portion.”
That’s when I realized I had started making bigger meals for the man who sweetly demanded more because that was his dietary normal (and subsequently encouraged me to eat more). No wonder I gained weight in college. So of course I turned into the Rambo of healthy eating for me and my soon-to-be hubby, only to realize that the Rambo approach really doesn’t work. He would either eat ALL of my healthy food instead of a normal-sized portion, ask for more of the less healthy components (“Can you make it creamier next time?”) or run out and grab unhealthy food to supplement.
And when we got married he told me he’d never eat vegetarian meals or cauliflower.
But now we’re here, almost at the one year mark of marriage and I am pleased to report that while my red-meat loving, fast food craving man is still him (after all, you can’t change a person), he actually ENJOYS eating healthy (and the occasional vegetarian meal and cauliflower).
So how do you do it?
1. Don’t give the healthy change a name
I asked Hubs to join MyFitnessPal just to log his food. He signed in once. I asked him to join Weight Watchers with me. He absolutely refused. I asked him to try Paleo. No dice.
Most men don’t like change, especially when it comes to their beloved castle called home and comfort food. So if you give a name to the change you’re trying to do, it doesn’t tend to stick. This goes for you too. Fad diets come and go and even dieting sounds so temporary. What you both need is a lifestyle change so take it one step at a time in going toward a healthier direction.
That being said, I love cooking Paleo meals and my husband loves eating them. But if you asked him if we were on the Paleo diet, he’d say no way. Limiting your nutritional habits to a small box can feel suffocating to some, like my man. So just saying we’re making healthier choices is more comforting to him than following a strict plan. Why put a label on it when you’re just eating dinner?
2. Let him get involved in the decision making
No one likes to be forced to do anything. And sure, if you’re the primary grocery shopper and resident chef in your household, it’s easy to think “if I make it he’ll eat it” and hope for the best. But that approach doesn’t stick or help your husband care about healthy choices (which honestly is just as important as making them). Have a talk with your man about your eating habits and why you’re concerned or why you want to make certain changes. I originally showed the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead to my husband to explain why I thought we needed to up our veggie intake, and as many of you know, it lead to us becoming juicing people (which he surprisingly loves!). The video definitely made him more aware about how our decisions affect our health and he was more apt to make changes with me.
Then there’s even easier ways to get the man of the house involved with your healthy lifestyle. Going grocery shopping? “Hey Honey, what fruit do you want me to buy?”
Yes, my friends. He’ll usually answer with an actual fruit.
It was asking questions like these that I realized Addison has always wanted to be a yogurt, fruit and granola breakfast guy. I had no idea he loved yogurt! Learning this about him led us to buy more yogurt and to even use Greek yogurt for other things…like a mayo and sour cream substitute.
Plus, if your husband asks for something, chances are he’ll eat it (especially to not be responsible for why it went bad).
3. Understand that he doesn’t have to eat JUST like you to be healthy
This one may sound confusing, but this is one of the most important points to remember. Your husband can still eat healthy, even if he’s not eating exactly like you. That’s not to say that you have to make two separate meals (that would be silly, stressful and slightly infuriating). But here’s the deal, physiologically your man can eat more than you. Just like we’ve all probably fallen into the trap of trying to eat as much as our husbands (splitting a pizza is bad news), they will not survive if you try to eat like a healthy rabbit mouse hybrid and expect their 180-200+ frame to survive on it either.
Take us for example. I’m trying to eat less carbs that come in the form of grains. I’ve done research and have realized that my body and metabolism type just doesn’t handle carbs as efficiently as other people and in order to lose weight, I need to have a higher protein diet (with of course, lots of veggies). While the Hubs will get on board with me for most meals, I recognize the fact that sometimes he needs a little more. So take our dinner from last night as an example:
I made this easy meal in my crockpot with literally only one bag of frozen peppers and onions, one frozen chicken breast, and a couple of tablespoons of my favorite fajita marinade that has virtually no calories.These are essentially the same meal except I gave Addison two whole wheat tortillas and some reduced fat cheddar to make his more like fajitas than a fajita salad. As a result, his looks more appetizing to him, it’s more filling because he has the added whole grains, and he’s thrilled to not be eating salad.
Am I still proud of the meal I gave my husband? You betcha.
