Sometimes we talk gender differences, or intimacy, or resolving conflict. Today I want to talk about something much more basic and everyday.
What do you do when you don’t like the same kind of food?
When my husband and I were married this was potentially a huge problem, but thankfully he decided to try new things. He grew up in a meat and potatoes house, where most vegetables were from a can. I grew up eating more exotically–Asian, Mexican, etc. And I liked seafood. He did not.
I wasn’t big on potatoes and gravy. I was big on noodle dishes. I liked veggies. He really hadn’t eaten very many other than peas and carrots. So it was a big adjustment.
One of my friends found adjusting to marriage hard because her husband only wanted unhealthy stuff–chicken wings, chicken fingers, etc. etc. How can you cook a balanced meal that way?
Or what if you’ve been married for a while, but it’s clear for health reasons that your diet has to change, and he isn’t into that? Then what?
Yesterday I was talking about how we really have to rethink what we’re teaching our kids about their relationship with food (because obesity is becoming a huge issue). I’ve also written before about how we really need to have a real conversation about weight, body image, and marriage. So I’ve tackled kids. I’ve tackled ourselves. And now I want to look at conflicts with our husbands around food!
Did you know that one of the posts that gets the most clicks from Google is about what to do with sex when your husband has a big belly? This is a real problem for so many women! (and I get tons of emails about it). Many women are just desperate to get their husbands to eat a healthier diet, especially when it’s impacting their ability to enjoy life (or even killing their libidos!).
So here are a few thoughts from someone who has gone through this (though granted, my husband was open to change):
1. Start small with healthy changes
Don’t ditch all the foods he loves at once (that’s not fair, anyway!). If he’s into the chicken wings-chicken fingers-fish sticks thing, then try to find other foods that are also tasty that he’d like. What about homemade meatballs in a really good sauce? Homemade shepherd’s pie? Spaghetti? A lot of these can be made healthier simply by using healthier meats, making your own sauces, and not using too much butter or oil.
2. Introduce one new healthy thing every few weeks
If you want to eat cauliflower, and he’s never had cauliflower, serve it along with something he likes. Don’t do cauliflower and brussels sprouts and green beans in a medley altogether. If he’s used to one vegetable as a sidedish (like peas), then don’t do a vegetable stirfry.
3. Keep healthy additions subtle
If you’re really worried about vegetable content, but he isn’t open to it, chop up vegetables very small to go into sauces. I have a food chopper that can make carrots miniscule. You still get all the benefits, but you can barely see them in a sauce. You can do the same with onions, mushrooms, or peppers. Many people also don’t like chunks of tomato, but if the tomatoes are pureed first, they’re okay with it.
4. Switch to different oils
Did you know that you shouldn’t be sauteeing food in vegetable oil? Oils like canola or plain vegetable are very bad for you. So’s margarine. Switching to coconut oil, ghee, even real butter can be much better for you and doesn’t change the taste. Making your own salad dressings (here’s where great olive oil comes in!) is also a way to cut down on processed foods and increase your nutrition.
5. Make meals into an experience
Especially when you’re newly married, and food may be more of an issue, make it special. Use candlelight. Put music on. Get romantic afterwards (especially before children arrive on the scene). Don’t just eat in front of the TV. If children are already on the scene, every so often eat a salad or a snack at 5:30 and then wait for dinner until 8:30 or 9:00 after they’ve gone to bed.
6. Trade favourite meals
Propose that he can have one of his favourites each week if you can have one of yours. And stress to him that when you cook at home, it’s so much cheaper than going out! If he doesn’t like the diet, at least he may like what it does to his wallet.
7. Make an effort yourself to like things he likes
When I entered our marriage, I know this will sound strange, but I didn’t like cheese. I had a milk allergy growing up, and had never eaten it. So I just didn’t have a taste for it. My husband, on the other hand, loved it. I learned to cook casseroles and things with cheese on one side and no cheese on the other. Gradually I started putting a little bit on my side, too, and now I can eat SOME cheese (though I still don’t like it drenched in melted cheese). When you make the effort, he’s more likely to make the effort back.
8. Pack lunches
One of the best ways to eat healthy is to stop eating out! Even terrible food from home is likely better for you than most fast food. So one of the best ways to help your husband’s health (and the family budget!) is to pack lunches. Get some of those cool Bento boxes lunchboxes with multiple slots so that you can put a variety of foods in them. Include snacky foods for midday, like seeds, nuts, or veggies and dip and hummus.
9. Experiment with new types of foods or dishes that can be personalized
We love tacos and fajitas at our house, because I can heap as many veggies into them as I want, and Keith can heap as much lettuce and cheese as he wants! I love making fajitas with a ton of options for ingredients–beans, Mexican rice, peppers, mushrooms, meat, cheese, etc. But the nice thing is that you can personalize them and take what you like. Other foods that work well like this? Omelette bars for weekend breakfasts (add some veggies, cheese, garlic, etc.); even sandwiches!
10. Realize that there are some things he just may never like
My husband still doesn’t like seafood, although he will eat salmon when I cook it. He knows it’s healthy, and he should have it every now and then, but I don’t push it often. And that’s okay, because there are enough other things that he likes that we can find common ground.
Especially when you’re first married, making the adjustment to figuring out your menu can be challenging. You come from two different households, of course! And then, as you age, your body often makes it very apparent that you need to start caring about health.
These transitions are hard, and they’re often made harder by the fact that you both may not see food in the same way. But try these subtle changes. Over the years my husband has gotten to the point where he enjoys my meals as much as his mother’s (though her gravy really is good). In fact, there are some things he likes better, and he knows that it’s healthier to eat like we do. But it takes a while because it’s not what your body is used to. So remember you’re in it for the long haul! Exercise some give and take, and hopefully, over time you will see changes.
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Now let’s talk in the comments: Have you and your husband been having “food wars”? What do you do when you don’t like the same types of food–or if he doesn’t want to eat healthy?
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