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Making Healthy Changes When Your Husband Isn’t on Board

half eaten pizza

Image by nutmeg

There are a lot of things that my husband does that I know very little about. For example, buying and installing more ram for our computers. Or writing a marketing proposal and presenting a sales pitch to the CEO of a company. Or how to set up a set of drums, much less teach aspiring musicians how to play them.

There are a lot of things that I know about that my husband isn’t so well versed on. Like all of the benefits of soaking grains and the how-to of doing it. Or how to make a dinner that involves more than stir-fry or toast and cheese (but seriously, the man makes good stir-fry). Or how to use a canner and put up enough home-grown diced tomatoes to last the year.

This isn’t just because I am ignorant of electronics, marketing and music, and he is uninformed about nutrition, cooking and homemaking. While that’s true to a degree, it goes much deeper than that. We’re both intelligent people, capable of learning what we need to in order to fulfill the unique roles we’ve been given.

Why do I bring all of this up? I hear time and time again from women who want very much to make changes to their family’s food buying habits, their diet and their overall nutrition. The problem? Their husbands aren’t on board.

I think it’s important to point out one of the major reasons that husbands often don’t get on board, or at least not as quickly as we hope that they will. This is not their domain.

They are not homemakers. They are not cooks (most of them). They probably do not buy the groceries. They also do not spend the time that we may spend reading books, or blogs, or articles, teaching us why and how to improve our nutrition.

In our family, although my husband is on board, I am the one who pushes the healthy and natural lifestyle changes that we’ve been making. It’s not that my husband is opposed. But, 1) It’s not his passion and 2) He doesn’t have the time that I do to pour into it and really learn why it all matters. Over the years, I have learned to try to explain to him some of the things that I am learning, why I am making certain changes, why I’m preparing food in a different manner, why I don’t want to buy such-and-such anymore, etc. He still doesn’t “get it” to the same degree as me (because he’s not the one doing all the research), but he respects me and my opinions and he is generally amazing about allowing me to try out these things that I am learning as I seek to serve and care for my family.

For those who are struggling with a bit more resistance, or a husband who is even strongly opposed to changes that you would like to make, here are a few suggestions:

1) Don’t let this issue become a stumbling block in your marriage.

I think that nutrition, health, good stewardship and all the other issues that I write about are important (or else I wouldn’t have a blog devoted to them!). BUT, they are not more important than my husband or my marriage. If it comes down to it, surrender your desires to the Lord and trust Him to meet your needs as you put your marriage first!

2) Don’t undermine your husband’s authority as leader in your home.

Oh, we women struggle so much with wanting to grasp at that authority, don’t we? We often think that we know best and want to try to force it on our husbands. We need to remember that God, in His complete wisdom and sovereignty, has given us the exact husband that He wanted us to have and that He is the author of marriage and the designer of the concept of submission.

If your husband is truly opposed to something or you can tell it really displeases him, don’t do it! It just isn’t worth it to replace your conventional milk with raw milk if it requires you to undermine your man. You may have to get creative with how you add more veggies into your meals if he grew up on canned corn and iceberg lettuce. You might even need to just sit on your ideals and knowledge for a while, praying that your husband will come around, but trusting that God is ultimately in control of the situation and of your family’s health!

3) Give him good information in bite-sized pieces.

Most husbands work long days (or nights) before coming home to their precious families. Though they might be willing to read a book on nutrition to understand what you’ve been learning, they just might not have the time and the energy after they come home, eat a meal, help put the kids to bed and then take some downtime or time alone with you.

Over the last few years, I’ve learned that this is the best way to teach my husband about something: Find a brief article (a couple pages), or one really good chapter of a book, or a video (maybe 20 min. or less) every so often and offer it to him. Tell them that it explains some things that you think are really important and ask them to read/watch it and if you can, discuss it together after. I have found almost every time that my hubby is absolutely willing to do this. He walks away more informed about what I am learning and doing, and usually more convicted on whatever the issue was (raw milk, avoiding toxins, buying meat from clean sources, etc.).

