How to help lovely other eat better?
December 15, 2006 9:20 AM   Subscribe

How can I help my picky-eatin' partner to choose healthier foods?

Background: I ate a cookie this morning, made with a little too much love last night, it hurts my stomach. Part of an overall trend, I would like any suggestions as to how to engage a loved one on the delicacies of diet change. They have been with basically the same foodstuffs since childhood, and suggesting changes is like going up against a stubborn bull. Against soy, rabbit food and beans, but loves meat, potatoes and cheese.

Any ideas metamind?

Otherwise, things are going wonderfully, to those psuedo-psychologists who think this must be a symptom of problems elsewhere.
posted by emptyinside to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What is your question? Do you want partner to change so that you are not looking at cookies and other things by which you might be tempted? That is a tall order. You can ask, but asking other people to make major changes in their lives to accomodate you rarely works out, unless you are in very serious need. On the other hand, do you just want partner to eat a better diet? Why make a big deal out of it? It's his or her body, not yours.
posted by caddis at 9:33 AM on December 15, 2006

I don't understand the question either. You're being way too indirect. What does it mean that the cookie was made with too much love? Was it full of refined sugar and lard?
posted by bingo at 9:39 AM on December 15, 2006

I am in a relationship with someone like this.

He really, really resents when I try to introduce him to new foods. After years, I still forget sometimes and say, "Ooo, try this!" and am met with a pained, irritated stare.

This is hard because enjoyment of interesting foods is a large part of how I enjoy life; and also we rarely have meals together, so we miss out on a lot of quality time. We're talking about someone who picks shreds of actual tomato out of his pizza sauce. It's not easy to deal with.

The only successful way I've found to introduce healthier foods is to become a better cook. He's generally suspicious of anythign I make, afraid of what I put into it. But I have gotten a list of things from him over time that he has said he'll eat if I make them. Such as chili, for example. And his ignoranc eof food and how things taste works against him in this department, because if I make the chili carefully, I can puree lots of vegetables and mix them in without him detecting them at all. Pureed vegetables can be added to almost any sauce, casserole, or soup.

I also have given him multivitamins as a gift many times, which he didn't mind taking at all.

Ultimately though, I just gave up. Since we've been together he's discovered that he likes carrots and will now also allow lettuce on his sandwiches (sometimes). That's just the way it's going to be for us. As long as he doesn't mind how many dinner dates I have with other people, then I can live with that.
posted by hermitosis at 9:42 AM on December 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

You really can't get someone to change their diet if they don't want to.

One thing you can try to do, expanding on hermitosis' suggestion of becoming a better cook, is to try & lighten up some of your partner's favorite dishes by substituting healthier ingredients. For example, my husband and a few of our guy friends loved my old chili recipe. However, I am trying to watch what I eat, and also eat more veggies. So i played with my chili recipe until I wound up replacing half of the meat with VERY FINELY chopped veggies (zucchini, mushrooms and extra onion) and beans. Turns out that because the spices and texture are the same, they all still love it, and the most enthusiastic carnivore of the bunch says he actually likes it better than my original chili.

You'll find that there are a zillion ways to make delicious food healthfully, and that usually it's easier to try & lighten up foods that a person already likes than to try & get someone who hates vegetables to be accepting of salad as a dinner.

If they love to cook, maybe get them a cookbook that has lower fat recipes or recipes made with whole foods.

Offer to go grocery shopping so you can read labels and buy healthier versions of favorite foods (reduced fat cheeses, whole wheat breads, etc).

In the long run, this is what you want, so you're going to have to do all the work to see if this is a change that can be made. And if the other person doesn't want to, there really isn't all that much you can do about it - you can't really change other people, especially where health habits are concerned.
posted by tastybrains at 9:50 AM on December 15, 2006

You might also point him or her to this article: Vegetarians are more intelligent, says study
posted by caddis at 9:52 AM on December 15, 2006

Depends on the partner. If you have a partner that tilts toward obsessive/Asperger's and uses Windows, get the Fitday program. (They also have a Web site at the link, but I find that I prefer using the program on my computer. You can download it from the site.) First they enter some of what they eat, but then as they look at the various nutritional analyses and breakdowns in the various reports and graphs, they'll probably be hooked and start tinkering with their diet to make things balance better, etc. For example, I was surprised at how little calcium I was getting. I admit I don't drink milk or eat much dairy, but really... Anyway, for that demographic, this approach might work. The key is to get the partner to drive him/herself in the right direction from his/her own internal desire. You can't push.
posted by LeisureGuy at 9:53 AM on December 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I discovered that my hubby's hatred for veggies was because he'd only had his mother's (and high school cafeteria's) overcooked ones. When I started lightly steaming and lightly sauteeing, he was amazed at how tasty they could be. I discovered that most of his problems with (good) food were due to poor preparation and not the food itself. When we first started dating, he was BLAND meat and potatoes guy. Now he gets really excited by vegetables and seasonings. His mom is constantly amazed by the stuff he eats now. It's been gradual change over the course of ten years but now I'm really not afraid to make anything for him. (Though occasionally I'll still treat him to things made with Campbell's soup.)

