When I first met Alfie, I can honestly say and he would openly admit that he probably didn’t know what a vegetable was because throughout his life he had very little experience of them. Shocking as it may sound, it actually made sense considering his heritage, Ghanaian food is traditionally very heavy consisting of mainly carbohydrates and meat.
Now, I would never force my strong headed hubby to do anything that he didn’t want to do, it’s just not my style. However, over the past 11 years that we have been together (married for 3 years) gradually he has begun to adopt better eating habits. As you can imagine, progress in my own health and lifestyle choices were always going to impact Alfie and overall the transition has been pretty easy for him. Don’t get me wrong, you will never see him chugging down a green smoothie or feasting on courgetti because that doesn’t float his boat. To be honest, I wouldn’t want him to – healthy changes shouldn’t feel forced, but something that you want to do for yourself because it feels right for you.
With our differing views on eating well, I thought that he would never eat anything green or that I would have to surrender to a life of rice, and Haribo. Like with all things when you’re in a relationship, you have to learn the art of comprising and among lots of other factors this has really helped Alfie adopt some healthier eating habits and lose some weight.
Here are my tips based on my own personal experiences on how to encourage healthier eating habits in your partner:
Pack out meals with a variety of vegetables
This is probably my number one tip and made a massive difference to our meal times. Whatever you’re cooking try and squeeze in as many vegetables as you can, even if they’re not traditionally supposed to be in the recipe. Stews, casseroles, curries, ragu, soups are all great vehicles for vegetables and because they are covered in a flavoursome sauce they tend to be more palatable to someone who is not used to eating them.
Understand that he doesn’t have to eat like you to be healthy
As previously mentioned, you will never see Alfie blending up a green smoothie for breakfast like me and this is totally fine. I firmly believe that you have to let people make their own choices when it comes to healthy eating, allowing them to make the right choices for their body that may necessarily not be right for your own.
Still cook their favourite foods
Eliminating certain foods from their diet is never going to work and I hate any diet or eating plan that promotes restriction and deprivation. Still cook you partner their favourite foods, but just change them up a little to make them healthier. For example, you can add more vegetables or use a healthier cooking oil and cooking method. One of Alfie’s all time favourite breakfasts is waffles and I often change them up by adding fruits or even a mashed vegetable like sweet potato.
It’s all about baby steps
Like with any big change, it’s all about taking baby steps. Don’t wade in expecting a massive change overnight, it’s going to be a gradual process, but your encouragement will help make the journey easier.
Stock healthier foods in your cupboards
The phrase “out of sight out of mind” works so well here. If you stock your cupboards with healthier foods you’re less likely to want to eat the junk. Trying to get Alfie to curb his Haribo addiction has been a struggle, but what worked for him is rather than taking the whole pack out of the cupboard, which he would inhale like a bag of crisps, he started to portion them out in a bowl. Haribo hasn’t made it onto our shopping list for months (out of Alfie’s own choice!) and these days he rarely eats any, only as a treat now and then…success!
Our meal times have totally been transformed for the better! Alfie will now happily eat salads and vegetables as a side rather than having them mixed into meals. Currently, he’s training to run his first ever race, a half-marathon with me next month..eek! Although he is never going to be the next Juice Master, I’m so happy and proud that he’s made these transitions in his eating habits. He’s already told me that he feels so much better for it and wants to set a good example to our one-year-old.