4) Make it your priority to please him.

Next to your relationship with the Lord, your relationship with your husband ought to be the most important in your life. We need to show this in practical ways, and the food we serve is definitely one of them!

In the last couple of years, I have made a point of asking my husband about different meals or baking that I make so that I can find out how much he really likes it. If it’s a thumbs up, it goes on my regular list of things to make. If it’s so-so, we might have it very occasionally. If it’s thumbs down (even if I love it or it’s really good for us), I don’t make it again unless he’s out and won’t be eating it. I have also learned that we are all so much happier when I do my best to take my nutritional principles and apply them to styles of food that he loves. I try to cook in a way that will make my hubby arrive home pleased and eager to eat what I’ve prepared. I love it when he loves what I’ve cooked!

5) Start slow and implement change little by little.

I didn’t grow up eating the way I do now. It took many years and much determination to learn to eat healthfully as I do now, and to overcome a strong dislike of many wholesome foods (beans, brown bread, most veggies, some fruits).

Your husband may be the same. If so, it’s going to take patience and diligence to help him change his tastebuds and learn to like what’s better for him. Perhaps you could ask him if you could introduce a new meal or dish once a week? Or you could take some of his favorites and see if there are small things you can do to make them just a little bit better without removing all the pleasure. Or see if there are changes that he will willingly make, and a few compromise areas that you can just leave as they are for now (because some change is better than none!).

How do you find the balance between making healthy changes, and continuing to please and serve your husband?

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  1. This is a tough issue for me! Over the past year, I’ve made lots of healthy changes in the way I eat and cook. Unfortunately, my husband has not been on board, and I’ve been asked to provide alternate meals for him. He’s even been known to go grab food at a drive-thru after picking at dinner.

    It’s a slow process, and in all honesty it’s getting better. He’s been able to see and appreciate the difference in my health (I’ve lost over 60 pounds!). But, he still isn’t enjoying vegetables or whole grains. I try to sneak healthier foods in where I can and have the foods available that he loves, although I stay away from that section in the pantry!

    Thankfully, our young daughter has developed a love for fresh foods and whole grains. I pray that she will continue to enjoy healthy eating and my husband will be eager to try and enjoy foods that are healthier for his body.
    .-= Joanna´s last blog ..Fleur de Lis Cake =-.

  2. This is a great post on this topic! I found that my husband was somewhat set in his ways and was a little weirded out at first when I stopped buying corn dogs, Country Crock, and candy. But I shared some of the interesting facts in the side bars of Nourishing Traditions and that, combined with how much better we realized we felt after going off of junk food, helped him to realize this wasn’t some random extreme fad that I was doing, but rather it was appropriate for how we were created.

    That said, he still likes his white breads, and it’s not too tough to just pick up some flour tortillas and make a loaf of white bread every once in a while. In the lunch I packed this morning there were Doritos, whole wheat brownies with coconut oil, and organic chicken and sauerkraut in the sandwich. It’s a balance.
    .-= Cara @ Health Home and Happiness´s last blog ..Tropical Traditions Review and Giveaway =-.

  3. Great advice! I am blessed with a wonderful husband, who gives me free reign with food purchases and cooking. However, I followed your advice when I first began to change our diets to more traditional foods and preparation methods. I would bring up an interesting topic I read about in a conversation with him. A day or two later, I might present him with a short article on the same subject. He’s also watched a few videos when I’ve asked. He is usually on board immediately with any changes I’d like to make, once he’s more informed on the subject. In fact, he was SO excited to go see Food, Inc. with me this past summer when it came to a nearby city. It’s been a little over a year since we began to change our diets, and he doesn’t question anything I want to try anymore. He knows I’ve done the research, and that it is in our family’s best interest.

    Good luck to everyone out there who struggles with this!

  4. Thank you for writing this post. It really helped me put things in the right perspective, as my husband is not exactly on board with the changes I’d like to make. You have no idea how much I appreciate your blog, and your perspective on all of these things. It is truly inspirational to me. Thanks again.

