Last week Pattie left this question in a comment:
How do you handle having such different eating habits than your husband? I have two small kids (4yrs. and 5 yrs.) and a husband who likes bigger, heavier meals with very little variety in taste, spice, ethnic variety, vegetables, etc.! Oh and … he NEVER gains a pound. So while he does work out, he doesn’t necessarily need to “watch” what he eats … ever. I find when I cook a healthy meal, with variety, vegetables, etc. it is not filling enough for him and he’s not satisfied … then there are the kids to feed as well. I try to avoid cooking separate meals because I just don’t have time for that (I work full-time outside the home). Would love your perspective on this. How do you avoid all the temptations your husband brings in the house? How did you (if you ever did) get over the … “why can he eat that and I can’t” mentality.
Oh, how question like these get me fired up!
Not “fired up” angry but “fired up” as in “Girl, I could give you an earful!”
Last week I established how different my husband’s diet is from mine. Honestly, not exaggerating here, he would (and basically does) live off fast food, mac & cheese, chips, soda and chocolate. The man never would never eat vegetables if it wasn’t for my home-cooked dinners, he never eats breakfast, and what he consumes after 10 p.m. is honestly just scary.
Do I worry about him?
Maybe it’s my age, experience or the fact that we’ve been together so long (19 years!) but I have fully accepted the fact I have no ability to change him. Eating healthy, taking care of himself and exercise are simply not a priority for him. Do I think they should be? Ahhh, yeah. Honestly, as a husband and father I think it’s selfish and irresponsible of him not to but it’s his life and he’s in the driver’s seat.
There was a time we’d argue about it. Especially after we had kids, which for me was the eye opener. Dinners were stressful. We would bang heads a lot about what I was cooking and what he wanted to be eating.
Not to much.
As the sole cook in the house, I had to lay some ground rules and we had quite a few conversations about this.
1) I’m going to cook what I cook, and as the cook I make all decisions. You can have and I will solicit input, but at the end of the day dinner is my domain.
This didn’t go over too well at first but it’s hard to argue when you don’t have any interest or desire in cooking. The rule may seem authoritative and dictator-like but I’m not mean about it. Overall, I try to make meals that contain at least one or two things that I know everyone will like. Then I use the third side to appease my desire of trying new and healthy foods.
Let’s take this rutabaga idea I wanted to try. Ask anyone in my house if they want rutabaga for dinner and see what they say.
I mean who enthusiastically says YES!?
I really wanted to try it so I made it as a side to London broil and asparagus — two things that always get eaten in my house.
This approach and compromise works for us and there have been more than a few times when the family ended up liking my “healthy” experiment. Our Beet Adventure comes to mind as does parsnips. Both of these things have since been adopted by my family as approved dinner items MOST of the time because, well, kids are fickle.
Including the family is a great way to raise healthy eaters who aren’t afraid of trying new things (and expose unenthusiastic husbands). You can’t shove some crazy quinoa dish in front of them and say EAT but you can introduce healthier sides along with their favorite and create a culture that celebrates variety and trying new things.
2) I make one dinner. ONE.
Pattie, I’m on your side with this one. I know so many parents who make separate dishes for the kids and I just can’t comprehend it. I make dinner and as I described above I’m going to make what I make with consideration to the likes and dislikes of my family, but if you don’t like or don’t feel like eating it then you are on your own.
Now who I’m really talking about is The Husband because my kids don’t have a choice. The Husband is a grown man, and if he wants to go to McDonald’s for dinner instead of eat my homemade stew so be it. That’s his choice, albeit the wrong one in my opinion. However, he is not to influence the kids and we have talked about this in great length. It is OK for the kids to know Daddy doesn’t like something but it’s also important for them to see him try new things and eat something he may not like out of respect for me, the cook. That’s how I want to raise my kids. It’s important to me that they are grateful someone took the time to cook them a meal in the first place.
The Husband agrees with me for the most part and as I’ve said, we’ve had this discussion multiple times.
Communication is key. You have to have a game plan especially when kids are involved.
3) Everyone tries everything, aka The One Bite Rule.
8-year-old trying something for the first time – I posted more about feeding picky kids on GreenLiteBites.
No one leaves the table without truly trying everything that was prepared. At the end of the day I can’t force people to eat, but in my house “I don’t like this” doesn’t fly unless you’ve tried it and even then I’ll disagree on some things. For example when the 8-year-old tells me he doesn’t like some chicken dish I cooked, I say, “It’s chicken. You eat it all the time. This may not be your favorite way to eat it, but at the end of the day it’s chicken. Have another bite.”
That works most of the time.
These rules are working for me but they don’t necessarily answer your question, Pattie. In your case your husband seems to want big meat-and-potato meals, right? I’d make his style meal the cornerstone of dinner and make sure to pair it with lots of vegetables. Make him an extra potato or increase how much meat you cook to satisfy his appetite but also make sure the sides are where you are getting your veggies and variety in.
As for your other questions, the temptations the Husband brings into the house doesn’t phase me as much as they used to. I think once you truly adopt a healthier way of eating, especially over years the junk just doesn’t seem as appetizing. The times I have indulged I never feel really good afterward and this has reinforced my desire not to eat them.
Now, the “Why can he eat that and I can’t” mentality is a good one. Sometimes I am jealous of The Husband and his ability to eat whatever he wants but then I realized…
I could, too!
I just don’t want to. And that’s an important distinction to make.
I don’t want the consequence of feeling sluggish, gaining weight and being blah. Your husband may not gain weight eating the way he does, but you have to understand he’s different than you. His calorie needs are not the same. His body metabolizes food differently. He probably also doesn’t have the same desire to lose weight or stay thin as you do. I know my husband has put on a few pounds in his “old age” but it’s not enough to motivate him to lose because he just doesn’t care. If anything, THAT is what I’m most jealous about. His ability to just accept his body for what it is.
Wow, I told you I get FIRED UP about this stuff! I feel like I’ve written a novel. I’d love for others to chime in with their thoughts and strategies on handling a household with different eating habits. That’s this week’s weigh-in topic!