Help! My Partner Hates Healthy Food!

Have Your Say is a regular feature in which we take a tricky culinary nutrition situation and pass it to our readers for their advice. This week, we received a question from a woman named Janice whose partner is not a fan of the healthy goodness she’s cooking up in the kitchen….

I’ve recently started making some big changes in my kitchen and in my life — health is so important to me, and ever since I started incorporating more fruits and veggies into my diet, I’ve felt so much better. But my boyfriend can’t stand the meals I make (he’s more of a meat-and-potatoes fan). I don’t want to have to resort to making two separate dinners, but having him complain about the food I make is really getting on my nerves. Besides, I want him to start making healthy changes, too — it’s no fun having tons of energy when your partner just wants to veg on the couch all weekend. How do I bring him around to this new way of eating, or should I just accept that he may never be as excited about homemade squash soup as I am?

– Janice, Vancouver

Making healthy changes in your own life is such an amazing step, but it can be difficult to keep it up when those around you aren’t interested in jumping aboard the wellness train. What do you think?

How can Janice bring her boyfriend around to a veggie-loving lifestyle — or should she leave him to fend for himself in the kitchen?

Culinary Nutrition ExpertsCulinary Nutrition Experts In-Training and readers everywhere, it’s time to have your say!

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12 responses to “Help! My Partner Hates Healthy Food!

  1. Caitlin Iles @nourishedsask

    Hi Janice,
    As a former veggie hater turned healthy eating convert I hope I can offer some insight for you.

    For me one of the main reasons I didn’t like vegetables was because of the texture so I started incorporating more veggies into my diet by making pureed soups. You could also try switching up the mashed potatoes that your partner loves with mashed cauliflower or Jerusalem artichokes. Add some garlic and pastured butter and I bet he won’t even notice a difference! You may need to get crafty by slowly sneaking veggies into your meals. Maybe you make him a delicious chocolate smoothie and hide a little spinach in there, slowly adding more veggies as he becomes more open to a healthier diet and lifestyle. You could also try making some treats such as a Sweet Potato Brownie or Red Velvet Beet Cake. The internet is full of amazing treats with hidden health benefits for those who are a little more resistant to switching their diets.

    It might also be worth while having a conversation with your partner about the healthier changes you’re making, how you feel it’s improving your life, and how it makes you feel when he complains about the meals you make him or when he just sits on the couch all weekend instead of having adventures with you. Maybe as a compromise you can have him help you in the kitchen or at the grocery store where he can pick out healthier foods that seem less scary to him. Then you can bring them home and make some magic together in the kitchen. Be open and honest with your partner and hopefully you’ll both be able to come to a place where you both feel healthy, happy, and supported!

  2. RachelDruckenmiller

    Hi there! I went through the same thing with my husband, who grew up eating almost no veggies and lots of processed food. One of the things that he said surprised him the most was the he could feel full on beans and grains and that he didn’t NEED meat at every meal – that’s coming from a college athlete who is a PE teacher and has German (AKA meat & potatoes!) heritage. There are a few things I’ve found to be helpful over the past 8 years, as my husband now eats healthier than ever, including lots of fruits and veggies! (1) Be patient and let him come around in his own time. Nothing is worse than having someone make you feel like you’re being “forced” to do something. He will only own it if he comes about it on his own terms. (2) Let him be part of the planning process with you, so he feels like you’re partnering WITH him vs. doing this TO him. Sit down and look through some healthy options on Pinterest or a healthy living blog/site or cookbook and let him pick out ones HE wants to try and gets excited about. Search for/try dishes that are more familiar to him like chilis, soups and stews or burrito bowls (I have one on my blog – Look up healthier versions of HIS favorite foods and experiment with healthier ways to make them (cauliflower buffalo wings, anyone?) (3) If he’s not big on veggies, find out which ones he DOES like and make sure you have them on hand. My husband used to only like iceberg lettuce and carrots, so the KEY was finding out that it was a texture thing for him – he liked veggies that were crunchy and/or roasted and was turned off by “mushy” vegetables (because he grew up eating them canned). Over time, I would introduce him to veggies that were crunchy with the mindset of, “Hey, you like X, so I think you would like Y.” I NEVER forced anything, and here we are 8 years later, and he enjoys everything from kale and collard greens to bok choy and Brussels sprouts. (4) Smoothies are a great way to introduce vegetables – even if you just start with a couple spinach leaves or carrots. Peanut butter can mask the taste of veggies, and Medjool dates help, too. (5) Last but not least, you could also start with a transition to sustainably raised meats as a start and then focus on upgrading using tips 1-4 above. Believe it or not, my husband now has a smoothie almost every morning for breakfast because it gives him lasting energy and fills him up. He’s the one making cauliflower soup and lentil chili. But he feels best with SOME sustainably raised meat in his diet, so we have that sometimes but not remotely as often as before. The coolest part of all of this? Now HE comes to ME telling me how crappy he feels when he is stuck eating the cafeteria lunch at school (he’s a teacher) if he forgets his. HE now owns it. That’s the key. Be patient. Be encouraging. Be open and inviting and not pushy. Do it out of love and be supportive, and over time he will find what works for him! :)

