To start off, I am very aware that this post sounds like a Cosmopolitan article from the 70’s, but when I asked our community what their biggest struggles were with eating healthy, the most prevalent answers included “My biggest obstacle to eating healthy is my spouse” or “I have to cook two dinners every night, one for me and one for him” or “I just give up and eat whatever she wants to eat.” Having spent 20 years leading onsite and online workshops for tens of thousands, I think I have heard every nook and cranny of this story from both women and men. It can be really frustrating when you are trying your damnedest to eat healthy and your spouse is wanting meatloaf, gravy and potatoes.
The bottom line is that we all want to eat food that tastes good to us. Many of us, including myself were brought up on meatloaf, Kraft macaroni and cheese and ice cream for dessert. To this day, even though I am a Registered Dietitian who specializes in Mediterranean Diet, if any of my childhood food is put in front of me, I will probably still eat it. This is why I try not to put any of it in front of me. If you are wanting to eat healthy and not make 2 meals every night, one for you and one for them, then you will need to make an effort to bring your spouse on board.
Here are my tips on how to get your spouse to eat like you:
Don’t start off by serving “foofoo” foods
I don’t know what “foo foo” even really means, but I hear it all the time (especially when I do workshops in fire departments) to describe what they are served for dinner by their spouses. To you, it’s probably a super healthy salad or some exotic romantic fish meal from Italy, but when they eat it they complain that it tastes like cardboard or that there isn’t any meat in it. This might be the end goal, but don’t start out by serving food that your spouse isn’t going to enjoy. Ease slowly in.
Examples of foofoo foods:
Steamed kale (or any other steamed vegetable)
Chia seed pudding
Don’t make it you against them
Language and attitude means a lot. If you feel like you are “battling” or “struggling” to get your spouse to eat like you then it probably isn’t going to work. Think of it more as an experiment. Bring them into the discussion. Start from a place of commonality. What are the foods that you both love? Make a list. Begin with a focus on that. If they love meat and potatoes, would they try a dish with meat and potatoes and vegetables? Are you willing to try that as well? My experience is that meat eaters love meat in a dish whether it is a 2 pound steak and a baked potato or a Mediterranean stew that has a small amount of meat and potatoes and a lot of other vegetables.
Here are a few recipes I have made for groups of meat eaters that were a great success:
This traditional Moroccan dish has everything, delicious flavored meatballs, potatoes plus it is loaded with other vegetables. No guarantees, but this is usually a winner with men and women.
Recipe: Spiced Moroccan Meatballs and Veggies
This is a familiar,tasty dish to most everyone. Instead of the traditional green peppers this recipe uses red and/or orange peppers which have more nutrients. I would serve this with the Greek salad below.
Recipe: Sheet Pan Chicken with Peppers and Onions
If your meat eater loves to grill, this is a great way to get them involved. Super delicious kebabs. Add the Grilled Marinated Summer Vegetables and a Greek Salad and you will have a full Mediterranean meal that you both will love.
Recipe: Greek Lamb, Tomato and Onion Kebabs
These vegetables are pretty universally loved by everyone. A great place to start with someone who is wary of eating vegetables. Add grilled fish (if your spouse likes fish) and you have yourself a meal!
Recipe: Grilled Marinated Summer Vegetables
I’m always surprised by how much men and women love this salad. I remember coming back to a fire department a year after doing my first workshop there to hear that they had made the salad at least once a week for a year! Add extra feta and olive oil for a real crowd pleaser.
Recipe: Authentic Greek Salad
This is another salad that most everyone loves. After all, it has a tangy sauce, feta cheese and potatoes fried in olive oil, but it is also loaded with arugula, tomatoes and scallions. A perfect compromise salad.
Recipe: Mediterranean Fried Potato, Tomato and Arugula Salad
This traditional Moroccan eggs stewed in tomato sauce is super delicious and everyone I have made it for has loved it.
Add a little cheese to this recipe and you will have a breakfast fit for a king. A great breakfast that starts your day off right with 2 servings of vegetables.
Recipe: Spinach and Mushroom Omelet
These are dishes that are a beginning. They have some meat in them, but they also have plenty of vegetables, herbs and olive oil. As you try some of these meals together you will begin to see what you both like and don’t like and then you can go from there. Some meals will be a hit and some might not be. Keep talking about it together. You will begin to find meals that work for both of you and hopefully as you both enjoy more and more new meals together, your spouse will also begin to be open to meals that are a little more of a stretch for them.
Delving into Healthier Meals
Ok, the two of you have made some compromises, you are eating a bit more meat and your spouse is eating more vegetables, but you want to take this whole eating together thing one step further. Talk to them about what foods they are willing to try that might be a bit of a stretch for them. Are they willing to try a salmon dish or something with beans. Again, don’t go overboard yet. Serve them recipes that seem like they will be winners. Here are a few of the recipes I have found spouses are willing to try that they were slightly dubious about when they first heard about it. Nine times out of ten these are recipes that everyone enjoys once they try them.
Sheet Pan Salmon with Asparagus, Lemon and Dill
This salmon recipe is quick to make and most everyone I have served it to loves it. Serve it with a Greek salad and bread.
Recipe: Sheet Pan Salmon with Asparagus, Lemon and Dill
Sheet Pan Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Another quick recipe that is a healthier (and just as tasty) version of the classic Italian eggplant parmesan.
Recipe: Sheet Pan Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Black Eyed Peas with Fresh Dill, Olive Oil and Orange Slices
This one will definitely be a stretch, but I think you will find that everyone will love this traditional bean dish from the Greek island of Crete.
Recipe: Black Eyed Peas with Fresh Dill, Olive Oil and Orange Slices
Avocado Toast with Caramelized Balsamic Onions
A delicious combination. This also goes well with an egg on top.
Recipe: Avocado Toast with Caramelized Balsamic Onions
Greek Omelette with Zucchini and Tomato
A traditional Greek breakfast that you will both enjoy. Serve with coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice.
Recipe: Greek Omelette with Zucchini and Tomato
The Final Frontier: On the same page
The end goal here is that you are only cooking one meal a night instead of two (or that your spouse is even cooking some healthy meals for you!). With some compromise and experimentation, hopefully, you both will be enjoying delicious, healthy meals that you both love.
Have fun experimenting and may your cooking adventures be a total and complete success! Please let me know your thoughts in the comment below.