You may be on board with cutting out processed food, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your family fully supports the idea. This can certainly lead to some challenges, but for those who truly care about the health of their family members it is hard to simply look the other way.
We initially cut out highly processed food and refined ingredients because we thought it was the right thing to do, but the unexpected improvements to our health that followed were almost a little scary. I had no clue that giving up white flour, sugar, and other processed junk would cause my daughter’s asthma and constipation to disappear as well as result in a 50% increase in my HDL (a.k.a. “good”) cholesterol! And here I already thought we were a fairly “healthy” family, which has a lot to do with why I spend my time trying to convince others (including your family members) to make the switch to real food.
I used to be absolutely clueless about the food we were eating and then one day I read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and watched Food, Inc. That was enough to give me a huge wake up call and while these resources are a great start for anyone who needs some convincing, it might take more than that to convert the most close-minded of spouses. My husband happens to be on board already (or I could never do all of this!) so I reached out to my wonderful 100 Days of Real Food facebook community for their advice and following are the results. If you have any additional suggestions please leave them in the comments below.
How to convince a reluctant spouse or other family member to make the switch to real food:
- Rent the documentary Food, Inc.
- Get a hard copy or audio version of In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
- Make some real food meals to show how good and filling they are (check out the Recipes and Resources page for meal ideas)
- Don’t tell your family member up front you are making changes…just stop buying and serving the processed and refined junk
- Start by making familiar recipes with better ingredients…like local steak with organic baked potatoes
- Buy different (and better organic brands) of familiar products like peanut butter, pasta, and dairy products
- Take baby steps by slowly adding healthier options like veggies to your weekly menu
- Share facts and tidbits on why one should cut out processed food (here are 10 reasons to get you started)
- Agree to work together to set a good example for your children
- Serve fresh, in-season and well-prepared produce to those that don’t think they like veggies (the taste is quite different from what comes out of a can!)
- Sneak veggies into meals and tell them about it afterward
- Track and share spending at fast food joints and other restaurant vs. eating at home and packing lunches
- Tell them to eat what you are serving or they are on their own!
- If they don’t like something don’t keep making it…move on to other real food options
- Enforce the same “3 bite rule” that your children have to follow
- Make changes for yourself (and your children if you have them) and hope your reluctant spouse will eventually follow suit on their own
- Moderation is key…don’t harp on the occasional junk food!
- As with any unwilling or picky family member (young or old) remember to practice patience and persistence
If your reluctant family member is a picky eater some of the tactics listed in this post may work as well: Winning over your picky eater
82 thoughts on “Convincing a Reluctant Spouse (to eat real food)!”
My husband has allowed me to make numerous changes, well before I ever found this site. Yet he sabotages himself with runs at the drive through, or picking up extras at the grocery store that are not on the list… all things he misses from his childhood… all highly processed junk. Meanwhile he complains of a multitude of health problems… brain fog, GI tract, lack of energy, the seeming inability to loose any weight… I am thinking I might try some of your freezer meals for his lunches, and look for healthier remakes of foods I know he likes. It would mean getting organized, but it might be a good next step… the only reasons he will go to a drive through is 1) too lazy to pack his own meal (self confessed) and 2) even if he or I packs him a lunch, he is not in habit to remember to take it to the office. I think I could help with both of these things… maybe it will help him feel better at the office (though puh-leeze lay off the diet cokes already!!!!) Sigh. We have a ways to go… but perhaps if we can get the packed lunch thing down and he likes it, he’d be willing to watch some of the documentaries with me again and reconsider the grocery sneaks and the sodas… at least start limiting those things and find healthier habits to enjoy… baby steps, right?? I’d really like our children to see us be on the same page and I’d love to see him have more
energy in his days. Thank you for the recipe posts and the ideas. I already have been saving recipes from your sight to remake some Thanksgiving faves that he has given me permission to experiment now that we finally get to cook the meal at our house…. no more boxed stuffing or store bought desserts… (though hubby will probably still sneak a can of cranberry… he just can’t get used to the real sauce yet… which leaves me dumbfounded… its so much better! But then… I have been at this for several years… this reteaching the body/mind about what is real and what is good! And the body gets it! I no longer crave a soda or most sugary snacks. And when I think I do and cave… I am 90% of the time disappointed. So cool! Perhaps he will one day get there too.