  5. This isn’t huge of an issue for us, although in some ways it is, only less so. One of the major things, is that I have made changes very, very gradually over the years. Its been over 5 years now of making changes. So it wasn’t all at once and there are changes I still want to make. Some of them I have had to give up on or compromise. For example, my husband loves packaged cereal, although not the worst ones, its still not what I would consider good. So I buy the equivalent in an organic brand, so that its not full of preservatives at least. It does bother me since I know cereal is overprocessed etc etc even if its organic. And I don’t buy it all the time, but enough that he is happy with it. There are other things like this too. We are still working on the sugar thing with him. I don’t press it, but I know he eats it at work.
    Its very true that marriage is way MORE important than these things.

  6. I agree fully with making little changes at a time. It was hard for me even to makes some of the changes we did, but so worth it. My husband now looks back and is amazed at how his food likes and dislikes have changed over the years. No one complains anymore that we only eat brown rice.;) SOmetimes though we still go back to eating something that is not good for a meal or two but then we go back to eating well again.

  7. One thing that might be interesting would be a list of recipes with the “alternatives” put in… for example: my husband loves pizza. I shouldn’t eat the store-kind for health reasons. I make my dough with whole-wheat (I get white whole wheat because he likes it better) and coconut oil. The sauce is homemade and I crumble hamburger (from our own cows) ontop instead of pepperoni.
    Is it the best meal for me? Probably not. But I CAN eat it once in awhile without any ill effects.

    It would be fun to have a list of a bunch of recipes for “typical guy-food” with alternative ingredients….

  8. This is a typical issue for our family. I’m reading now as my husband is out buying pizza because he was home all day today while I was working and guess what…he didn’t make any dinner! *sigh* glad to hear it isn’t just me…

  9. This is a great post. Almost four years ago I started making changes to our diet. My husband eventually began to see that the homemade, organic food just tasted better. Soon he began experimenting in the kitchen and now if I don’t have time to cook, he gladly jumps in. His cooking is delicious and uses the healthy ingredients we both now love. We eat out a lot less and are now teaching our daughters to be foodies! It took time and patience, but it was totally worth it!

  10. Thank you! I agree with you. It is so frustrating at times though to work so hard, because I’ll be honest, sometimes I feel chained to the kitchen, and have my husband not appreciate all the effort and research and sweat that went into that meal. arg!
    I have to remember what my grandma told me on my wedding day, “just remember dear, men are simple creatures. Keep everything very simple and not too complicated and he’ll be happy” How true. I tried to have a discussion about the benefits of raw milk with my husband and i went on and on about the enzymes, dangers of pastuerization etc.. he asked me “does it taste good?” ha ha ha. Straight to the bottom line.
    So i guess I have to stop stresssing about the small stuff and thank God for a great husband. He is slowly coming around..slowly…

  11. Thanks for such a great post and for helping to keep things in perspective. I am really, really new to the whole foods ideas, although I have been making healthy changes in our diet over the past year. It is important for me to remember to take baby steps and like you said – some change is better than no change. Sometimes I read your blog and others like it and want to do everything to cook and eat in that way all at once. It’s a good reminder to hear that you developed your eating habits over years and to remember that I am just starting out and don’t have to do it all at once.

    My husband is not enthusiastic about some of the changes I have made or still want to make, but he is not flat out opposed either, so I guess I need to remember that in itself is a blessing. I do want to respect him and please him with the choices I make in the kitchen!

  12. Stephanie,
    Such a beautiful perspective on keeping your home and husband happy and joyful. I bookmarked it for when I write the “husbands” post that my readers have asked me about even before I noticed that you linked to my hamburg helper. Thank you! Great comments, too…my raw milk co-op ladies all agree that it’s difficult to get the husbands on board, but worth it.

    🙂 Katie
    .-= Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship´s last blog ..Monday Mission: Thanksgiving Review Week =-.