  3. Valerie Piccitto @valeriepiccitto

    I had the same problem at first with my boyfriend. Although he was incredibly supportive of me, my career and my passion surrounding this field – he wasn’t quite ready to give up the foods he loved so much. In the beginning, we would buy 2 of some items – such as milk, breads, etc. But eventually, he came around. I never pressured him but I was always educating and sharing my wealth of knowledge. I would try my hand at new recipes and have him taste whatever I had just made. If I was the ones cooking, I called the shots – it only seemed fair :P But if he was cooking, he would respect my choices of going dairy free or gluten free. It was definitely a process and took time but I never made it super stressful. He finally made the choice to switch over to many of the healthier items I was selecting. I also made a solid effort to recreate his favourite meals but with a healthy spin. He now appreciates our healthy meals and craves vegetables and eating clean. But even now, he will opt for organic cheese on some of our meals and I’ll decline. It’s all about give and take.

  4. Christine

    Hey Janice! I can totally relate to your struggle with a meat-and-potatoes man! My boyfriend is exactly the same way. Most of his favorite meals include just that, meat and potatoes, or any foods a typical toddler would love. Needless to say, he doesn’t absolutely crave fruits and veggies like me! The important thing is that he is open to learning about what I am eating and why I am eating it even if he is not physically trying it (yet). Your significant other will be more open minded about your choices if you are patient and open about theirs in return. Supporting and encouraging the small changes your boyfriend makes is incredibly more effective than trying to make big changes all at once. My boyfriend now gets a salad with every meal, eats an apple every day, and has added a few more veggies to the list he likes. Just praise them for that! When you’re making something they’ve never had before, offer them to give it a shot and don’t push too hard. They’ll cave from curiosity soon enough. My boyfriend loves sweets so I have a great go-to vegan and gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipe I make for him. He is so interested in how a food can be just as good as the classic he grew up with minus the dairy and gluten. It also takes the intimidation out of the words “vegan” and “gluten free” which can be pretty scary for the guy who loves the words “New York strip steak” ! Overall, keeping minds and communication open on both ends will help both of you immensely.

  5. Minerva

    My significant other has come a long way from his meat and potato ways…but to be honest some things just aren’t for him. Like squashes for example, butternut, zuchini, it doesn’t matter it just skeeves him out. So I will often sautee or roast diced squashes seperate from our dinner (spaghetti, chili, soup etc) so that I can enjoy it ala carte. He is a bit more open to sauteed greens, salads, and fajita veggies, and also happens to be a member of the clean-your-plate-club so I will often give him a serving of a veggie on his plate knowing he will at least finish that. And through that small portion he may start to crave the veggie goodness over time.

    1. Doris Fin

      I’ve met many like this and as of 2 years ago, I’ve helped many women assist the change into healthier eating for their partners. This recipe is a great start as many men love pesto and nuts masks the greens:

      Frantaly Pistou Pesto (Makes about 2cups)
      The popular sauces of France and Italy inspired me to combine the two, into this creamy extra green delight. Pistou+Pesto=guaranteed to compliment any dish.

