A friend of mine shared her frustration of having a picky eater in the house and asked for suggestions on how to introduce healthier foods. “He doesn’t like vegetables, rarely touches fruits, and would eat peanut butter all day if up to him.” The “he” she was referring to is not her son; it’s her husband.
Hmm, it’s one thing to be dealing with a little child in regards to picky eating, but it’s another when trying to work on an adult, especially if they’re set in their ways.
Below are some tips on how to get your picky eater to eat healthy. They involve the advice of my husband and male coworkers, so the male voice must count for something in this situation!
I will use words referring to men, but these ideas can be applied to the woman in your life too.
Ask for his help
Men like to fix things! (well, so says my husband) So ask your man for his advice. Without placing any blame, let him know your concerns and that they are important to you. Ask for his suggestions in resolving the problem, and focus on how he will benefit in ways that appeal to him.
Find out what he likes
If you know what he likes, you can work with it. Ask your guy what foods he likes and what he would be willing to try. My friend’s husband loves his peanut butter, so she’ll work with this. She can buy the natural peanut butter instead of the partially hydrogenated, sugar-filled varieties. She can introduce other nuts into the house (No, not the crazy neighbors across the street), such as almonds and walnuts. She can even make a heart healthy trail mix as a portable snack.
Keep healthier snacks easily accessible
You know the old saying, “If you can’t see, you won’t eat it?” (I’m not really sure if that is an old saying, so if not, I just made it one!)Well, keep healthier food choices within easy reach, and put the nasty chocolate, peanut butter, tempting, gooey chunk bars waayy in the back of the pantry… where only you know the location.
Take baby steps
Gradual changes work better most of the time rather than doing a complete diet makeover on your husband. Gradually increase the healthier foods while slowly removing the unhealthy ones from his diet. If you do it just right, he may not even notice!
Be the example
Your husband (or wife) is going to have a hard time following a healthier diet if you’re not doing so. What’s the point of telling your husband he needs to eat healthier if you won’t? You gotta walk the talk. (I like this saying too.)
Healthier Snack Ideas
Here are some specific ideas for introducing healthier snacks.
- Keep sweeter tasting vegetables, such as carrots, corn, fresh cherry tomatoes, and red peppers on hand with a favorite dip.
- Steam, sautè, or grill vegetables if your picky eater doesn’t like them raw. Top with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Seriously, who can resist food on the grill?!
- Spread natural, peanut butter on celery, carrots, cooked asparagus, broccoli, eggplant, or green peppers. Your peanut butter-loving picky eater might really like it!
- Include baked sweet potatoes or butternut squash at dinnertime, and keep leftovers on hand for snacks. Add pumpkin pie spice and heart healthy butter spread for a sweet taste or pepper and olive oil for more savory.
- Bananas are great snacks, especially for picky eaters that have a preference for sweet foods. Eat them plain. Freeze them and turn them into “Popsicles.” Spread peanut butter on them. Grill them. Add them to a fruit smoothie. Wear them on your head with other fruits and dance the samba. Bananas are a very versatile food.
- Freeze grapes (I like red grapes) for great snacks you can pop in your mouth like candy.
- Fresh pineapple is sooo good! Cut off the hard, spiky exterior to reveal sweet gold. Cut in chunks and keep in the fridge where it’s very easy to see and grab.
- Make a fruit salad to keep in the fridge within eyesight. Use fruit that is fresh and in-season if you can. Sweeter fruits, like strawberries and melons are great choices. Top with a fruit yogurt if this helps your picky eater.
- Fruit smoothies with added protein powder
- Cut up apples and spread with peanut butter.
- Buy or make 100% whole grain breads to keep in the house. Please don’t buy that nasty, packaged white bread stuff! (Shudder)
- Here’s a sneaky trick that works with kids and may work on the adult picky eater – add healthy foods to dishes they like. Puree vegetables or chop them finely to disguise them in breads. Carrots, zucchini, pumpkin, and other squashes work very well.
- Oatmeal makes for a great snack… well, as long as a ton of butter and sugar is not added to it! Better add-ins include cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, chopped apples, berries, raisins, dried cranberries, nuts, flax seeds, milk, cottage cheese, protein powder, and more…. just maybe not all at the same time!
- Pancakes? Yes, please! I love pancakes, and I now use a healthier pancake recipe when I need my fix. I love these, and so does my husband. I add berries to the batter, and that makes them even better. You don’t even need syrup.
- Wild rice and brown rice with added spices and vegetables make for great snacks. I made this Tex-Mex rice casserole for dinner a few days ago that turned out very well. It would turn into a great snack, heated with whole grain chips.
- Rye crackers spread with Laughing Cow cheese (I do this on occasion; it’s goood!)
- Brown rice cakes – top them with… (you guessed it) peanut butter!
- Hard boiled eggs
- String cheese, Laughing Cow cheese, Babybel cheese
- Yogurt – try to stay away from the sugar-filled varieties
- Mixed nuts
- Natural nut spreads
- Tuna – put in a pita pocket with some sharp cheddar, a tomato, and freshly ground pepper
- Sliced turkey
- Turkey jerky
- Leftover chicken – wrap in a whole grain tortilla with low-fat cheese, heat, and top with salsa
- Tofu – cooked, grilled, cold, blended in a smoothie – you can do a ton with tofu and add whatever kind of flavor you want
One Final Word
It’s great to want to improve your health as well as the health of your spouse, but ultimately that desire for change has to be made within the individual. Your husband (or wife) must be open to improving his health; forcing the issue isn’t going to accomplish anything… except more tension. According to my male “advisors,” sometimes you just gotta “leave him alone.” He may not be ready for change; that can take time. So just love your spouse for who he/she is and keep working on improving your health. One day your picky eater may “see the light.”
I know there are lots more great ideas, and I’d love to learn from you! How do you get a picky eater to choose healthier foods? What other ideas do you have for healthy snacks?
To my frustrated friend, I wish you the best!