  13. Thank you so much for this. I think it is so important that we wives do not undermine our husbands authority. My husband is not totally against my making healthier changes as long as I stick to our budget. For example he makes fun of people who pay a lot for raw milk. So, unless he decides it is worth the money I will not buy raw milk. Also, my family is not too crazy about homemade pizza. But, my husband knows that is cheaper for me to make it than order it from somewhere. So, he eats it and appreciates that not only is it cheaper but also healthier. We still order it sometimes but not as often. I make small changes and pray God will give me wisdom to make healthy changes while still pleasing my husband.

  14. This was an awesome post. I’m so blessed that my husband is hands-on a part of our healthy lifestyle, but I have friends who have said that they didn’t think their husbands would go for a lifestyle change. I’m going to pass this on.

    .-= Hallee´s last blog ..Surviving Separation: Snail Mail =-.

  15. I totally agree on the bite-sized pieces and taking it slow advice. I also think it is important to consider which issues are worth standing on the table for and which you are okay with letting go (for a while or forever). There are many things about which I am passionate, but Kyle is definitely NOT, but he is usually open to most any thing I want to try. (Not the cloth TP though. I don’t know if I’ll ever convert him on that!!)
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..Baby Week: Maternal Instinct or Conventional Wisdom – Which to Trust? =-.

  16. Such a thoughtful post…I appreciate your insights…God is Good! Keep on looking to Him for wisdom and to keep you as you encourage others in His paths…may the Lord bless you today!

    .-= Camille´s last blog ..Macaroni and Cheese =-.

  17. Okay…so I literally THIS week stumbled upon the concept of “natural” living…where have I been? Anyone have any posts on “getting started”?

    1. @Kitty Hurdle, A good place to start on my site is the category Baby Steps:
      Lots of different posts on small, simple ideas for making one change at a time.
      I’ve also got an ebook on the concept of baby steps, called Healthy Homemaking: One Step at a Time. You can read more about it and purchase it here:
      Welcome to the journey of natural living… it’s a good one! 🙂

  18. Thank you so much for this post! My husband has not eaten vegetables in ages. He had one leaf of lettuce after much begging on my part to try a fantastic dressing – at our engagement celebration dinner nearly 11 years ago! That’s it! We have gotten into fights over me just setting peas out where he can see them. For the longest time, he asked me to eat salads in another room since they smelled like vegetables.

    I have made my own bread in the past – very hearty bread – and he has like that. I’ve slacked off with preparing healthier meals since we had our first baby but you have spurred me on to continue! Thanks!

  19. Man this really puts things in perspective!! As frustrated as I get with my own situation, it took this post for me to see how easy I actually have it. My husband and I became equally intrigued in healthy living a couple years ago (actually he technically started it, when we met he was using “weird” deodorant because of aluminum in conventional… which interestingly enough he learned from the musician Sting, when he met him backstage… who knew?). He loves to handle all the grocery shopping and food preparation. I tried to stage a takeover once, because I felt lazy as a homemaker who did no cooking for her children, and he got so offended!! You are so right, the marriage is the priority 🙂

  20. My husband is pretty much on board since it is he who started the ball rolling. Whenever it seems that I am going too far overboard, he makes gentle statements to reign me back in.
    .-= Fruitfulvine2´s last blog ..Ministry Trip to Guadeloupe =-.

  21. My husband is very much on board with all the changes. He is the one who started me on this journey. When he figures that I am going way overboard he usually makes a gentle comment that pulls me back.
    .-= Fruitfulvine2´s last blog ..Ministry Trip to Guadeloupe =-.

  22. Hi! I really liked your forum, especially this section. I just signed up and immediately decided to introduce myself, if I’m wrong section, ask the moderators to move the topic to the right place, hopefully it will take me well… My name is Mary, me 29 years, humourist and serious woman in one person. I apologize for my English

  23. Good heavens lady, what century do you live in? “Make it your priority to please him”? You sound like a Victorian governess. Live a little – I’m sure The Lord would want you to. You poor thing.