      2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
      1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves or chopped green kale, tightly packed (see notes)
      1-2 tsp himalayan or celtic salt
      1/2 cup cold pressed, extra virgin, olive oil
      2-3 cloves garlic, minced (depending how garlicky you like it)
      1 cup walnuts or pine nuts, soaked 4 hours in water, rinsed, strained and dried (see notes)
      1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (see notes)
      Optional Variations:
      For extra herb flavour add 1/2 cup fresh parsley, tightly packed
      1 tsp cumin powder
      For spicy add 1/2 tsp cayenne or chilli pepper

      Loving Preparation:
      Blend all ingredients in a food processor, including any optional if using, until smooth and slightly chunky.
      Store in a glass jar for up to 1 week in the fridge.
      Use in everything: salad dressings diluted with a little water, sauces, soups, spreads, dips, etc.

      Lemon juice helps to neutralize the harmful oxalates (a toxin in cruciferous veggies, that inhibits the body’s ability to absorb minerals) in the kale/spinach. It is also a natural preservative so it helps make this dish last longer in the fridge.
      Nuts and greens: Make sure they are completely dried before using, to prevent water from being present in this green delight. Leave on paper towel, in the sun or air dry in a warm room, for 30 minutes.

      Use this recipe in your green leaf burrito or in appetizers at your next event. Slice vegetables, thinly (jicama, cucumbers, beets, etc.), instead of crackers, and spread with this delightfulness. Top off with some sprouts, seeds, or whatever else you like.

      1. Minerva

        This recipe is so fantastic I almost didn’t notice the lack of cheese. sneaky!

  6. Kathleen Graas

    You are not responsible for his dietary choices and he has already told you that he does not accept yours. You and your boyfriend are not on the same path. You said it yourself: you are making changes in your life…move on.

  7. Susan Albrough

    Luckily, as long as I buy my husband a steak for him to BBQ on his Birthday, he is easygoing and happy about the foods I cook. However, I know it is not so for many women. It brings to mind Cathy Bates character (Evelyn Couch) in Fried Green Tomatoes. Her husband came home to a healthy meal and he said, “What the hell is this!? Are you trying to kill me?” and she retorted back, “If I was, I would do it with my hands!” I loved the support she got in the movie from her friendship with an aged Idie Threadgood. It gave her courage to stand up to her husband and become the woman she wanted to be. In the end, her husband followed along in shock and awe!” Wishing you luck with your boyfriend and stick to your guns!

  8. I went through this same thing! The first thing you need to know is that it is a process, a marathon not a sprint! Keep in mind that you came into the healthy eating on your own, not through pressure; pressuring him to eat better will drive him further away from healthy eating and from you (in my experience.) Much like the other comments above, I started by sneaking veggies into his diet; we started with smoothies. At first I made them with a lot more fruit and over time added more and more veggies. He now drinks a straight up green smoothie and really enjoys it (that process alone took a handful of months.) Then, I created healthy meat and dairy free dishes as a base and offered him a bit a meat and cheese to add to as he needed. This gave me the opportunity to be as healthy as I wanted and gave him the chance to ‘modify’ his meal as needed. He started to give up things like soda and even commented how hard it is for him to travel and eat ‘bad’ meals. But then I did started to expect too much, forcing him to be even more like me and we had to go through a rough time over that. It’s been a few years now and we are still working on it. He likes to talk through the dishes and even critiques and offers suggestions. But he needs freedom to go at his own pace. After a couple of days of bad eating he dives into salads and lighter fare (even calls those days his detox days!) Have patience and let him go at his own pace while you progress at your own. With a little creativeness, it’s all doable!

  9. Beverley Taylor

    I am my wit’s end with what to prepare for my partner. He doesn’t like vegetables much, unless in a potato bake, cauliflower cheese or roasted. He doesn’t like fish unless it is fried. He doesn’t wish to contribute to ideas of what I can cook and unwilling to try new foods. I apparently can’t cook mashed potatoes right although he has conceded it may be the type of potato I use. I have tried making him meals he said were his favourites but I don’t make them right. Should I just feed him unhealthy crap (which i have been doing) and continue to make another meal for myself

    1. Academy of Culinary Nutrition

      It’s a tough situation, for sure. Perhaps consider making a healthy meal for yourself, and let him decide what he wants to do – either he can eat what you make, or cook something himself. In addition to the great advice given by other readers, you might find this post helpful Beverley:

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