how to eat healthy when your partner doesn’t

The Barn at Crane Estate wedding of Caitlyn and Chad.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Today I’m talking about how to eat healthy when your partner doesn’t.  It’s a request I’ve gotten from several of you over the years and something that I’ve definitely experienced first-hand as well.

The quick and easy response to this is to prepare and eat separate meals, but who really wants to do that?!  Meal time (cooking and eating!) is one of my favorite moments of the day with my husband and I wouldn’t want to do it separately.

The good news is, there are ways to still eat well even if your partner (or roommate, or family, or friends…) don’t.  Here are my tips for making different tastes work together:

1. Compromise: My husband (now) will happily eat whole wheat pastas and breads but he was a white bread, white pasta, white rice eater all the way before we got together.  When we first started dating, I would give him bites of my whole grains when we were out just to convince him that they were actually tasty (not just good for you).  When we started living together, we would split the difference between grains (half whole wheat, half white) and now we’ve transitioned to a mostly whole grain family.  But in the beginning, I compromised with him.  I didn’t want him feeling like he had to eat things he didn’t like or crave, so I started with a slow introduction of foods he was unfamiliar with and those he responded to positively, began to incorporate more and more.  Now he prefers them!  Same goes with certain veggies – I’ll pretty much eat any veggie that’s put in front of me, him, not so much.  So if a dish calls for certain veggies he doesn’t like, we’ll make it without and I’ll cook a few on the side for me to add in after he’s plated his meal.  When we order pizza, he do half the toppings he likes and half what I want.  Point being, it doesn’t have to be all of nothing, there are ways to compromise!

2. Sneak in Extra Fruits & Veggies as Sides: While my husband could happily eat a huge bowl of pasta with meatballs or a few slices of pizza and call it a dinner, I find I need some veggies with that dish to round it out and make me feel truly satisfied.  As such, I’ll always throw together an easy side salad or steam up some broccoli to have on the side.  The extra bonus is, while he might not think to make them, he’ll happily eat them as well if they’re made.  Same goes for when we’re having pancakes or waffles.  While my husband is fine eating a triple stack with butter and syrup, I’ll always add a bowl of fresh berries to the table as well so that I can get some extra fiber in.  Fruits and veggies are SO easy to add to the side of meals (think cut veggie sticks on the side of sandwiches instead of just grease-laden chips, side salads and steamed veggies on the side of main meals, fruit on the side of breakfast dishes, etc.).

3. Pay Attention to Portions: In general, men can usually put away a lot more food than women.  It’s easy to fall into the “I’ll eat whatever they eat” trap and suddenly you find your clothes are fitting a little tighter than you would want.  Remember that we’re all different and require different amounts of nutrients for our specific needs.  As such, you can definitely eat the same meals, but go with the portion that’s right for you.  My husband can eat much larger portions than I can of the meals we prepare and that’s just fine!  We’re still making and eating it together, which to me is the important part.  Connecting during meal time is not about eating exactly the same way, but rather the experience of preparing it together and the conversation that comes while eating.  If the meal happens to be particularly unhealthy and you’re trying to be more healthy, fill your plate with smaller portions of the less healthy stuff and then add healthier sides to round out the dish so that it can work for you.

4. Mix Up Your Toppings: I mentioned that when we eat pancakes and waffles my husband will always go with butter and syrup as toppings, which is perfectly fine!  For me, a stack of pancakes with just butter and syrup would have me feeling hungry again in 10 minutes.  So I throw some plain greek yogurt, nut butters and berries on the table to top mine with.  It keeps me fuller longer and we both enjoy our pancakes the way we like!  Same with pasta – my husband loves a good creamy alfredo sauce whereas I tend to prefer pestos and marinaras so we’ll cook the pasta and top with our sauce of choice!

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Do Your Own Thing Once in a While: If your spouse wants to get takeout every night, don’t be afraid to do your own thing every once in a while!  Sometimes I’m craving takeout and my husband wants to eat at home (or vice versa) and that’s okay!  We’ll still eat together, still enjoy the same conversation, we’re just eating different meals.  And if you want to partake, go for it!  Just stick to portions that work for you and try to bulk up the meal with produce-based sides.  Trying to keep your order on the healthier side?  Check out this gilmore girls revival-inspired guide to healthier takeout that I wrote a while back.  Your spouse can order the meatball sandwich topped with fried mozzarella sticks and you can get the grilled chicken breast sandwich with avocado and a side of fruit.  You’ll be much happier ordering what you really feel like eating than getting what your partner is getting ‘just because.’

6. Talk It Out: If you feel like your spouse’s eating habits are sabotaging your attempts to eat healthier, talk to them about it!  Let them know that you’re trying to get on a healthier path and that you would love it if they could support you in any way possible (whether that’s joining in, encouraging you to make healthier choices or just waiting to eat that bowl of ice cream until after you’ve gone to bed).  Opening up that you’re trying to do something healthy for yourself will usually help them to be more aware of the role they may be playing in impeding that goal.  Most spouses are going to want to support you in a goal to better yourself, but they’re not mind readers, so make sure you let them know!

Have specific questions regarding your situation that I didn’t hit on?  Ask away!  I’m happy to address them 🙂

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Comments

  1. I completely agree! These are some great tips. My fiancé is the same way- he’ll eat what I make but really prefers not-so-healthy options sometimes. I think it’s really key (in our relationship at least) to respect each other’s decisions. It never goes well if you try to push something onto someone- let them make their own decisions! I’ve recently found it difficult while a friend of mine’s boyfriend is super on-board with every healthy and non-toxic choice she makes, I was so jealous! But I love my relationship and being independent people too! Respect is key.

    • I totally agree! It’s all about respecting people’s differences and right to choose what THEY want! In my opinion, it’s totally okay (and kind of nice!) not to be exactly alike so long as those differences are supported 🙂

  2. When we got married my husband had 3 food groups: meat, potatoes, and cheese. He would sometimes make comments when I was cooking dinner (ie: “Eww. Onions.”), but would generally try whatever I was making. Now he definitely eats things he would never have before: curries, stuffed peppers, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts. The key for us was serving it as an option or mixed in with something. He had really only had sweet potatoes covered with marshmallows but if I served them as fries with some paprika and garlic, he enjoyed them. I have also learned to not get offended when he adds cheese and salt to everything (or eats ketchup on salmon).

    • Totally! This was the exact transition we had – small changes over time have made it so that now we eat pretty similarly (though he definitely still loves anything meat, potatoes and cheese as well!). Ketchup on salmon is definitely a new one! Haha! To each their own 🙂

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