So yes, become a good cook. And don't be afraid to sneak things in. I was sneaking finely chopped mushrooms into things long before he openly tried mushrooms. He became used to the flavor before he had to deal with the texture.
posted by wallaby at 10:09 AM on December 15, 2006

There are better versions of the things your partner already eats. Once I tried these deli meats, I haven't looked back. They are real meat and they taste a million times better than the more processed, hormoned and preservatized versions. Their cheese it damn good too. Might be a good first step that your partner would agree to if you frame it in the context of wanting them to be more healthy so that you can enjoy their company longer or just trying them because they taste a heck of a lot better.
posted by iurodivii at 10:46 AM on December 15, 2006

...I wound up replacing half of the meat with VERY FINELY chopped veggies...

Nah - go the whole hog and buy a stick blender.

My boyfriend would be a carnivore if not for dairy products, eggs, potatoes, peas, wheat and rice. So I puree his food. Spaghetti bolognese gets zucchini, carrot, mushroom, onion, capsicum and corn, as does chili (and don't skimp on the beans!). Tuna casserole gets corn, capsicum, onion, and seasonal veges like asparagus blended and stirred into the white sauce. Shepherd's Pie gets everything in the crisper and the pantry, as does curry. I'm vege, so cook two meals anyway (variations of the same dish) and it's only an extra couple of seconds to puree his. He gets his steak and sausages a couple of nights a week and I forcefeed him veges the rest of the time.

Throwing a multivitamin down his throat every couple of days is also good. And if he eats fruit, make him eat lots of it. I make fruit salad, fruit cakes and biscuits, and try to have fruit and nuts for snacking most of the time.
posted by goo at 11:51 AM on December 15, 2006

Trying to provide some insight as a picky eater, I don't think it's something I can control. I just don't like certain foods. Some even make me physically gag when I try to eat them because of the texture, smell or taste. I do wish I liked more veggies, but I just don't. Yes, I've tried them various ways - an ex boyfriend was a chef and we both sincerely tried to get me to like new foods- but many still make me gag. I also don't like seafood, including shrimp, crabs and lobster - which is a horror to most who find this out about me- "What? You don't like lobster??? OMG, you're crazy!!"

I do take multivitamins and even veggie juice supplements to try to balance my diet, but one thing I do get sick of is people constantly trying to get me to eat new foods. They act like something is wrong with me because I don't like certain foods. I've even gotten to the point where I just lie and say I'm allergic to something so people will get off my back about it, and they do. I hate that I have to lie, but I hate even more the surprised exclamation, "Oh my gosh you guys, Nora doesn't like shrimp!", and the conversation that usually ensues: "oh c'mon, just try a little, I know you'll like it". I guess people want to be the one to turn me onto a new food - is there some prize for that that I don't know about? Your partner may be sick of the same confrontations and just shuts down when you bring it up.

I guess I'm telling you this to maybe provide some insight into why they are so stubborn about changing. You are obviously concerned about your partner's health and there are lots of other things you can do to help improve it without trying new foods that they've said they don't like. Like I said, I take a vitamin supplement and Ultra Juice to try to give my body all the vitamins it's missing from not eating veggies. You can also take a look at the foods they are currently eating and enjoying and finding healthier versions, and of course there's always exercise, which can be disguised as a romantic walk in the park. :)

Good Luck!
posted by NoraCharles at 12:33 PM on December 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

I also don't like seafood, including shrimp, crabs and lobster - which is a horror to most who find this out about me- "What? You don't like lobster??? OMG, you're crazy!!"

This is the story of my life!

Anyway, you really can't make people change their tastes, but I do think it's worth trying to experiment with recipes to see if you can make healthier versions of your partner's favorites.
posted by tastybrains at 1:27 PM on December 15, 2006

Well, sounds like there are two different issues here.

Do you like his cooking in general but would prefer to eat more veg and less meat? Does he cook his favourites and expect you to eat them?

If your relationship is as good as you say surely you could just compromise and add rabit food to a dish for yourself, a side salad comes to mind? After all he is an adult, it is his body and whilst you care for his wellbeing you can't change people ... do you resent being tempted?

If that is not an option and you are hell bent on changing his diet I guess it depends on why he doesn't like to try new foods and what constitutes new foods...

Sounds like he never was offered a large range of food when growing up.

It might be worth remembering that textures and flavours change with cooking and even the way things are sliced. I adore shredded raw carrots but don't particularly care for sticks, slices...any other kind of carrot cooked or otherwise.

If he doesn't like rabit food it might be worth focusing on cooked veg? Would he consider a tray of roast root veg as rabit food?

A lot of it depends on your upbringing. We basically had to eat what was put in front of us and I still do.

I currently share a house with my cousin. At the moment I come home a lot later than him so he has taken to cooking, very tasty I might add. Thing is that he cooks a lot less veg and more grains than I would choose for I eat his food gracefully (and greatfully!) and get my fruit, veg nuts and seafood in as breakfast, lunch and as snacks!

He gets to eat what he likes as do I...he gets to tease me about the contents of my lunch box - I get to tease him about how chocolate ice cream does not count as veg owing to its cocoa content - everybody is happy.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:41 PM on December 16, 2006

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