My meal was under 300 calories. His was around 500, which is still a great number for a meal made with fresh ingredients and veggies. Not all people are created equal in terms of calorie intake, and I’d be doing a disservice to my husband if I expected him to eat exactly like me all the time. It’s just silly.
4. Sneak Veggies into EVERYTHING
I’m lucky in that my husband does like vegetables– he just won’t make them for himself. But if you have a husband who just turns his nose up at the mere thought of eating something from the ground, don’t worry– there is hope! You can put vegetables into a lot of things without him even realizing it.
I first started this with my baked ziti. The Hubs LOVES ziti and one day it hit me: why not chop up even more vegetables and stick it in with the sauce and with the meat? Mushrooms, if chopped finely enough, actually take on the flavor and texture of meat when cooked with meat (who knew, right?). Not only is this great in the health department, but it also is great for the wallet because you can literally double how far your ground beef will go by adding filler veggies in. And when you’re covering it in taco sauce or tomato sauce, he won’t even know the difference. Meatloaf is great for this too. Just stick a ton of carrots, spinach, onions, mushrooms, peppers and more into those things. If your man is REALLY picky, then buy a food processor to get the texture so fine, it’s practically non-existent.
With juicing, I had a lot of extra pulp and tried a recipe where I baked it into a sweet bread made with whole wheat flour and honey. The Hubs LOVED it and ate it for breakfast, snack, dessert— you name it! I think he would have eaten the whole loaf in one day if I had let him. But the best part? He was eating tons of fibers from kale, carrots, cucumbers, celery and more. Crazy right? If you’re not into juicing, you can still achieve this same affect by grating carrots or zucchini and baking it into sweet breads. I guarantee he won’t even notice there’s veggies in there unless you tell him. Here’s the recipe I used. At 150 calories a serving, I’m thinking it’s not that bad.
Smoothies and eggs are also a great way to get veggies and fruits into his diet. If you blend ice with strawberries, bananas, milk/yogurt and a cup of greens (from lettuce to spinach to kale), I promise you, it’ll still taste just like a strawberry smoothie. Sure, the color may look nasty, but if you can get past that, it’s quite a delicious discovery. Egg scrambles and omelets are also fantastic ways to incorporate veggies in the morning.
5. Make it easy
This is the most important thing to remember. And honestly, if you remember it, it’ll make this whole process easier on you too. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard. It should be fun, refreshing, and exciting. Here are some tips to really get him and keep him on board.
“Out of sight, out of mind” is a saying that really reigns true. Decide together what things you won’t let into your house. For my family, sweet tea and soda are forbidden unless its a special occasion (like a holiday or party or occasionally when eating out). We also try to keep processed snacks out of the house as often as possible. If it’s not in the house, he won’t eat it (and neither will I). Plain and simple. Work it into your budget too so that if he wants to buy that pack of Oreos, it has to come from his personal spending money and not your grocery budget. It’ll make him think twice.
The opposite of “out of sight, out of mind” is just as important too. Keep healthy options in PLAIN VIEW. I started keeping apples and bananas on our kitchen table daily. No lie…I’ve got the Hubs eating pieces of fruit between meals. I couldn’t be prouder! I didn’t even have to ask him to do it. Just because they were out in the open, he went for it.
Pre-packaging your own food is also important. I tend to take little baggies and make 100 calorie bags of pretzels, almonds and pistachios for the Hubs to either grab to add in his lunch box or for a quick snack. He definitely loves them (but here’s the funny thing…sometime’s he’ll forget they are there and still go for an apple just because it’s on the table). Making things easier to grab and go is essential to keeping the munchy monster at bay. After all, you and him won’t eat a whole bag of chips if you have them rationed off into 15 bags. I mean…seriously…who wants to consciously open 15 mini bags knowing that you’ve eating 15 servings? The answer is NO ONE.
There are more ways to help you and your husband coexist peacefully on this healthy eating journey (I’m thinking a part two may be in the future), but if you remember to approach him with these five steps in a kind and loving way, you should have more success than just taking away his pork rinds and demanding he not get type 2 diabetes. Just remember, baby steps are a good thing and still a success, even if you’re not 100 percent where you want to be in the moment.
And always, above all else, approach this area of your lives with love rather than frustration and work together toward your health goals.
But if all else fails, there’s no harm in pureeing spinach in his brownies.