  24. I adore the way you capture the essence of the message, truly great writting manner, I enojoyed it!

  25. I’m a conservative Christian myself but I feel that I’d be sinning against my body if my husband (I’m not married) were to tell me that we have to use low-fat dairy, margarine and was indifferent to hydrogenated oils and these junk processed foods and wouldn’t listen to me (or at least consider my POV) if I knew that such foods would kill my kids down the road. I know we’re not supposed to undermine our husband’s authority but what if you KNOW that your husband’s POV on a food would be fatal down the road? are you just going to accept it anyway?

    1. @S., I think there’s a real delicate balance here. I don’t think that our husbands should be dictating what we ourselves eat. They can’t force anything down our throats. 🙂 We may prepare those foods for them, if that’s what they request, while preparing something different for ourselves and our children. I think that we can be gently encouraging them, while still happily preparing foods that they enjoy, and praying for a change of heart. If a husband begins to force someone to eat something that they don’t want to eat, then we have a bigger issue than submission and respect, bordering on abuse. I think that is the very rare exception, however.

      There are some things, though, where we just need to let go of our desire to control, and trust that it’s in God’s hands. We can’t control what our husbands do any more than we want them to control us. We do need to respond in respectful submission to their wishes (and it is still 100% ok to let our own wishes and opinions be known, too).

      But, I have seen some women make health and foods such a big issue that they ultimately caused a breakdown in their marriage. Their husbands began to feel such disrespect and resentment that the relationship was torn down. That is too high a price to pay for better health, quite frankly.

      Fortunately, S., you are not married yet and so you have the wonderful option of making your views on healthful foods and eating clear at the beginning of a relationship, and so this may never be an issue for you at all! 🙂

  26. Stephanie,
    Thank you so much for this article! It truly was a God send. Just last night I got myself into a tizzy which has seeped feelings of resentment towards my husband because he basically told me “I hate some of this healthy crap you make us eat”. Thank you so much for showing me how I need to approach it. I didn’t realize he felt that way (because I hadn’t asked, just expected him do as I say) and when he let me know how he felt I was shocked. I will be changing the way I approach this issue. Thank you soo much!

  27. Definitely a great post, and something I’ve been struggling with over the last few months. I’ve been through so many different diet changes over the years, working out how to have the healthiest, most natural diet, I think my husband is over it! Now that I’ve found out about soaking, fermenting, and organic foods, I’m hoping that sticking with the same ideals for more than a few months will convince him 🙂 But having grown up with white, white and white (with some meat and veg on the side) means his tastebuds are shot! So we have been arguing about the food I’m buying and preparing, other than the meat and veg 😉
    Thanks again though, I’m now going to go and make a batch of his favourite cookies, subbing in half white/whole spelt flour, rapadura for the sugar, and half the chocolate chips 🙂
    I was thinking if I start making either kefir soda pop (from water kefir) or kombucha and flavour them for a nice drink, I’ll worry less about the other rubbish he eats.

  28. So this is exactly at right now with all my efforts and passion to eat healthy and feed my family wholesome food. As you may well know its a struggle to eat healthy when everyone is on board but even more so when your spouse looks at healthy food like the latest means to torture him. For the record, I’m really not all that extreme; really. My husband grew up eating white bread, canned everything, will not read or watch a health video to save his life. I had a similar upbringing but now since I know better I want to do better.

    Raw milk he’s been okay with, grass fed beef is okay. He gets annoyed if we eat chicken more than twice a week. Will not eat Chinese stir-fry, or any seafood at all. So I’m left to alternate between ground beef, roast and chicken. Once a month I’ll fit steaks into the budget because that is what he loves.

