Successful relationships tend to be successful for a pretty big reason: you probably have a lot in common with the person you’re with. That’s usually a great thing when it comes to generic interests, friends and hobbies. But that could be problematic when it comes to healthy eating — especially if “rabbit food” isn’t exactly in your vocabulary.
As most people in a long-term relationship can attest, making a huge lifestyle change is so much harder when the person you share your life with isn’t on board. We’re only human, after all, and we can only say no to so many cheesy takeout pizzas or bags of chips and brownies when they’re right there in front of us.
Here’s the good news though: if you want to eat healthier and you really need your partner to follow suit, we’ve got a few ideas that may help… once and for all.
Have a conversation
The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have a problem. Food addiction is a very real thing, and it’s potentially one of the hardest addictions to break because we need food to survive. So if your partner isn’t committed and willing to make a change, then it’s probably not going to stick. Rather than telling your partner he or she needs to eat healthier with you, start a conversation about how you’re looking to make some changes and ask if you can count on their support. Mention a new eating program that you’re excited about or a dish that you want to try. We know we hate it when people force us into things or make us feel bad about ourselves for our choices, so it’s pretty much a no-brainer that a significant other would feel the same if they were put in that situation.
Respect your partner
If you’re in a long-term relationship, odds are you’ve learned how to listen and respect each other — so put those practices into play when convincing your partner to commit. Is your girlfriend a stress-eater who needs cheese melted on something to get through her day? Does your man feel like quick fast-food lunches are the only option given his long commute? How much social pressure is at the office to go out and buy food? There are so many reasons why a person may not be making the best food choices. Figure out your partner’s and then try to address them in a respectful, positive way.
Offer to pack a lunch
Here’s the thing about taking charge of your diet: you’re probably going to become the person in your household responsible for the food handling. That means you’ll probably be packing lunches for both you and your significant other. The good news is that if you’re already packing lunch for yourself, it’s just as easy to pack for the both of you. Just be mindful of your partner’s schedule, likes and dislikes, and be sure to vary up the actual lunches every once in a while so that neither of you get bored. For example, if you make salads every day for a week, consider healthy wraps, hearty soups or dinner leftovers for the next.
Take up dinner duty
Yup, making dinner goes hand-in-hand with those aforementioned food-handling responsibilities. After all, if you’re making the meals, it’ll be pretty hard for your partner to complain. If you find yourself completely crunched for time, consider easy-to-assemble dinners like one-pan meals or invest in a slow cooker or our favourite new gadget, the Instant Pot. Not only will the meal practically make itself, but you can use all those leftovers for easy lunches the next day.
Do the groceries or plan them out together
The best way to stay on track (whether you’re solo or in a couple) is to plot out your groceries on a weekly basis and make sure that you’re always stocked up on healthy items. Never — we repeat never — do the groceries while you’re hungry and always have a list in hand. To keep your partner interested, sit down and plan your meals for the entire week together. Ask him or her if they feel like anything in particular, then work it into the menu to the best of your ability. If you can be organized and get excited about your upcoming meals together, you’re both more likely to stick to your goals.
Find healthier alternatives to classic favourites
These days, there are so many healthy recipes inspired from classic dishes that it’s hard not to find one you like. Does your gal love pasta? Sub out the refined white noodles for zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash or low-cal, plant-derived shirataki noodles. If you can’t get her to eat those “bases” instead, try rye or spelt pasta, which is higher in fibre.
Does he love creamy sauces? Learn the art of using cashew cheese sauce or nutritional yeast anywhere that calls for Parmesan and remember that low-sodium broths are always your friend when it comes to added flavour boosts.
Now we’re not saying you should trick your partner into eating things they don’t like. But sometimes what they don’t know won’t hurt them. For example, we love throwing spinach into everything because it’s easily masked (throw some in your next smoothie, chop it into your next stir-fry or wilt it into soup). Fat-free, plain Greek yogurt tastes so much like sour cream that no one will be notice if you use it to top your next bowl of chili or baked potato, we swear. And cauliflower is the most ridiculously versatile vegetable on the planet — mash it with potatoes, chop it into rice or blend it into your next cream sauce for an extra boost of vitamins.
Have healthy snacks ready to go
Not planning is actually planning to fail, right? If you and your partner both want to stay on track, it’s essential to make sure that there are always healthy snacks ready to go. Fruits or veggies with hummus are easy enough to prep on a Sunday for the entire week. Make some healthy granola to throw in a yogurt cup, invest in some natural nut butter to top a brown rice cracker with or bake up some kale chips for a much-needed crunch. The key is to make sure that neither of you are ever feeling hungry or unsatisfied; that’s the quickest road to wanting to give up.
Create a challenge
We all need to find motivation in order to do something new, especially when it comes to implementing a healthy lifestyle change. The idea of being healthy often isn’t enough on its own. That’s where creating some sort of a challenge with your partner comes in handy. Join or create a Facebook accountability group with other couples where there’s a prize for the couple who sticks to the best overall diet. Or take a healthy ingredient and challenge your partner to see who can come up with the coolest way of cooking it or using it in a dish. Just try and make it fun and appealing to your partner’s competitive side in order to get them really invested.
Like anything in life, it’s easier to make a change if you create short and long-term goals. In this case, it’s important to do so with your partner so that you’re both on board. Do you both love takeout on busy work nights? Or do you celebrate the end of the week with a large, pepperoni pizza? Create a sign in your kitchen that reads Days Without Takeout. Then underneath, either make tick marks or update the number every day that goes by where you stick to your meal plans and don’t order or eat out. If you can get to a predetermined number (say, 100), treat yourselves to something non food-related that you both want. Use the money you’ve saved to book a mini getaway or maybe finally buy those luxury sheets you’ve both been eyeing. Whatever strategy you use, the takeaway is to set a goal and then reward yourselves once you get there.
Find quality time together outside the kitchen
Last but not least, one of the best strategies we’ve seen to get a significant other to eat healthier is to stop thinking about it all the time. We put so much emphasis on the importance of meals as a way to spend time together that we often forget to set time aside for other quality bonding time. Sign up for a class together, get outside for a hike once the weather warms up or do a sport together. By spending that time together reconnecting, you’ll be more likely to get back on the same page in your overall relationship. And in the end, that’s what really matters, whether you’re looking to eat healthier or not.