I’ve been asked many times to explain how I got my husband “on board” with the traditional foods eating habits we’ve been adopting over the past year or so. Is it a nearly universal question? Many in the Real Food Face-Off have mentioned the difficulties of convincing the husbands, and I’m beginning to think it’s a major issue. We’re called to be partners in marriage, so it’s vital that we work hand in hand. The way the man of the house reacts to the food being served can impact not only the peace of the marriage, but also the way the children accept the food and respect the mother.
It is not this way in every situation, but so many of us wives are the ones doing the reading about nutrition and/or following our gut to determine our family’s nutritional goals. What’s a husband to do? When we put something a bit off the grid on the table, do they just have to eat it?
My apologies to the 2% of men out there; this post is not exactly for you. Ladies, read on for inspiration to get on the same page with your husband in the kitchen, no matter what it takes.
Has this ever happened to you?
- I asked some friends if they wanted to get into a CSA for this summer, and one said, “We’re very interested!! (We meaning me, and I’ll talk my husband into it later.)” and the other replied, “I read your first line to my husband, and he groaned.. Our hardworking hubbies just don’t know how seriously we take the job of caretaking their health!!” Is that typical of many homes, or what?
- When I first started reading about real food last December, I shared information about raw milk with my husband. He listened politely, thinking any big changes would be a long way off. I have a habit of taking a long time to make big decisions. Suddenly by January, we went to the farm and I was asking for his blessing to take the plunge. Poor husband. His jaw sort of dropped, and he grinned sheepishly: “I thought this was more of a pipe dream…” he admitted.
- My husband also has to deal with wondering if I’m hiding something in his food, the results of many various experiments (dishwasher detergent!), and the re-makes of some of his favorite dishes. He can tell when I’ve tried something new; I’ve got no poker face. “What did you do…?” he’s fond of asking. He keeps wondering where all the chips have gone, and he looked at our last few boxes of cereal in the basement recently and cried, “That’s ALL the cereal we’ve got left?!” He added in dismay, meekly: “You’ve effectively killed my cereal habit.” This from a man who used to eat two bowls with skim milk, every morning and sometimes for snacks.
So beyond womanly wiles and bulldozing your ideas through, what’s a real foodie mama to do to keep peace in the marriage? Sometimes there are a lot of changes to make to transform a standard household to a whole foods diet. It really goes against the paradigm of seducing our men through their stomachs. A good meal is traditionally (and truly!) like a love letter to a man, whether during courtship or marriage.
If you’ve read my story, you know part of the craziness that happened within my own head and in my home as I learned more and began to make changes in our diets. When the dust settled, my husband was tentatively on board.
I probably did some bulldozing. I may have used some womanly wiles (here is one example). Ultimately, I do have a few tactics that I can share with the masses.
Real Food and Husbands: It’s About Teaching, Trust, and Trickery
My husband is a computer guy, an engineer who truly appreciates cold, hard facts. I try to be as up on the science behind the nutrition as I can, and I lay it out for him as plainly as possible. He doesn’t have to know everything I know about what we’re eating, but he wants to know enough to understand why our food budget is expanding slightly and some of his favorite treats are disappearing. I explain to him how certain foods will keep us healthy and the rationale behind purchasing decisions, whether for the environment or our health. He knows enough to stay afloat about raw milk, coconut oil, and his own triglycerides.
My advice for others? Know how your husband likes to think. Talk about food. In manageable bites. He deserves to know.
My husband knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have our family’s best interests in mind when I work in the kitchen. He sees how much I care, how hard I work, and he honors that in how he reacts to the food I serve. This is not something I can make a bulleted list about for you.
Building trust is simply part of our marriage, based on open communication, prayer together, and a foundation of faith and love. Just as we discuss our family size and our goals for the future, we can discuss our health concerns and desires openly. He hears me pray for our family’s health and for guidance on what to buy and what to eat. He knows I’m doing my very best, and that is of the utmost importance. If you don’t have a foundation of trust in your marriage, stop working on real food and start with your relationship with your husband with God as the guide.
This may sound mutually exclusive with the previous point, but it’s not. It’s about allowing yourself to be in control of the kitchen. The trust you’ve built means he doesn’t feel he has to micro-manage.
- It’s okay *not* to tell your husband when you’re trying something new, at least until after he’s tasted the meal. I don’t lie; that would be detrimental to the health of my marriage, even if he never finds out…but I do put organ meats in his spaghetti. He’s kind of learned not to ask!
- I serve tasty alternatives so often that he doesn’t notice his habits have been broken. I soak oatmeal or pancakes more than half of the time, so breakfast is determined before we wake up. The rest of the time, I prepare scrambled eggs and toast or try to persuade him to have yogurt or sourdough toast. Luckily, my husband loves oatmeal, so it’s a great alternative to cereal. He hardly notices the dwindling supply until he’s confronted with the lack of boxes in the basement.
- I tentatively upgrade certain meals, hoping the end result will be as tasty as the original (or better, in a perfect world). We’ve had great success with Homemade Hamburger Helper, Pepper Steak, and Skillet Lasagna. If I make a failure, I’m generally careful to wait at least a few days before trying something new!
- I make sure we still have good treats around, but they’re all upgraded nutrition. I bake cookies, but I use whole wheat flour, less sugar, and healthy fats. We have delectable hamburgers with grassfed beef and homemade buns. One meal like that is enough to keep him happy for a week!
- Distract him from the weird stuff with normal stuff. I keep us stocked with frozen fruit to put in our yogurt, which is always available. We eat lots of soups that taste great, and I work Mexican meals in as often as possible because they’re his favorite. Homemade refried beans, whole wheat tortillas and farm ground beef make for a great real food, husband-approved meal.
- What’s the theme here? Serve food that tastes good most of the time so the husband doesn’t pay as much attention to (a) the food that is not so good and (b) the food he’s not getting anymore that he used to eat. Between knowing what he should eat and having so many good choices to fill him up before he gets distracted by what he shouldn’t eat, he hardly has time to eat poorly. (It’s a little like feeding a toddler in a non-condescending way.)
- And when I push too far? Veto jar. My friend mailed him this for Christmas. You’ve got to have a sense of humor about the whole thing!
Partners in Life, Partners in Food
The bottom line in feeding a family, as in everything that has to do with running a household and growing children of God, is that you and your husband must be on the same page, or at least close. When I wanted to start raw milk, he said, “I’m never going to be more in favor of this than I am now. I’m still skeptical…but if you think it’s important, then let’s do it.” I love my husband. In my opinion, it’s good that he’s more skeptical than me, because it keeps me grounded.
It helps me remember that we cannot add a day to our lives by worrying, and that the Lord counts every hair on our heads and will feed us well, just as He cares for the birds of the sky and the flowers of the field. He keeps me balanced, and this is vital in a field where I am constantly coming across conflicting information and research. Who’s to say what the perfect diet is? Be a team with your husband; peace in the household is more important than the most perfect meal on the table. Giving up (for a time, with more prayer) may be the answer, if that’s what it takes.
UPDATE: In January, 2013, I posted a new treatise on real food and husbands with two more strategies for the toolbox: How to Boil a Husband
Other bloggers have even more depth of wisdom on the topic. Check out Keeper of the Home’s Making Healthy Changes When your Husband Isn’t on Board and Local Nourishment’s Helping a Husband Choose Healthy Food.