Picture of woman feeding a man salad

Have you ever caught yourself cringing a little when your significant other decided to tear into a plate of cheesy nachos or go out for burgers? Even if there are other healthy choices for you on the menu, watching your loved one eat unhealthy foods is never fun.

Wishing you could clean up their eating habits is normal, you care about them and want them to be in the best health possible, but you have to be careful about your approach.

What if they aren’t receptive to the changes you’ve been making in your own life and want to continue with their diet laden with animal products and processed foods? Or what if they do want to make the change, but they’re feeling a little intimidated?

You can give them a little indirect nudge without sounding annoying or critical. In fact, you don’t have to say that much at all!

Introduce Healthy Foods Slowly

Any time you make a lifestyle or diet change, you should do it slowly. When you’re trying to encourage your significant other to make better choices, this part is especially important—you don’t want to shock them!

Too many changes at once could seem overwhelming, plus it’s quite a shock to the taste buds when you go from rich, fatty, savory and sweet foods to healthier choices too quickly.

  • Add more vegetables before trying to take anything away (maybe two vegetable sides instead of one at dinner?). The more greens, the better, but try to stick to more familiar vegetables at first, then ease in the ones your significant other may not have tried before.
  • Try a meat-free burger, but not the gross, processed kind.
  • Take it one meal at a time–start simple. Don’t announce that you’ll both be going vegetarian next week. Sneak a vegetarian dinner or two into the menu instead, without changing much else.
  • Share your snacks. Make a chickpea-free hummus, for example, and sit down to enjoy it with some sliced veggies when your significant others at home. Offer them some. When they comment on how good it is, tell them what’s actually in it. Watch their look of surprise when they realize just how versatile vegetables can actually be.

Cook a Healthy Meal for Them

Who’s going to turn down a home-cooked meal made with love? Take their favorite kind of kind of meal into consideration. Is it Thai food? Burgers?

Picture of woman making a salad

Don’t try to remake their absolute favorite meal on earth that takes them back to their childhood because it could backfire when it’s not “exactly” right.

Instead, get inspired by they tend to enjoy and put a healthy spin on it. Try:

  • Shepherd’s Pie which is similar to the meatier version he may be used to, but still delicious and filling.
  • Rainbow Stuffed Bell Peppers, which also have an almost meaty texture, thanks to the quinoa so your significant other won’t feel like they’re missing out on a really substantial meal by eating healthier foods.
  • The JMP Raw Lasagna, which is a vegan twist on a classic Italian meal.
  • Raw Taco Gorilla Wraps are a huge favorite! There’s the savory nut mixture combined with the pleasant bitterness of the collards, and tons of veggies packed inside.

Instead of Just Telling Them the Health Benefits, Be a Health Role Model

You probably learned the phrase, “Show, don’t tell” in your middle school Language Arts classes. Who knew you’d be using that idea again as an adult, but in a totally different context?

Your significant other will notice when you seem happier, your eyes are brighter, your skin is glowing, you have more energy, and you’ve lost weight. You really won’t have to say much at all to point out the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

You’ll be showing the results, with no need to talk about them!

If you and your significant other live apart and don’t make all or most of your meals together, invite them over for a meal prep day, “just to spend some time together.”

While you’re hanging out, demonstrate how easy it is to avoid the drive-thru during a busy work week if you prepare on Sunday. If you have enough food, share what you can.

Maybe you can make their Monday feel easier than ever by sending a breakfast smoothie and a lunch home with them (you can even pack lunch up so it’s ready for work in an eco-friendly lunchbox).

Go Out to Eat at a Healthy Restaurant

Date night, your turn to choose the place! It’s the perfect opportunity to spring a healthy, delicious meal on your special someone.

Do your research on healthy restaurants in your area on sites like Yelp.

Read reviews online to find out where others have successfully taken their less health-conscious friends and family. This can help you feel out the options that might really impress your significant other and get them thinking this “weird healthy food” might actually not be too difficult to eat on a more regular basis.

If certain dishes are mentioned as favorites time and time again in the reviews, you’ll be able to pass that info along to your date and boost the odds that they’ll love it.

Show Them the Benefits, Don’t Criticize Their Choices

No one likes to be criticized for their choices. Even if you feel like you’re giving constructive criticism, that could cause your significant other to cling harder (stubbornly!), to their poor food choices.

Instead, show the benefits of the good choices without the negative commentary or comparisons with their not-so-good ones.

  • Is he coming down with a cold? Make up a ginger detox tea. Real foods, used almost medicinally, can sometimes demonstrate the benefits of a healthier lifestyle to a skeptic better than anything else. If a tea with ginger and others spices can kick sickness, what can an ongoing effort to eat healthier foods do?

Picture of tea with fresh ginger

  • Does the Glowing Green Smoothie make you perkier in the mornings than he is after a cup or two of coffee? Share a little with him so he can feel the benefits. Yep, it still might make an impression even if he does go ahead and chug that coffee afterwards.
  • Talk about how much better your stomach feels when you eat a salad before anything else, or mention how much more energy you have at work midday (no midday slump for you!), now that you’re taking your lunch. It probably wouldn’t hurt to comment on how much money you’re saving by not going out, either.
  • When your significant other tells you how beautiful you look, smile, shrug, and say something along the lines of, “Thanks! Must be all the fruits and veggies.” You may both pretend to laugh it off, but the comment just might lodge itself in their head and inspire them to give this healthier lifestyle a chance.

For those times you do feel like you need to say something and you want it to come across the right way, check out Zen Habits’ tips on how to handle criticism without being critical.

You Can’t Overhaul Their Diet, but You Can Inspire Them to Change

Even though you may not be able to give someone else a total diet overhaul, especially if they feel like they need to eat meat all the time, the small changes you inspire them to make can lead to bigger results in the long run.

Small changes that make your significant feel better, even temporarily, may lead them to make healthy choices more and more often.

Any progress is still progress.

Give them the tools and the example to follow, and let them choose their path and pace.  

In Love and Health,

Kimberly

New York Times Bestselling Author, Nutritionist, Wellness and Beauty Expert