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You made a choice to start eating healthier. You planned out a shopping list, bought some nice healthy ingredients, and are all set to cook a fabulous dinner when your spouse comes in, sees the veggies on the counter, makes a face, and says he’s ordering pizza. It doesn’t take much to derail our efforts. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get our spouse on board with healthy eating too?
When we embark on a new path towards healthier eating, any small blip in support from those closest to us can make us feel like giving up before we even start. It’s not just the emotional support either. When you share a home with someone, and eat meals together, they inevitably become PART of your journey, thanks to logistics.
No one wants to be a short-order cook, making one thing for themselves and something completely different for their spouse or family. If you’re the one who does most of the cooking or dinner planning, and your spouse hasn’t also decided to make changes to their diet, they might feel like you’re forcing it on them. When they protest this new healthier eating, you feel attacked, or at the very least, unsupported. On the flip-side, if your “I don’t want to eat healthier” spouse is the one typically on dinner duty, how can you request that they cook to your new preferences? In both cases, the two spouses need to meet somewhere in the middle.
Before working on the logistical side of things, the emotional support needs to be there. If your spouse hasn’t been very supportive thus far, it’s time to have a nice chat. Tell them why you’ve decided to start making changes to your eating, why it’s important to you, and what your goals are. What benefits are in it for you, and also for them? Ask them to support your goals and intentions. Your spouse doesn’t have to make your goals their own in order to support you. But they do need to understand how they can encourage you and help you as you make changes. [bctt tweet=”Your spouse doesn’t have to make your goals their own in order to support you.” username=”raisingnutritn”]
Tell them how they can help you. What can they do, specifically, to help you feel like they’re on your side? Maybe they can help you prep dinner. Or maybe they can watch the kids while you do the shopping. Just as importantly, tell them what things it would be helpful for them to STOP doing! I’ve had clients whose spouses said they were supportive of their new habits, but then would constantly offer them chips/snacks/junk food. It wasn’t done maliciously; they were just offering to share what they were eating! But they didn’t realize the constant offers of chips or junk was making it harder for their loved one to stick to their goals. If you already know certain habits your spouse has that will make things harder for you, see if you can find a compromise that allows them to still enjoy whatever it is without dragging you into it.
Another big one, if it’s a current problem, is to ask your spouse to stop putting down, or making fun of, the changes you’re attempting. Comments like “Eww, I hate broccoli. How do you eat that?” are NOT helpful! That age-old advice “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” absolutely applies here!
Once your spouse is on board emotionally, you can work on some of the logistics. What are the non-negotiables for both of you? Are there certain changes that you definitely want to make? Are there certain things that your spouse refuses to let you change? Talk about those things. Will you eat dinners together but fend for yourselves for breakfast and lunch? Do you have a coffee date ritual that’s special to both of you and no one wants to make changes to it? Decide what areas can be tweaked, and which things one or both of you won’t change.
When it comes to meals, there are lots of areas to compromise. Let’s check out some strategies you can use to keep the peace and also keep focused on your goals.
Are there some tweaks you’re thinking of that your spouse isn’t opposed to? If you’re willing to do some experimenting together, you might be surprised at the healthy swaps that you both actually enjoy! One of my favorite swaps is to do spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles in place of pasta (like in this shrimp scampi recipe, or to serve with this bolognese sauce). There are also lots of recipes you can sneak extra veggies into. Meatballs, burgers, and pasta sauces (see above bolognese!) can all get a nutrient bump by sneaking in some veggies. Using leaner meat in some dishes may not even be noticed. The same is true of dairy, which you can use lower fat versions of in some recipes without noticing a difference in taste. If your spouse is up for experimenting, you’re lucky! Run with it 🙂
If they’re not too keen on some of your proposed swaps, try going halfsies. Pasta dishes tend to be a really common dinner staple. They also tend to be really high calorie meals that thankfully leave lots of room for healthy modification. For these dishes, perhaps you want to try the above spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles swap but your spouse balks at the idea of not having actual pasta. Go halfsies! Cook half the amount of pasta, and make the squash or zucchini noodles too. You can either mix it all together (like in that shrimp scampi recipe), so that both of you have some pasta and some veggies, or you can put the pasta on his plate and the squash on yours and just top both with the same sauce.
For meals that are not “one pot wonders” and the components are separate, let each person take as much of each thing as they want. Put the pots or containers in the middle of the table and serve yourselves. This way you can take as little of the higher calorie stuff as you want, and as much of the veggies as you want, while your spouse is free to take whatever their heart desires (which could very well be a ton of the heavy stuff and no veggies). No matter what he chooses, his choice doesn’t affect your goals. For meals that are low in veggies, make a side of veggies for yourself that your spouse can choose to include on his plate or not.
Often, clients find that meals aren’t actually the hard part. It’s all the tempting snacks their spouse wants to have in the house! If you’d rather keep certain temptation foods out of sight, but your spouse isn’t willing to stop buying them, see if you can give him a “secret stash” area where he can keep these foods without you seeing them all the time and being constantly tempted by them. Like I mentioned above, if he’s constantly offering these things to you, it can make it difficult to stick to your goals. So ask him nicely to just not offer them, or to eat them when you’re not sitting right there next to him. If you really want it, you can always go get it, but ask him to help you keep it mostly out of sight and out of mind.
I hope this helps you start to open up the lines of communication with your spouse so you can work on your goals and keep everyone happy in the process. Get their support, especially emotionally, but find ways you can work together to make compromises that work for everyone!
And of course, if you need ideas for prepping healthy meals, you can always join my Inner Circle mailing list to get my free guide: Make Healthy Meals Easier Than Take-Out!