Love this post. My fiancé wants to eat better and lose weight but would rather take a vitamin than eat real food. I’m challenging him to complete a daily green smoothie every AMfor a week ( I will do it too) and then see how he feels. I’m hoping this will convince him to keep the real food consumption going.
I started by going to the farmers market- I started with just 2 meals a week, and slowly changed stuff over- instead of dropping white flour all at once decrease the amount you use add wheat flour- instead family used to frozen pizza for dinner ? Cool – add extra vegetables (frozen diced spinach broccoli, fresh onions added cheese ) then next then move to prep ahead put it out bring in family do it together you got them used to the junk you can change it folks when our great grandparents were alive it was just called food – Told my husband the length of time it takes to boil 2 eggs I can make breakfast for 3 eggs toast bacon fresh fruit and you won’t be in the fridge in 2hrs looking for something else – he was also getting salads at a fast food joint cost him $7 I said WHY??? pulled out the stuff on the counter I already have all of that !!!!!! Because I’m using it for more than one meal I’m saving money – I’m also going back to the iron cookware and copper bottom pots I use a crockpot home made bread is easy put the dough together and cover it let it rise when you go out to grocery shop get home throw it in a pan and bake while you put up groceries – When you learn how easy it really is you will wonder why you allowed yourself to be lied to lol
I have tried to make the switch to “real food” in the past and failed after a couple of weeks. This year my husband told me that his new years resolution was to make a weekly meal plan for dinner. I smiled at him and thought to myself (here’s our chance to try again). This conversation had happened before I received my 100 Days of Real Food cookbook for Christmas! Guess what happened? My husband read the cookbook before I even had a chance to open it. He was very surprised that it wasn’t just a cookbook, it actually had a story behind it that can help educate our family and set us up for success!
I have not yet started making recipes that would leave enough leftovers to freeze, for two reasons. #1. What if we don’t like it? #2. I really need an extra fridge/freezer to have enough space for extra items. So we shop for a couple of days and make them as we go. Which means lots of dishes and time in the kitchen right now. I really don’t mind it at all! I love watching them eat these new meals and getting their feedback. Most of which has been really good and a big thumbs up to make it again! So the other day my husband asked me if I needed anything from the store? I sort of cringed(sorry babe) but I like to be the one to do the shopping. Unless it is for a few specific things he is used to buying that fit our goals. So basically I told him no, we don’t need anything but what I had already put on the list. His response to me was “don’t the kids need snacks “? I wasn’t sure what he ment. We had fruit, home made granola, nuts. What snacks do they need? He was talking about frozen foods, quick pop in the microwave, processed crap. Not the snacks we eat anymore. I giggled and told him no, we don’t buy that anymore. He proceeded to say, “What if something happens? We have nothing to eat!” I completely understand his concern about having enough food frozen, canned, ect. For the just incase scenarios. I reassured him that we would have that again as soon as I know we all like the food we are preparing. The best part was when I figured out what snacks HE really wanted ( frozen bean & cheese burrito ) I love him! Something so simple makes him happy! I showed him the recipe for refried beans and put the ingredients on his shopping list. I will be perfecting how to freeze them and make them taste wonderful out of real unprocessed food.
My husband and daughters are beyond reluctant! Even if I made food for them to eat that was healthy they would rather not eat at all. They purchase their own “junk” food. It is a lost cause in my house. :(
My husband is not reluctant about more veggies and less processed foods, but he is reluctant about whole grains. He is half Italian and loves his white pasta. When I started buying whole wheat or brown rice pasta he really pushed back. So I’m buying two kinds of pasta now and hoping he’ll come around. He also hates brown rice and quinoa.
i face the same thing with my partner, so it just means eating more veggies with the pasta and eating pasta fewer nights a week. I have to admit, I love me some semolina pasta, too. Sometimes it’s better to just cut back where you can instead of replacing it 100%.
