Eating habits are strange things: we don’t all have the same tastes in food. Some people are committed to making healthy food choices while others focus on choosing foods that taste good, regardless of the health ramifications. What if you fall into the first camp and your partner doesn’t? What if your partner’s idea to eat healthy is adding a little ketchup to their French fries? Worse yet, what if they show no sign of changing their ways? This can make life harder, especially around dinnertime. Here are five tips for making peace with an unhealthy eater in your house.
Eat Healthy: Teach, Don’t Preach
As tempting as it is to transform your partner’s eating habits by preaching about the benefits of good nutrition, this approach is seldom productive. Even the best advice is seldom met with open arms when it means changing your eating habits. Let your partner know you’re committed to eating a healthy diet and that you’d like to share some of your favorite healthy recipes – but don’t push too hard. Instead, set a good example by making healthy food choices at home and when you eat out.
It’s fun to be into health together but take it slowly. Don’t try to overhaul your partner’s diet in a day. Drastic dietary changes, good or bad, are rarely sustainable. You may know that from your own experience. Try incrementalism instead. If you prepare meals for the two of you, make some of their favorites but throw in an extra vegetable or two. Gradually introduce new, healthier foods to your partner, one at a time.
Instead of telling your partner they need to eat this or that, print out a study occasionally showing the health benefits of eating a healthy diet, for example, how eating more vegetables lowers the risk for chronic diseases. Ask their opinion about the study but don’t use it as a platform to lecture or preach.
Eat Healthy: Get Creative with Recipes
One reason people are slow to adopt a healthy diet is that they believe the “healthy stuff” doesn’t taste as good. Let your spouse or partner see how tasty eating healthy can be by wowing them with flavorful recipes made with whole, unprocessed foods. Let them see how they can still enjoy their favorite foods by replacing some of the unhealthy ingredients with healthier ones.
What if your partner insists on eating pizza for dinner? Begin the meal with a salad or a cup of vegetable soup for added nutritional benefits. Sprinkle vegetables on the pizza. Make healthy substitutions that won’t significantly impact the taste of a meal – quinoa instead of rice, mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes, more veggies on sandwiches, whole grain pasta or spaghetti squash, etc. “Sneak” pureed vegetables into soups.
Go grocery shopping together. Cruise through the produce department and ask your partner to point to fruits and vegetables they like. Read labels together. The more knowledge your partner gains about health and nutrition the more likely they are to make smart choices. Still, there are advantages to being the lone shopper. When you do all the grocery shopping, you control what goes in the grocery cart and what ends up in the refrigerator and cabinets. Make sure they’re stocked with healthy snack choices and those choices are within easy reach.
Eat Healthy: Same Ingredient, Two Ways
If you and your partner don’t see eye to eye on food preparation, change the prep to satisfy each of you. Suppose your partner wants Chicken Alfredo, but you want something less decadent. Prepare chicken, but enjoy your chicken breast with a marinara sauce with a side of vegetables instead of pasta. If your partner wants a sandwich, place your sandwich contents on a bed of salad and add a side of vegetables. Even if you can’t change your partner’s eating habits, you can still enjoy a meal together and stay on course by making a few “tweaks.”
Lighten Up Sometimes
Your healthy eating suggestions are more likely to gain traction if you’re flexible. Show your partner that eating healthy doesn’t mean you can never indulge in your food favs. Be flexible enough to have a piece of pizza or a decadent dessert with your partner on occasion. Then get back on track the next day. Your partner will see that eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up all the foods you enjoy – it’s all about moderation. Give your partner encouragement when they take small steps towards living healthier in all aspects of their life – diet, nutrition, etc. Support and encouragement will go far while nagging and preaching will have the opposite effect.
Eat Healthy: Ask for Your Partner’s Support
Even if you’re less than successful at changing your partner’s eating habits, ask them to support your efforts. Let them know how important it is to you to eat healthy and lead a healthy lifestyle. Even if you can’t change your partner, don’t let their dietary habits throw yours off. If you need more support, hook up with a friend or exercise buddy who’s into healthy eating or head over to a fitness or nutritional forum and participate. You may feel isolated when you’re trying to eat healthy, especially when those around you are snacking on chips and cookies. Hook up with other like-minded people in person or online.
The Bottom Line
It’s easiest when your partner shares your commitment to healthy eating but that’s not the case in every household, or even in most. Food preferences are often difficult to change and it takes times. Hopefully, these tips will help you slowly bring them around to making better dietary choices. Don’t give up – change doesn’t always happen quickly – keep leading by example.
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