A friend named Riya shared her frustration that she has a picky eater at her house
and asked me for solution on how to introduce healthy foods to him. "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 just made it one, is an old saying I think!) you should keep your healthy food items where you can reach easily, and put the peanut butter, chocolate, 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.
Vegetables 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. Fruits
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. Grains 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
Natural nut spreads
Tuna - put in a pita pocket with some sharp cheddar, a tomato, and freshly ground pepper
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!