My biggest problem is justifying the cost. My husband already complains about our grocery bills, and I don’t even buy organic most of the time! Much less locally-raised pasture-fed meat, or anything like that. With three kids, including a teenage boy, our grocery bills are outrageous… I do try to make everything homemade, including things that I always bought pre-made in the past. (Homemade onion rings and goldfish crackers are really good!). Unfortunately it takes forever, and sometimes I feel like a pioneer woman who spent all day, every day in the kitchen. It’s just so hard to find a good balance.
Hi Gillian. Is he more likely to watch a video? Food Inc. is one that everyone should take the time to see. Beyond that, there are so many great documentaries out there about our food system. There are informative and concise Ted Talks by people like Jamie Oliver, Robyn O’Brien, Mark Bittman that are very effective, too. It is also easy to find Michael Pollan interviews on YouTube and elsewhere: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/05/in-cooked-michael-pollan-hopes-americans-will-reclaim-a-culture-of-cooking.html. Hope that helps. ~Amy
My problem is that my reluctant spouse is the cook in our family. We often cook together, but he is the main one, and is pickier in meals, so he does the planning too. Often, he is also the main shopper. I have gotten whole wheat waffles and pancakes into the kids on the weekends, and he chokes them down, but doesn’t hide the fact that he dislikes them and finds them “heavy”. I don’t find them heavy, just filling. The kids don’t seem to have a problem with some of my changes, but he is skeptical. Getting him to read that book isn’t likely. Any other thoughts?
My 24-year-old son who lives at home has been used to eating processed foods all his life. He does like the foods I’ve been cooking, so to deter him from the easy junk food I just cook extra. He can snack on the leftovers and have them for another meal too. It definitely has helped (especially since my cooking has gotten so much better!)
I’m so happy that more and more people are reading blogs like yours and are trying to live a life filled with quality food and quality experiences! I suggest living like the Europeans have done for a long time…eat whole foods that are delicious and good for you while spending time with people you love. I’ve been fortunate enough to live in Northern California for the past 21 years, where it’s easier to find a variety of healthy foods and where the attitudes about food have been progressive for quite awhile. When I’ve visited other parts of the country, I’m shocked by what people are faced with in terms of food choices! I’ve been part of our local food co-op for years and I forget that not everyone has the same choices as I do. Hopefully, however, more people will start rejecting fast food and convenience foods, leading to less of a demand. Good work with bringing awareness to mindful eating.
Liked your list. Just one thing bugged me. The don’t tell your spouse and start buying organic. One of our big issues in our family is the cost of organic foods. I struggle with this. Do I feed my family only organic or do I sponsor a child in need to get food and help. Or help out this missionary couple we’re friends with. It’s hard to find a good place in our budget to go completely organic. I think we may try to only buy the “dirty dozen” organic and others that may come up on sale. What I most like on your blog is the healthy treats/ideas. While organic is great if you can afford it or make it work for you, eating veggies and non processed seems more important for me.
Again, thanks for you posts, I share a lot of them and get a lot of idea/recipes.
There is no scientific proof that organic foods are healthier than conventional. Organic produce has on average 30% less pesticide residue than conventional produce yet all are within allowable standards. Organic and conventional products have the same nutritional profile. By all means eat organic if your heart so desires but know that there is no proven benefits of it. I fully agree with your statement that eating veggies and non processed foods are more important than the growing method. Also, just because something is organic doesn’t make it healthy. There are plenty of organic cookies, chips, soda, etc. Just buy what you can afford and be happy.
Maybe not for you, but think about the health of the planet. Besides only organic “junk food” is really more expensive. Produce might cost a few cents more. You probably lose that amount every day. (couch, ground ectc.)
I want to buy organic and even though I can afford to, I still balk when I walk through the produce section. It is definitely not “pennies more” for organic – more like 2x-3x more expensive.
In Kansas/Missouri where I live organic apples are $4-5/pound, while non-organic is $1-2/pound. Even though I have enough money for groceries, it’s painful to pay 3 or 4 bucks for a single apple. And that’s all I end up buying – a single apple or pear, where if I was buying non-organic I would buy 3 or 4 at a time.
Certain items, like organic baby carrots or bok choy are only a dollar more expensive than their non-organic counterparts, but organic fruit is WAY more expensive, and organic greens are usually twice as expensive for half the size.