    Today I bought healthier tortilla chips and he was really unhappy about it. Said it ruined a perfectly good taco salad. Why was I ruining all our “good meals”? Then he asked if I’d been shopping cause there wasn’t any cereal. I avoid buying any cause its expensive and my kids want it all the time. This really ticks him off. I want to influence my kids to eat healthier than I did growing up but it’s not worth it if my husband feels I’m undermining his authority. I don’t know why this is such a hot button issue with him or why he can’t trust that I love him and want what is best for our family. I pray that I can make healthy choices that will still be pleasing to his unhealthy palate. I’m going to pray and see if we can work out some sort of menu that will not involve me cooking 2 meals a night to please everyone.

    A friend suggested I let him choose 2 meals a week; he’d love for me to bring back frozen lasagna and sloppy joes for example. The other 3 meals can be healthier. I pray for protection for my heart. It’s very hurtful to put so much effort into those meals only to see the dissatisfaction on my husbands face when I serve them.

    I know you understand my desire to eat clean. I pray specifically for me to respect and honor my husband until God can soften his heart.

    This article really helped me to respond not in anger as I truly wanted to and instead changed my perspective. I emailed this to a few trusted friends with my prayer request. Just wanted to leave something here to let you know how your post has helped me tonight get back on track. Thank you.

    1. Don’t take it personal, letting him choose a couple meals is fair. You could even ask him to cook them since it’s what he likes 🙂

  29. I’ve been trying to eat better since our 4 yr old was born but mostly the past 2 yrs bc I saw he he always gravitated to the unhealthy food no matter how hard I tried. Well my husband is overweight and the only vegetables he will eat are corn on the cob and Lima beans. His thought is “if you dont like it you don’t have to eat it” so he makes no effort to adjust his tastebuds to healthier food and he doesnt help me much to try to get our 4 and 2 yr old to eat veggies if they say they dont like them. We also eat out a lot bc my husband is rarely ever satisfied with my cooking so I only cook about 2 or 3 times a week for supper. I always eat the “healthiest” that I can when we go out except for french fries bc that’s my weakness. Well our children wont eat the healthiest option especially when daddy is around and weve paid for food and we don’t want to have 2 whining kids out in public. So all my efforts to feed them healthy are just out the window. I have no idea what to do anymore.
    I try to avoid dairy bc it causes me acne and gluten bc it makes me sluggish and achey. I slide on the gluten much more than I do the dairy but idk how to cook dairy/gluten free for our family and please my husband. Idk where to draw the line to respect my husband when I dont feel he is respecting me and my efforts to feed my children and myself healthy. ?

    1. Gluten and dairy are good for most people so yes it would be wrong to deny food that is not unhealthy for your family just becasue you cannot have it. Now if there is a Gluten item you struggle with (cake or cookies) asking your spouse and kids to eat them when out or hide them is not asking to much! I would also say having some meals with Gluten and Dairy and some without would be okay. I always keep healthy frozen meals for nights the kids want Mac and Cheese. In regards to getting the little ones to eat healthy…I serve up everyone the same like it or not…my husband does a good job of pretending to eat his veggies/healthy options he doesn’t like. My kids don’t seem to notice. They don’t need to know he didn’t eat them and they are dismissed before he finishes so they never know (they are 7, 10, 12) but are to grossly involved in themselves at these ages to take notice 🙂

  30. Why not have soy milk and dairy milk? I am confused as to why a family cannot buy both? As long as its not junk food there is no reason to say no. We all process food differently… lets not force our specific diet ideology on others. A low calorie, Atkins, whole foods, or vegetarian diets are all ways of staying healthy. Don’t think your diet is the best because it works for you. We all need to eat in ways that work for us. Of course now this is NOT the same thing as spousal sabotage I often see happening in which spouses regularly bring home junk foods or foods they know you struggle with and scold you for not controlling yourself. You wouldn’t bring wine into someones home if you knew they were a recovering alcoholic why would you bring junk food into the home of someone who binge eats? No one likes an enabler and if you very own spouse sabotages you…perhaps they don’t really care about you the way you thought they did. It’s one thing to have different food preferences it’s another to straight up rub junk food in someones face because you don’t want to be inconvenienced to keep your junk in the other room, car or at work.

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